Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dylan on a Sunday

I noticed that Brandi Carlile is playing the White House on the 4th of July. That's got to feel like a pretty big honor. I hope she'll do her cover of "Fortunate Son." That would set them on their ears.

That got me to thinking about what Dylan would do on the 4th of July (mostly because I write this blog). As I write this, he's about to go on stage in Ireland. I doubt he'll sing America the Beautiful, but I could be wrong. I imagine Dylan at this point avoiding anything that would seem like a statement, even if he thought not singing America the Beautiful would be a statement. He might play the White House on the 4th of July, but he would gloss the day, give no indication of its significance. Not make it a big deal, one way or another. At least, that's what I imagine.

One consistent thing about Dylan's music, at least his recent stuff, is that he brooks no idolatries. He writes from inside the details of life these days, not from a stance above it that would allow him some universalizing critique. There are no ideologies or utopias. There is nothing in life that doesn't have another side to it. Dylan is not likely to sermonize. He's more likely to undo you with irony, to let your project fall by its own weight.

I'm more comfortable with this view of life. I missed the patriotic gene somewhere. It's not that I'm not thankful for the life I have, and I know a big part of that is because I live in an impressive country that's gotten a lot of things right. I'm under no pretense that somehow I've earned or deserve the prosperity I enjoy. I've traveled enough to know how much I take for granted. I'm no America basher (though two weeks in Uganda is more than enough to sponsor some real Western guilt).

But I'll also have to admit that Toby Keith turns my stomach and you'll never catch me mouthing the words to a Lee Greenwood song. And if you want to get under my skin at church, talk about America as a Christian nation. I've only rarely enjoyed fireworks (I know, this is kind of grinchy), and parades make me very, very tired. I'm just not constitutionally cut out to be patriotic.

But I'm also wary of hyper-patriotism. I think it is one of the easiest places to set up idolatries, to use God's name for our own aspirations, especially when you're the most "powerful" nation in the world. I hope President Obama prays before he commits troops. But I also hopes he keeps that to himself, lest someone confuse our cause with God's.

I do plan on watching fireworks tonight. And I will give thanks for what we share as a nation. And if I hear Brandi Carlile sing, America the Beautiful, I imagine it will even deliver a goose bump, for which I'll be thankful.

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