I'm a typical liberal, but I have a soft spot for patriotic songs. In particular, I love “Proud to Be an American,” by Lee Greenwood, even though portions of it are grammatically incorrect. I am definitely proud to be an American. So why am I so self-conscious about enjoying this song?
G. B., New York, N.Y.
Dear G. B.,
You should not be abashed at all; patriotism belongs to no political party. I, too, very much like this song (its actual title is “God Bless the U.S.A.”). But I agree that grammatically it is a disaster: “I’m proud to be an American,” the chorus begins, “where at least I know I’m free.” I called up Greenwood to ask if he meant for his anthem to be enjoyed by liberals, and also where he learned to construct sentences. “The Lee Greenwood point of view is that we shouldn’t be a divided country,” he told me, in the LeBron James style. “The song is for everyone. The song is bigger than Lee Greenwood, the author of the song. The Lee Greenwood personal point of view is to make everyone conservative, but that’s not Lee Greenwood speaking as the author of the song. That Lee Greenwood is in the middle.”
So many Lee Greenwoods! I asked the Lee Greenwood on the phone to describe his politics. “If America changes to the point that it is no longer a Christian nation, and no longer protects itself from aliens who come and go, then it won’t be America anymore,” he said. Feeling somewhat abashed, I changed the subject to grammar: Why not make the lyric “I’m proud to live in America”? He said: “I’m writing it in first person. I am an American.” I asked again, and he answered again, in roughly the same manner. All of this invites another question, G. B.: Have you considered embracing “God Bless America” as your patriotic anthem? It is, among other things, grammatically impeccable.