Vol. 22, No. 5,514 - The American Reporter - September 7, 2016



by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
January 16, 2007
Hominy & Hash
WHAT IS 'THE AMERICAN WAY'?

Back to home page

Printable version of this story

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- During some drive-time easy listening, NPR's Garrison Keillor, with his typical Midwestern wit, was harking back to "those thrilling days of yesteryear," making up radio dramas with plots familiar to those of a certain age.

He lowered his voice, suggesting he was announcing Superman, the "man of steel" who was "fighting for truth, justice, and the American Way." The words "American way" resonated through some hollow corner of my mind and, although I could still hear Keillor, I was pondering a question. Exactly what is "The American Way?"
'The howdy and the handshake,
The air and feeling free,
And the right to speak my mind out,
That's America to me... .'

Do Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companions believe life in Lake Woebegon, Minn., is the American Way? Is my understanding of growing up just outside New York City the American Way?

The settlers in Minnesota were looking for a land of milk and honey just as the immigrants landing in New York were. In Minnesota, they lived and worked the iron mines on the Mesabi Range; in New York, both the skilled and unskilled worked side-by-side, forging magnificent structures in close quarters. Each could claim theirs was the "American Way." After all, they were all Americans, weren't they?

There was a time we heard "Mom and Apple Pie" was the American Way. It was as simple as that. The words conjured up a Norman Rockwell illustration on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. That was the American way; Thanksgiving turkeys and Christmas trees. Mom and little sister and garden gates - picture perfect, I'd say. It wasn't my way, particularly, but I basked in the warm glow of it all and grew into a strong, patriotic, flag-waving American.

But, really, what is the American way? Freedom? Democracy? Every baby born can grow up to be President? These are just a few time-worn platitudes spoken so often they've lost their strength. It's what we say when we don't know what to say.

Then the day's long drive was over, but my questions still remained. I wanted something I could embrace, and thanks to the sources we can so readily tap into for information, I found exactly what I wanted.

I discovered the Lone Ranger had a creed, and this creed defines what I believe every American aspires to, even though "the masked man" was a product of someone's imagination. We all like to think we are passing along this same wisdom to future generations of Americans, but that's where only time will tell. It was written by the original writer of the Lone Ranger, Fran Striker. Here it is:

"I believe that to have a friend, a man must be one. That all men are created equal and that everyone has within himself the power to make this a better world. That God put the firewood there but that every man must gather and light it himself. In being prepared physically, mentally and morally to fight when necessary for that which is right. That a man should make the most of what equipment he has. That 'This government of the people, by the people and for the people' shall live always. That men should live by the rule of what is best for the greatest number. That sooner or later...somewhere...somehow...we must settle with the world and make payment for what we have taken. That all things change but truth...and that truth alone...lives on forever. In my Creator...my country...and my fellow man."

If we hold to that creed and also define America the way Frank Sinatra did singing this powerful song in his award-winning short film, "What is America to Me," then we'll have a clearer picture of the American Way.

These are the lyrics by Earl Robinson to "The House I Live In," recorded in 1945. It was also sung for President Reagan during the Statue of Liberty Centennial, July 4, 1986.

"What is America to me?
A name, a map, or a flag I see;
A certain word, democracy.
What is America to me?
The house I live in,
A plot of earth, a street,
The grocer and the butcher,
Or the people that I meet;
The children in the playground,
The faces that I see,
All races and religions,
That's America to me.
The place I work in,
The worker by my side,
The little town or city
Where my people lived and died.
The howdy and the handshake,
The air and feeling free,
And the right to speak my mind out,
That's America to me.
The things I see about me,
The big things and the small,
The little corner newsstand,
And the house a mile tall;
The wedding and the churchyard,
The laughter and the tears,
And the dream that's been a growing
For a hundred-fifty years.
The town I live in,
The street, the house, the room,
The pavement of the city,
And the garden all in bloom;
The church, the school, the clubhouse,
The million lights I see,
But especially the people;
That's America to me.
The house I live in,
My neighbors white and black,
The people who just came here,
Or from generations back;
The town hall and the soapbox,
The torch of liberty,
A home for all God's children;
That's America to me.

The words of old Abe Lincoln,
Of Jefferson and Paine,
Of Washington and Jackson
And the tasks that still remain;
The little bridge at Concord,
Where Freedom's fight began,
Our Gettysburg and Midway
And the story of Bataan.
The house I live in,
The goodness everywhere,
A land of wealth and beauty,
With enough for all to share;
A house that we call Freedom,
A home of Liberty,
And it belongs to fighting people:
That's America to me."

In 1945, fresh from World War II victories, America proudly sang about fighting for our way of life. Basically, we're not a nation of fighting people, but once again we're fighting for our lives to protect what we have 'for ourselves and our posterity:' it's the American Way.

Constance Daley's New Book
"Sidewalks and Sand"
Is Available Now At www.skylinetoshoreline.com

Copyright 2016 Joe Shea The American Reporter. All Rights Reserved.

Site Meter