Tag Archives: patriotism

Some Kind of All American

When this life of mine is over, if it’s been of any worth
Royal Oak can lay a claim as the place of my birth,
and where my ash is scattered they may choose to put a plaque;
the rest is just conjecture unsupported by the facts.

When you say you’re from somewhere, does it mean just recent years?
How can you call one place your home if throughout your career
the most you’ve settled down is long enough to catch your breath,
and write a song or two about the place that you just left?

I could say I’m from Michigan, but that was long ago;
or from outside a farming town in northwest Ohio;
and those years in California where I played my first show
surely count for something meaningful, but sometimes, I don’t know…

It seems more truthful to just say I am
a product of each new place where I stand:
some kind of all-American.

I learned to love the outdoors on that farm for seven years;
spent high school out in California, starting my career;
But my roots are bent and twisted, they don’t lead any one place,
what you hear in my voice is not reflected in my face.

I’m German, Swiss and Irish, but the only thing that means
is that mountains and pastures are both buried in my genes;
the sea, wild rivers and lakes are there, too.
Not one set of geography will do.

In the South, they call me Yankee;
In the North, they call me hick;
maybe somewhere in the middle,
there’s a label that might stick.
In the East, they say I’m laid back;
In the West, far too high-strung;
but it doesn’t really mean that much
when all is said and done.

I could say I’m from Boston, but just for those years in school;
or Memphis, where I learned the difference between hip and cool;
Seattle, where I reconnected, strangely, to my past,
or New Orleans, where I discovered my true love at last

It seems more truthful to just say I am
a product of each new place where I stand:
some kind of all-American.

27 MAR 2006

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Hello Mister America

Hello Mister America, you’re just in time for tea
There’s no Kennedys or Rockefellors, so I guess it’s just you and me
I’ve got soda crackers instead of crumpets, but I think you’ll agree
We’ve got to watch the deficit ’cause sugar sure ain’t free

Sit down, Mister America, I heard you weren’t feeling well
Your constitution’s been weakening and your ratings have gone to hell
And that bill of rights you stand for, is it just a hollow shell?
Does it mean as much to you now that it really doesn’t sell?

Well now, Mister America, how’s God been treating you?
Do you feel closer to Him now that the Senate seats are pews?
Do you still serve the Catholics, Atheists, the Baptists and the Jews
By singing the un-separation of the church and statehouse blues?

Hey now, Mister America I have to tell the truth
I hardly recognized you from inside your voting booth
I realize that television can rob you of your youth
But substance outlives style, so I am sure that you’ll recoup

OK, Mister America I have to say goodbye
Don’t make me any promises, ’cause I know you hate to lie
Just help me get a loan so I can keep my powder dry
‘Cause my enemies aren’t overseas, they’re right before my eyes

So long, Mister America, I won’t tell them you got lost
And I’ll be steady, strong and true in summer and in frost
Just do your part and keep the constitution reinforced
‘Cause if you forget your principles, then who could count the cost?

Mister America, I think you knew my dad
He worked your land, he fought your wars
He taught me good from bad
Mister America, do you know who I am?
I’m your younger generation you think doesn’t give a damn.


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In seventeen and forty one

In seventeen and forty one,
my family reached these shores;
each generation since that time
has fought this country’s wars.

Against the French, and then the Britons,
then in Union blue;
the Spanish, Mexican and Natives,
when each call came through.

In Europe, twice, and then, Korea,
Laos, Vietnam;
and last, Kuwait, Iraq,
against the dread Saddam.

Can those brave leaders say the same
who now say we must fight,
not for a principle, but money?
It does not seem right.

How many simple farmers’ sons
must fight the rich men’s wars?
How many inner city youths
die while prep school kids keep score?

My family ranks with DAR,
and led Marines through Seoul;
with no excuse or privilege card,
we marched, and payed the toll.

With Washington and Jefferson;
with Lincoln, Grant, and Polk;
with Roosevelt and Eisenhower,
marched our simple folk.

With Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, Bush,
our sons went off to war;
but now, I think the marching’s done
and we will fight no more.

For battle without honor,
in the name of greed and pride
turns soldiers into mere machines
with no heart left inside.

If you would wage such wars,
keep all your smart bombs and new guns;
and for your cannon fodder,
find some other family’s sons.

29 May 2005

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The Light of America

America, your shadow casts a lengthy darkness where
it should serve as a lamp to guide the blind;
and those enemies you imagine beyond your hallowed gates,
fermenting with opportunities to express their angst
and shake you from your complacent sleep,
why do you seek to destroy them, wishing them dead?
Does not a worthless and weak opponent serve
to weaken your own resolve and reduce your own strength
while encouraging the illusion that you are omnipotent?

