Travelogue and thoughts for your 4th, 2012

You can’t stop the signal, this is Mr. Universe spreading his words far and wide across the internets.

Good morning y’all and a Happy 4th of July! I’ve attempted the blogging thing before and often failed to keep it up. But after the goading of friends excited by my teaching stories and my summer plans, I decided to re-start a blog.

So this blog will take a lot of forms. Public forum for building teaching ideas. Music blog, culture blog, political blog. For most of the next month, it’s going to be a travelogue. I’m taking a National Endowment for the Humanities seminar called The Most Southern Place on Earth in Cleveland, Mississippi. It promises to be a wonderful exploration of the evolution of blues and soul music along with the history and culture of one of the most complex regions of the country, an area that is alternately definitively American and yet often at odds with everything that we believe America should be. (Discussion on that later.)

The next few days, I’ll be traveling to New Jersey, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Memphis, and finally, Mississippi. Afterwards, off to New Orleans and Austin and then back around to Floydfest 2012 in Floyd, Virginia and to all number of points in between. It’s going to be fun, and I’ll try to have a few thoughts at each leg of the journey.

In the meantime, thanks for reading and great to have you on board. (I promise future posts will have a little more to them than this one.)

To start it up, here we are on the 4th of July. America is now 226 years old! I was thinking of spending lots of time deconstructing myths about the 4th as a day of great national significance, but really at this point, that seems silly. Maybe I will next year, and if you want me to put something together, post in the comments! But at this point, I don’t want to be that guy who ruins Star Trek by pointing out the problems warp technology. I want to enjoy the opportunity to see family and friends, watch splodey things explode, and eat my weight in beef and beer. As with all holidays, the point is the communal gathering at this point, and not the historical accuracy.

I will take half a second, though, and push up against all this nationalism, though. Because everyone should have their love of nation questioned a bit, and what better day than one where we are at our most unquestioningly jingoistic. So a friendly reminder that America is an imperfect nation, and that true and meaningful patriotism means working to change society in the way you deem best.

And as a dark reminder of the truth of America’s imperfections, I’ve got a twisted version of a classic 4th of July song. If you’re listening to radio today you will hear Born in the USA at some point by Bruce Springsteen. There have been lots of great write-ups about how badly this song has been misinterpreted. Here’s a recent write-up by Marc Dolan. But only the most ardent Springsteen fans know that his earliest version of the song contained no pounding drums or triumphant synthesizer solo. It was a demo in the style of Springsteen’s Nebraska, a stark and menacing tune to reflect what is, in fact, a desperate story of a soldier who didn’t entirely make it back from the Vietnam War.

Again, I’m not asking you to revel in darkness today; this is a day for celebrating that we have each other. Just don’t forget that the darkness exists. Thanks for coming along for the ride, folks!

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