Yetley: Country music, hard work and the love of a nation


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Opinion: Country Music

Claire Yetley

As I sat on an old flowered bed sheet that my family had laid down on the grass while we listened to a local country cover band for the Fourth of July, I was engrossed by the connection between patriotism, summertime and country music. What is it about the summer’s heat that brings out a sense of patriotism? What is it about country music that amplifies the feeling of summer? How does that patriotic feeling inspire a country song in a summer setting?

Why do these all connect, not only for me, but for the other hundreds of people that have gathered for the same experience?

In so many country songs the lyrical setting is a farm or small town. For many Americans, there is a connection between a farm and the United States. A farm is a place of where so many hours have been spent, so many summer days have been sweated out bailing hay and just hard work getting done in general. Most of this hard work is done during the summer months, which is why we associate the hard work on a farm and summertime.

There’s just not that same gratification of hard work when the day has been spent in an office pushing paper. There just isn’t.

So is country music just a chance for us all to remember that feeling of a hard day’s work? Could be, but it could also be a chance to correlate America’s past achievements with the hard work of each individual. That individual standing upon the merits of their own labor is traditional liberalism, the philosophy upon which America was founded.

Before the boom brought on by the industrial revolution, a majority of Americans lived and worked on farms. Our ground was fertile and nutrient rich; the agricultural possibilities were amazing. The Native American people farmed here before the settlers farmed the land but only to the extent that there was enough to feed their tribe. The settlers however saw the opportunity to overproduce enough crops to sell to the country and the world.

There was so much land and room for everyone to have a piece of the American Dream.

We hear that term “American Dream” tossed around in conversation, but what is the American Dream? Is it a house, a steady job, a family to come home to? Maybe a car? Maybe it was and could still be to many people, but more and more of our under-30 generation is choosing to give that up for other opportunities. Some social commentators are calling this generation the “global generation” as our age group chooses to, for example, travel abroad and gain life experiences rather than settle down as fast for steady things such as a house or a career.

The American Dream is not only changing with each generation, it changes with ethnicity and background as well. I overheard a conversation where a man was asked what song embodies the American spirit most to him. He answered “Buscando America” by Ruben Blades, which won a Grammy in 1984 for Best Tropical Latin Performance. The song speaks of coming to America, the land of freedom, justice and opportunity. That’s what my own ancestors were seeking when they came to America to start a farm, and now new Americans are looking for opportunity just the same.

People like to feel as if they are a part of something. If by claiming Iowan roots you feel you are associating yourself with the great agricultural history of this state, then more power to you. When I claim that I am Iowan it means we value our land, not only agriculturally but also our prairie grass, lakes and rivers as well. To each person there is a different meaning, based on different experiences and different teachings of Iowan or American history.

There is only one history but many different ways to perceive, learn or teach it.

Country music is a connection to our agricultural history, and some of that history is what brought all those people out to the band’s performance. It’s important to remember the history of our country. People not only acknowledge the importance of our heritage but feel a sense of pride in being a part of America’s achievement, even if for some, the part is a simple acknowledgement by listening to country music.

And what better time to celebrate American agricultural history than the summer during the busy season for farms?