Wouldn’t the best defense against the Red Menace,
rather than castrating the Left Wing,
been to strengthen democracy,
live up to your stated ideals,
proving by example the fallacy of your evil foes claims?
Surely, America, you are more than empty words
backed by full missle tubes, aimed at any dissenting voices.

Do you believe in equality? In the sanctity of free speech?
Wouldn’t the best course be to act
as if your sacred principles were the truth?

America, your hypocrisy is that you don’t believe in yourself;
and yet, your jingo jangle rings across the globe,
your corporations seek to spread your gospel
laced with the poison of underlying greed.

There is a better way to defeat your enemies.
Make them no longer your enemies.

To fight the war of proof,
using weapons that defeat your message,
underhanded dealings,
covert operations,
corporate pandering,
strong-arm tactics,
and ulterior motives,
is to lose your self,
and without that, America,
you are just another fascist regime
that supports self-righteousness
because it entertains your illusions of profit,
at least while they are expedient.

America, yours is not a national campaign —
it is a return to the high ground that is required,
and that elevated place knows no borders
but shares its light
rather than casting a shadow.

09 JUN 2004

Pondering John Kerry’s use of Langston Hughes to convey a message of sorts, I thought I would write a poem focusing on what I think Kerry’s message should be.

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America, I know your secret

America, I know your secret:
there is no deep intellectual struggle
fermenting in your collective mind —
that’s for the coasts to sort out amongst themselves,
with their isolationist disdain for solidarity,
thinking that beyond the Holland Tunnel,
above the Causeway bridge,
east of the valley,
over the Golden Gate
is some fetid quagmire of yet to be united;
and that the nation consists
of only its urban centers.

America, your secret is this:
your corporations, bloated with white-haired men
and Ivy League connections,
are selling youth and sex and freedom.

As long as we keep buying into the myth,
as long as there is no concerted effort below the surface,
as long as there are toys to occupy our time,
as long as supermodels and actors and pop Musicians promote our causes,
as long as becoming famous is more important than being intelligent or informed or educated,

no one else will want to get old, rich and powerful enough
to take your place.

Wasn’t it enough that you dumbed down the textbooks after Vietnam
to prevent the possibility of organized resistance?
Wasn’t it enough that your McCarthyism emasculated the left wing,
leaving the eagle of democracy crippled, flopping in useless circles?
Wasn’t it enough that even after Watergate, and J. Edgar Hoover,
Kissinger and Oliver North,
we still trusted your power-brokers in Washington
and believed they were representing us?

America, I know your secret, and it is the omerta of the pirate code:
keep ’em in hookers, rum and shiny trinkets, and
they’ll never want to own the ship,
but they’ll keep saluting your flag until they die.

29 APR 2004

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Decoration Day: a complaint or lamentation

Bang the drum and sound the horn!
Wash and press the uniforms.
From each window flags are flown;
now the troops at last come home.

Proud young sons and daughters, too;
freedom’s torch they’ve borne for you.
Through the world they’ve marched and roamed;
now the troops at last come home.

In the face of unseen dangers
they went forth, and fought with strangers,
giving of their flesh and bone.
Now the troops at last come home.

For the cause of pride and nation,
each assumed their assigned station
in the name of some unknown;
now the troops at last come home.

Trusting in their leaders’ visions,
never doubting their decisions;
each one thinks now of their own.
Now the troops at last come home.

Used as pawns in plays for power,
missions logged in countless hours
’til last reveille is blown;
now the troops at last come home.

Cheered and thanked and decorated,
from the headlines they have faded;
in battalions, or alone,
now the troops at last come home.

Limousines in long lines creeping,
sounds of countless children weeping.
No more battlefields to roam;
now the troops at last come home.

Bang the drum now, slow and loud!
Drape your flags as funeral shrouds,
speak in low and somber tones:
now the troops at last come home.

Fold the flags and thank the grieving
for their service, for believing;
wrapped in concrete, wood and chrome,
now the troops at last come home.

10 APR 2004

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Being American

So, I’m un-American?
Maybe it’s true.
I’m un-American,
how about you?

I believe in progress,
and free speech, too;
In equal rights
for strangers – you?

I will not support war
red, white or blue –
but will defend my home
against untruth.

I believe in justice
delivered upon proof;
and I consider friends
those who share my roof.

I will not be silent
in the face of might;
but will stand for freedom
and seek what’s right.

I believe in honesty,
and trust not words –
action without thought
I find absurd.

I will not vote your way
just because you’re strong;
nor will I fund your
cause, if wrong.

I believe in freedom,
and equal rights –
for the one who protests,
and the one who fights.

I will not stand down
or in silence, wait,
while your war agenda
decides our fate.

I’m un-American?
Maybe that’s true.
But I see America
much different than you.

I’m un-American?
How can that be true?
If I’m un-American,
Then so are you.

14 FEB 2003

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