The radio ambushed me first thing this morning by featuring Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U.S.A”. I will always remember sitting in my car sobbing sometime in the week after the attacks – because that song, simple and earnest and unabashedly, fervently nationalistic, perfectly captured what most of the country was feeling right at that moment. It’s not a song normally played on the stations I was listening to seventeen years ago; naked emotion, especially overt patriotism, wasn’t fashionable. Until we were attacked. And then, for the first time in my memory (and pretty much the last, sadly), all of the inhibitions against declaring loyalty to this turbulent country were swept away.
For me it’s that one lyric, especially in the last verse: “I’d proudly stand up (beat) next to you, and defend her still today” That’s what we all wanted to right at that moment: stand up. Do something. Anything.
“And I won’t forget the men who died”…
Nowadays, the song plays pretty much only at Republican rallies. The person who was elected president loves it, I’m sure. There’s a schism in how people demonstrate their patriotism, and the ones who blare it loud and strong (and often country-flavored) don’t really understand the ones who are just as strong in their loyalties, but quieter about it. Nowadays, if you play this song, you’re red, red, red.
But then? I had a flag on my car. I painted the stars and stripes on a pillowcase and hung it in our front window. (I tore it down a while later when the government devolved into its usual childishness. Had I only known what things would be like today, I would have been less impatient with those administrations.) And I cried every time I heard this song. Just like I did this morning. “There ain’t no doubt, I love this land – God bless the U.S.A.”