Two of my most surprising favorite songs are Jonathan Richman’s “New England:”
I have been out west to Californ’
But I miss the land where I was born
...and Neko Case’s “Thrice All American:”
Well I don’t make it home much, I sadly neglect you
But that’s how you like it away from the world
God bless California, make way for the Wal-Mart
I hope they don’t find you Tacoma
It’s no mystery why I love these songs. I’ve had to explain Nebraska to everyone I’ve met on either coast and in most foreign countries. No one in these places knows the first thing about Nebraska — which is OK — but everyone has tons of notions what it must be like — which is not OK. The thing of it is, Nebraska has a deep beauty, but it doesn’t come easy. More to the point, it was made beautiful by people who loved it. As Neko sings: “People who built it, they loved it like I do.”
People in the Pretty Places (like California) have every right to love their home state, but the state itself makes it easy. The weather is good and so is the food, and California has scenery in spades. No one has trouble loving a cute, well-behaved child. It takes a special kind of person to love the kid with the lopsided face who can’t stop biting the other kids.
In my estimation, perhaps the main problem with America is that Americans don’t love the places they come from. We keep moving west looking for something better, but we ran out of West a while ago. This is it, there is no more West. If we don’t resume building our places with love we won’t have any places worth loving.