Dana Beltramo

“I’m from Tennessee, so you might imagine that country music has been a big part of my life. I love to sing (not saying I’m any good), and my 14-yr. old son plays the guitar and has a marvelous bass voice, which is always in demand at his school and other groups. We often sing together, and one of our favorite performers is Waylon Jennings. This afternoon, we were singing Waylon’s song, “America,” and it hit me…

There’s a LOT of anger–and rightfully so–from all of us with Student Loan Debt, underwater mortgages, no jobs, no pensions, no futures, etc. But, beneath that anger is a PROFOUND AND DEEP sadness that this is the not the America I was promised as a child; it is not the America I was taught to love, and never dreamed I’d leave; it is the not the America in which I believed I was bringing up my son; it is not the America for which my Italian-immigrant grandfather put his life on the line in WWII.

The America I love, behind her beautiful flag, her purple mountain’s majesty, behind the faces on Mt. Rushmore, behind the bustling cities and sleepy southern towns has been made into a Frankenstein… a vicious monster that eats her most precious commodity–her own citizens. This is my heartbreak. Behind my anger is my tremendous sadness at knowing that the America I love, the America about which Waylon Jennings, and Johnny Cash, and John Cougar Mellancamp, and Joan Baez, and Luther Vandross and Elvis sang about is gone, and will not likely be revived in my lifetime… if ever.

The pain is in the memory I have that is still strong of what America was, what she was poised to be, as juxtaposed to what she has become, what she is… a cesspool of corporate greed; boiling hatred among her own people rather than solidarity; judgment rather than help; a government on its knees, rather than carrying TDR’s “big stick,” and beating back the corporate thugs; a world leader in war and imperialism, rather than a beacon of peace and freedom; a killer of children, women, blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, the elderly–anyone who doesn’t fit the current mold, rather than a great “melting pot;” a land of desperation and poverty, rather than a land of plenty with a deep love and respect of her beautiful landscape and all its inhabitants–people and animals, alike.

So, I suppose it is the last vestiges of the America I knew as a child which tug at my heart strings, and sometimes seem to make it so hard to encourage my son (and myself) to prepare to leave this country in a few years. It is the profound hurt at the realization that my own country has enslaved me with Student Loan Debt, and done this to me and all of you, in my own name, in your name, in the name of my grandfather… in the name of “We the People.” (I imagine this is something like the heartbreak the Native Americans suffered when we stole this land from them.) 

—Dana Beltramo