Sunday, May 26, 2019

They've all come to look for America

Let us be lovers, we'll marry our fortunes together
I've got some real estate here in my bag
So we bought a pack of cigarettes and Mrs. Wagner's pies
And we walked off to look for America

Cathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburgh
Michigan seems like a dream to me now
It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw
I've gone to look for America

Laughing on the bus, playing games with the faces
She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy
I said, be careful, his bowtie is really a camera
Toss me a cigarette, I think there's one in my raincoat

We smoked the last one an hour ago
So I looked at the scenery
She read her magazine
And the moon rose over an open field

Cathy, I'm lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I'm empty and aching and I don't know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They've all come to look for America
All come to look for America
All come to look for America

If you would like to bring back some fond memories, listen to “America” - and enjoy some great scenery.

The inspiration for the song was a woman named Kathleen Chitty, who Paul Simon met when he toured England’s pubs and clubs in 1963. “America” describes a fictional tour that he took with her across America on a Greyhound bus. She was also the inspiration for “Kathy’s song”:

Most of us don’t give much thought to the Greyhound bus company, but it is an institution that has been around for a LONG time. The company was started by a Swedish immigrant named Carl Hickman, and the company’s first route was in Hibbing, Minnesota in 1914. The complete history of the company makes for interesting reading, and can be found at the link below. Part of that history, naturally, includes the company’s involvement in the “freedom riders” of 1961.

Due to its longevity, the company has been involved in numerous “incidents and accidents” over the years, and it has also has a prominent place in 10 movies and 19 songs.

Declining ridership, and competition from cheap airfares, forced the company into bankruptcy twice in the 1990’s. In 2007, it was acquired by the Scottish transport group FirstGroup.

In recent years, the company has benefited from a wave of immigrants from south and central America. Ironically, the crisis in central America was caused by our own government. During the Eisenhower and Kennedy years, our government supported more than 40 coups in that area in order to defeat communist rulers, and the government was also heavily influenced by “the banana man”.

Today, more than 5000 refugees a day arrive from the violent countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Once they arrive here, they quickly are dispersed from our border towns to other cities in America. In the vast majority of cases, their transportation is on a Greyhound bus.

Our country has long had a tortured view of immigrants, starting with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which was followed by the Immigration Act of 1924, and the Japanese internment camps of 1942-1945. “Operation Wetback” was set into motion in 1957. Today, we have the “Muslim ban” of 2017.

The refuges from Central America are the latest group who fit into the group mentioned on the plague attached to the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

We really need to be more accepting of the folks coming from “south of the border”. After all, they’ve all just come to look for America.

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