‘What Is America?’

Dec 14, 2011 No Comments

In response to the Lowe’s Islamophobia scandal I am releasing  “What Is America?” from my new album for free download. I grew up using my stepfather’s Polish last name, an All-American southern boy, a bluegrass fiddler from Virginia and an Eagle Scout. I still cherish the flag that was flown above the US Capital for me when I was 16 years old. But the moment I took my born name, Said, everything changed in an instant. When major labels wanted to sign me, executives told me I could never have a career in the US with an Arabic name.

After 9/11, when my song The Bell became the breakout antiwar hit, I was blacklisted, added to all the watch lists, received hate mail, letters from music magazine editors saying I would never ever be in their magazines, booking agents and managers insisted it would be too dangerous for their artists to be associated with me for fear of ticket sales loss or worse backlash. Once, when singing at the University of Arizona at a show co-sponsored by the local public radio station, a swat team came with weapons loaded to shut down my show when someone called saying I was a terrorist.

This is not the America I believed in growing up. We have to reclaim the egalitarian dream core to our national identity, and lead the world not only in tolerance, but also in being the first ones to create that more equal world we’ve all dreamt of for thousands of years but never achieved, until now.

The Lowe’s incident is only an indication of just how bad the pervasive prejudice against people of Middle eastern or Islamic background has become. If we are sincere about peace, we most need to hear their voices today, not isolate or silence them. The entire world now knows that the more equitable world that all the prophets, Buddha, Moses, Christ, Mohammed, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. and generations have dreamt of is now imperative to the future of our planet. But we can only achieve that level of change that is now necessary if we first begin to accept each other, no matter our religion, nationality, ethnicity, or age as equals. We must all have faith in each other.

The courage we need to go where no generation has before can only be attained through a sense of dignity that only come from those who accept each other for who they are. We must reclaim the egalitarian dream that is central to American identity, because we are all only as free as the least free among us. Let’s Occupy Tolerance, let’s create the world we all want to see. Let’s reclaim Equality, and create a new and better America. Another World Is Possible, and it starts at home. I am All-American, and I am a global citizen.


What Is America


I’m tired of all this talk of freedom goin’ round

Not a single word about equality to be found

Tell me what kind of freedom you got when there ain’t enough to go ‘round

People on top got a whole lot more than the people that’s sinkin down


What is America if it ain’t the dream

A place where anyone can think what they want to think

Where everybody’s got the right to be heard when they speak

A place where a whisper’s a whole lot louder than a scream


I’m goin’ back on home to the West Virginia hills

Where everybody’s got a lot more love than dollar bills

Where helpin’ your neighbor is better than getting ahead

If America can’t be like that no more then give me West Virginia instead


Off in the future I can see a land

Where everybody’s givin’ everybody a helpin’ hand

It might be a little ways off but it ain’t too far to see

It might not be right here but it’ll be America to me

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