Happy Birthday, Home

Well, she was an American girl
Raised on promises...

In honor of the celebration of my country's birthday, I went hunting for video of perhaps the most amazing and patriotic experience I've ever been a part of. And wouldn't you know that YouTube didn't let me down:

I love this for a lot of reasons.

First and foremost, it's Miss Whitney, at her very best, before BobbyBrown! and crack and whatever else made her the caricature that we see today. Her voice, majestic and radient, coupled with the subtle elegance of the backing Florida Orchestra made this rendition of the National Anthem truly iconic. It's my favorite version ever.

Better yet is the fact that I was there in person to hear her sing. Super Bowl XXV. Tampa Stadium. 1991. The Buffalo Bills versus the New York Giants. Phil Simms in his heyday. Hell of a game, with a heartbreaking finish for the resiliant Bills fans. I'd never seen grown men cry at a sporting event before -- but burly gents and usually stoic dudes were wiping away tears with their sweatshirt sleeves and gruffly consoling each other. Whoever says sports are "just games" is deluded. Or non-fan haters.


They've all gone to look for America
All gone to look for America...

The game was played literally days after the first Gulf War started. MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa was Central Command. And the largest sporting event in the world was held just about five miles away. The images of the movie Black Sunday were evoked by the media frequently in the week preceeding the game. My dad was on the local Super Bowl planning committe, and as a resulting perk, got to purchase tickets. I had nosebleed seats (and a date that crapped out on me at the last minute. Douchebag. Yet another story for another day.)

Security was intense. The air was electric with varying currents of anxiety and anticipation. I was frisked, poked, prodded and explored. But.. when the orchestra played those oh-so-familiar notes and Whitney opened her mouth to sing, you could feel the tension subside and the entire stadium, down to a person, swell with pride and love of country.

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California, to the New York Island
From the redwood forest, to the Gulf stream waters
This land was made for you and me

This Gulf War was the first taste of combat my generation could fully grasp, as we were too young to completely understand the nuances of Vietnam (although I remember vividly seeing Dan Rather reporting on the war on the CBS evening news while we ate dinner.) And it was vivid -- CNN brought every single action and movement to us, live, 24/7, and in color (remember the neon green of the night over Baghdad behind Arthur "Scud Stud" Kent?)

Well she was an American girl
Raised on promises...

We weren't jaded then to all things war-related, as we are now. That first blush of war unearthed patriotism and uncertainty and curiosity, colored by naivete and hopeful expectations for resolution and the obligation of our country as the protector of the world. Little did we know what would lie ahead, nearly 20 years later, as we struggle to make sense of a war that shouldn't have happened and seemingly has no end for the brave men and women who are simply doing their jobs as military employees. [/end liberal Janey PSA]

But that January night, as Whitney let forth with the glory of her voice, dropping over us the words of love for country, we simply embraced the moment for what it was -- one cloaked in pride for who we were and what we stood for as Americans.

O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave...

It's a good reminder for me on a day when my country is still at war. When my Gulf stream waters have been violated and invaded and sullied. When the echos of a Civil War of words and perspective and ideologies about the direction our nation should take pits citizen against citizen, brother against brother, sister against sister. When economic hardships and employment woes are the norm rather than the exception.

Despite it all, this is still the place to be. Resillient and proud, we shall over come. It's just what we do here in America.

Happy Birthday, Home.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.


Donna Sweikow said...

Yet another story to remind me of many,many things to be proud of, one of which is that you are my friend.

Tara R. said...

This was a heart-swelling, pride evoking, loving tribute to our great country. Nicely Done!

Hope you and yours have a safe and fun Fourth of July celebration.