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America for Me



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As political-trivia junkies will know, my title is a reference to a sentimental poem quoted at great, great length by Michigan Republican congressman Guy Vander Jagt in his keynote address at the 1980 GOP convention. The speech was widely considered a flop, and the poem itself of a sort that hasn’t aged well. But its sentiment — we love an America that looks forward, because it is indeed a New World of freedom, over against the Old — is an important one, and it was reinforced for me tonight in one of the most unexpected places.

I went to a concert of some alternative-metal bands at an auditorium in Times Square; the two headliners were Life of Agony and Biohazard, groups that originated in Brooklyn. (As far as the music is concerned, I’m relatively new to the genre; but I was impressed with both bands.) The lead singer of Biohazard, between songs and in an unmistakably local accent, asked the thousands in the audience: “How many of you got pizzas delivered by me?” Loud cheers. And then he continued: “Dreams can come true.”

Wikipedia says Biohazard is “acknowledged as one of the earliest bands to fuse hardcore punk and heavy metal with elements of hip hop.” This is pure supply-side freedom economics: Who knew, in the late 1980s, that there was an inchoate, not-yet-recognized demand for a fusion of hardcore punk and heavy metal with elements of hip-hop? These guys couldn’t have been sure that there would be such a demand — but they took a chance with their creativity, and ended giving listeners something of beauty, something the listeners would not have known to ask for by name. If an auditorium filled with thousands is anything to go by, Biohazard has succeeded financially with their work; but their success goes deeper than that. (They would have been no less entertaining a band if there had been only 50 people there tonight.)

I suspect that the author of “America for Me” would not have found this sort of music as congenial as I do. But the pizza guy who becomes wealthy by telling, in music, the truth as he sees it, illustrates the poem’s point in a way I hope the poet would have appreciated.



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