Sanders’ “America” campaign ad was hailed as one of the great political ads of all time. Transcending traditional party politics, speaking to the aspirations of millions for a better America, it paid homage to our shared heritage.  It also spoke to a longing for community that often goes unrecognized.  And it did all of this in just one minute.  But there was also a wistful quality to the ad, which ignored some of Paul Simon’s most disturbing lyrics.  Those who knew the song felt the weight of this absence.  We knew that beyond the inspirational framing of some of the song’s lyrics in the ad, there were also biting and critical ones.  And these other lyrics proved to be a harbinger of what we now face: a future without the optimism that once appeared to be our birthright.

America in 2016 is not a joyful place.  We Americans are distrustful.  We are insecure.  We are floundering.  We are alienated.  We are angry.  We are lost. Simon writes, we’ve “all come to look for America,” but it is no where to be found.  And certainly the candidates of the two major parties, as well as the two major parties, demonstrate daily just how bad things are.  There is the happy talk from Clinton and her allies; you know, the things are getting (incrementally) better all of the time nonsense.  And there are Trump’s outrageous promises to fix things he doesn’t even understand.  Meanwhile Bernie is out campaigning for Clinton and traditional Democrats.  It’s a sad, sad show.

Here are the lyrics to “America.”  Watch Sanders’ ad, and watch it with all of the lyrics in mind.  We have fallen so far from the promise of his campaign and our history—and there is so little in the immediate future to lift us—it seems that the title of Richard Fariña’s novel, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me,* best describes where we are as a nation

Let us be lovers, we’ll marry our fortunes together
I’ve got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner’s pies
And we walked off to look for America
Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I’ve gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera
Toss me a cigarette, I think there’s one in my raincoat
We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

Simon And Garfunkel – America Lyrics | MetroLyrics

* Wikipedia points out, “The title comes from the Furry Lewis song ‘I Will Turn Your Money Green’ (‘I been down so long/It seem like up to me’).”


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