For so many years I could not listen to Lynyrd Skynyrd without a stab of resentment. How dare they sing that they “hope Neil Young will remember, southern man don’t need him around anyhow.” A really rotten response to Young’s poignant song “Southern Man” about the tragedy of racism and it’s pervasive influence on all things southern. Young was righteous; Skynyrd were fools.
Then I came across a quote from Young about this song duel. Young said something like “Southern Man” was a stupid song, it wasn’t his song to sing, and Skynyrd was right to call him on it. I was shocked. Wow. Now that’s practicing kindness. Eating humble pie. Talk about generous.
So what about the Dukes of Hazard? The General Lee? Wasn’t there a Confederate Flag somewhere stuck on that car or in that show? My son was four or five when that program, his favorite, aired. He had a Duke’s sleeping bag, that I bought him, that surely had a Dixie flag flying somewhere on it. I was ignorant about the flag’s darker connotations at the time and of course my son didn’t know beyond Luke and Bo, their speed and outsmarting of the cops in their bright orange General Lee.
So if I could be ignorant about the Confederate flag, Neil could be ignorant, and admit it, about generalizing and demonizing every single “Southern Man.” And I could see that I had held a grudge against the wrong band. Sorry Skynyrd! The guy I’m really gunning for is Burton Cummings. “American Woman” never fails to put me in a bad mood. Really, Burton? MY war machine? MY ghetto scene? I don’t think so.
Just like the confederate flag does not belong to southern men in general, raging war and rampant poverty are not to be laid at my particular doorstep. Or that of any American woman, who are all just sweet home grown girls at heart. We American Women feel the pain of poverty and war, but also that these problems are a bit too large for us to handle on our own.
Perhaps when our government elects a female President the war machine will wind down. Perhaps every hungry child will be fed. Burton Cummings, that is what is in the heart of this American woman today, and in the hearts of every single American woman I know. So stop singing that song when you come to Detroit. We don’t like it, but (despite its faults, and there are many), we do love our home. Most people love home, it’s where you go and they have to take you in. Ask anybody.
I love Canada. I love the southern states, too. I adore Mexico. I feel like I’m a citizen of the world first, America second. But “Practicing Kindness” (#7 on the happiness tip list) is something I need to work on with Burton and Guess Who. I love a lot of his music and most of his songs (there’s a little kindness) but every time one comes on Pandora (no, I do not buy his music, my little protest) I think about “American Woman.”
We in America are cleaning up the flag mess. We get it now and we are sorry. As Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote “In Birmingham they love the governor. We all did what we could do.” And they’re right. We do all do what we can do. American IS beautiful and American Women are awesome and I just want to tell that to a certain Mr Burton Cummings today. You’ve got a lot of talent (that’s me being kind again) but, here’s my lyric back to you, via Skynard: American woman don’t need you around anyhow.
As to my readers of this happiness project…I’m a work in progress. And kindness is a tough one when confronted with hate. But let me end on a kinder happier note: Happy Birthday Alabama & America!