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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Some observations about Simon & Garfunkel's "America"

I was watching television last night and a commercial came on that featured the song “America” by Simon & Garfunkel. The commercial itself I can barely recall, I don’t even remember the product, but hearing that song made me emotional. It’s a song that I’ve liked since I was a kid, but a song that has taken on deeper meaning as I’ve gotten older. In just a few short verses, Paul Simon creates a cinematic story of two young lovers heading off on a bus trip to “look for America.” Simon perfectly evokes the feelings we all have on any trip: the initial excitement (“Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces”)--which eventually leads to boredom (“Toss me a cigarette…”)-- reflection on the beauty of the countryside (“The moon rose over an open field”)--and finally to a bit of ennui (“’Kathy, I’m lost’ I said”)—. And then the song concludes with the narrator seeing the endless lines of anonymous cars on the turnpike, like Kathy and the narrator, “looking for America.”

But the song got me to thinking—and it often gets me to thinking anytime I hear it—can we ever “find America”? What IS America? And then this led me to recall the vacation we took in December, driving from Michigan to Florida and back again. I was struck by how vast this country truly is. The geography ever changing and unfolding in bold unexpected ways as one drives the long distance from north to south/south to north. It’s amazing that such a diverse and enormous country even IS a nation. And will we ever—CAN we ever--agree on what America is?

I don’t quite know where I’m going with this. I suppose the uncertain times we are currently experiencing made “America” hit me a bit harder than usual.

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