The image above is of Toby Kieth during one of his USO performances for the brave men and women of the US military. Not a fan of American country music, I'll never forget the first time I heard Keith sing his song, Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue, during halftime of one of the 2002 Thanksgiving Day NFL contests (I know the Dallas Cowboys were playing, I just can't be bothered to find out who their opponent was). I was standing in my Long Island kitchen, fussing over a pot of stuffing; a recipe I'd never before attempted, and I was understandably nervous. I snickered at the television when Keith came on, because, as I said, I'm no great fan of country music. I was not paying particular attention to the song he was singing, but this one stanza almost made a mockery of my culinary efforts:
Justice will be served
And the battle will rage
This big dog will fight
When you rattle his cage
And you'll be sorry that you messed with
The U. S. of A.
'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass
It's the American way
When I heard the last two lines, I dropped my spoon, and said, "What the f$%&k did he just say?" in disbelief. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who took issue with his lyrics; members of the all girl country group, The Dixie Chicks, turned Toby Keith into the poster boy for American pugilism, and caused a shit storm of epic proportions that threatened to bring down their very successful careers. For a long time, I applauded them for their outspokenness, and declared my own hatred of Toby Keith to whoever would listen. All this despite the fact I thought he was pretty hot in a scruffy, grizzled Russell Crowe sort of way. But that line, "'Cause we'll put a boot in your ass / It's the American way", pissed me off big time. This was before Operation Iraqi Freedom, and George W Bush's ridiculous "Mission Accomplished" stunt on the aircraft carrier, when no one really knew what was in store for us, post 9/11.
A couple of years later, Toby Keith turned up on The Colbert Report, and I found out he was not the raving pugilist I thought he was. He was intelligent, and articulate; most of all, he seemed to really give a damn about the fate of America without crying crocodile tears or throwing a hissy fit a la Glenn Beck. My opinion of the man went up considerably. Not that I bought any of his CDs or went out of my way to listen to his music; although he's still pretty damn cute. It just goes to show you, the first impression isn't always the correct impression.
Fast forward a few more years to yesterday. I watched President Obama's address from the Oval Office last night, declaring the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the complete withdrawal of all American combat troops. There are still 50,000 service men and women staying behind to mind the store, but the majority of these brave souls have completed their tasks. Now, American military might can focus completely on the conflicts in Afghanistan, and come to the aid of the many Canadians who have been serving so bravely for so long. My hope is that this war will not be fought in vain, as the Iraq war was. George Bush's hard-on for Saddam Hussein was evident from the day he took the oath of office, and if 9/11 hadn't happened, I remain convinced he would have found another reason to try to depose him. After all, what better way would there have been for him to "avenge Daddy" by completing the job is father, George H.W. Bush, failed to as president? Which misfit son (Fredos, as I like to refer to them) would pass up the opportunity to impress his daddy? Especially when he bought and paid for your job as leader of the free world. Your average drunken screw-up son would never get that sort of an opportunity, but if your last name happens to be Bush, well, we now know literally anything is possible.
As I watched Obama last night, I wanted to believe the impassioned words he spoke about America emerging from almost a decade of dark days, and looking forward to better ones ahead. How many of us dare to hope this is true? Will the returning GIs take advantage of all the opportunities he is offering them, practically begging them to invest even more in the country that sent them to fight a misguided war? With all my heart, I hope they do. I hope they take the opportunity to get the education they so deserve to have; to go on to live full, productive lives as proud Americans; instead of revisiting the horrific era of out-of-control consumerism that all but destroyed the American middle class. After 9/11, George Bush told everyone to go shopping. And look where it got us. As I sit here, on Canadian soil, typing this missive, the American in me is sorry I left. The Canadian in me is grateful for the opportunities presented to me over the past year, which, sadly, as an American, I never would have had. A nation divided against itself cannot stand; this has never been more true of present day America. But a dual citizen divided against herself is standing on some pretty solid ground right now. If that ground were below the 49th parallel, it would be quicksand.
I'm not planning to acknowledge the 9th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 here next week. Enough will be written and said that will make up for my not partaking. However, I would like to say, I hope I live long enough to witness the legitimate healing of the wounds that are still so terribly raw. Any number of buildings and memorials erected will never make up for the sacrifices made by so many, if real peace is never achieved. Again, I do so hope to see that day come.