On August 18th 1969, I was in the mud at Max Yasgur's, real close to the stage, when Jimi Hendrix came on to perform. He was wearing a fringed white leather outfit with a red bandana around his head and he went into the very best version of our national anthem that I have ever heard. I think now that at that moment I became an American. But what kind of American??
Well, it wasn't a flag-waving, jingoistic, my- country-right-or-wrong kind of American. I've known plenty of people like that and I find them scary. Patriotism is like a religion where many things are taken on faith. No, I was a teenager during the late 60s and the Vietnam war lead me to believe that America was capable of making egrigious errors. So no country right or wrong. And then I also saw so many photos of Vietnamese people who had been burned horribly by Napalm that it became difficult to be a flag waver. But ain't I an American? I mean I own a bandana-sized flag, and I'm never tempted to set it afire that's gotta be worth something.
That whole Vietnam tragedy really messed me up. When I learned that the government lies, as it did about Vietnam, I started wondering about all the stuff I had been taught in history. And you know what, I started reading and looking into things especially "revisionist" history. Now I know this doesn't sound American but it is -- revisionist AMERICAN history.
So, I know about the Pilgrims and I know they came over as 35 saints, or church members and 67 strangers, who would do the work I expect. And I know the Mayflower compact only applied to the saints. But I'm an American.
I know about the Civil War and Reconstruction but I also know about the railroad strike of 1877, and the Pullman strike etc. and the innumerable times that National Guard and Federal troops fired on strikers. I know about the Alamo (who could forget the Alamo), and I know that slavery was illegal in Mexico and that is why the anglos wanted independence. I also know that an entire brigade of Irishmen went over to the other side in the Mexican American war -- el San Patricio brigade.
I know about Woodrow Wilson and his 14 Points, but I also know about the Wobblies' free speech fights, Joe Hill, Eugene Debs anti-war speech that landed him in jail. And from jail he ran for president on the Socialist ticket and got 6% of the vote, from Jail!!!
I watched the Smothers Brothers show the night they had Pete Seeger on. Pete Seeger is a banjo player who had been blacklisted in the 50s (you know how dangerous those banjo players can be)and here in 1967 he's on CBS playing a song called "the Big Muddy." ...we're neck deep in the big muddy and the big fool says to push on" Ain't I an American taking delight in a fellow citizen getting to exercise his rights finally after 15 years. Yeah I am an American. I've never served in the military but I've never denigrated anybody who has. I like the rights I've got and I know if I don't fight for them somebody will take 'em away. And I've got a balanced approach to this experiment there is a lot of positive stuff and, like it or not, there's a lot of negative stuff. I reserve my 1st ammendment right to comment on all of it however I see fit.
I figure there's two kinds of Americans "God Bless America" Americans and "This Land is Your Land" Americans. I'm hanging with Woody.