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  • John Poole

The Duke and The Verse

John Wayne – America, Why I Love Her 1973

A1 Why I Love Her 2:56

A2 The Hyphen 2:29

A3 Mis Raices Estan Aqui (My Roots Are Buried Here) 2:41

A4 The People 3:46

A5 An American Boy Grows Up 4:29

B1 Face The Flag 3:52

B2 The Good Things 2:40

B3 The Pledge Of Allegiance 4:19

B4 Why Are You Marching, Son? 3:58

B5 Taps 3:01

There it is, one of the reasons I started collecting spoken word albums. John Wayne’s “America, Why I Love Her”. When I first got it, I laughed my ass off at the broad rhymes and the Paul Bunyan Sized cliches of Patriotism which flew out of the speakers like a wood-chipper. This was before the internet, when Patriotism was associated with Ronald Reagan and Oliver North, and thereby was laughable. But I was also a recovering Boy Scout, I was living in Texas, and I had watched the Schoolhouse Rock History cartoons. Wasn’t America a good place? A place to be protected? Improved? Supported? And yeah! why is being a different color more important than being an American? It’s all about linking arm in arm, despite our differences…..

….or we’ll kill you.

Not knowing about that last part, not having to live with that last part, is what White Privilege is. The other part is how we didn’t see the worst part of ourselves, the racist part, as it was genuinely hidden from the Public view at many chokepoints of information distribution. Also, we deliberately shielded our eyes from truths that had to be obvious, even if they were made to be invisible. My Grandparents were 1950’s Democrats. They supported liberal causes and even abortion rights back when doing so could get you fired. They raised their kids to be good and kind. They had friends of all races, and mixed genuinely in their circles, even attending the same churches. And they took their Grandkids every summer to Stone Mountain, the largest monument to the Confederate States of America on the planet.

The gift shop at the base of this Granite mountain was the nexus of irony, as both Union and Confederate themed toys were sold to the kids, including realistic pistols and rifles. At night a stirring musical performance with lasers would light up the mountain, adding an extra degree of emotion to the already stirring sculpted figures of Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jefferson Davis; three men responsible for more than fifteen times the deaths of US soldiers than in the entire occupation of Afghanistan.

And these same Grandparents loved puppies, never blamed Mexicans for anything and donated regularly to the NAACP. I also had other Grandparents who were racist and shitty, so I had a test group to validate my hypothesis. My conclusion—-everyone is frigging crazy.

So, this brings us back to John Wayne, who I love. I’ve seen tons of his movies, even the bad ones. Will I defend his acting? Hell no. Will I defend his performing? I won’t…like HELL I won’t! I love watching him, and as a fan of actors, I find his story intriguing as hell. Here’s a stuntman named Marion Morrison, who marries a Mexican National, smokes weed and then becomes the Posterboy for all things American! With a capital exclamation point! here’s another one —! Was he a right wing reactionary? In 1944 he sure as hell wasn’t, he was at the top of the hump of that Bell Curve we all hate to slide on. But in 2022, he’s practically a fascist.

Track A2, “The Hyphen” defines this shift in who we are and were as a culture. Contemporaries of 1973 could see this track as potentially Leftist, pleading for a blending together of races and creeds into a Socialist Utopia. Though they didn’t. It’s actually a clever retort to the Black Power and Brown Power Movements disguised as a plea for moderation. Today, it is the Psalm of The Bro and The Karen, it is the Hymn of White Privilege. It is infuriating to hear by anyone who isn’t white, and if you’re white you’ve learned you’re supposed to be infuriated at stuff like this, not just amused at it’s triteness and simplistic ideology. This poem is one of the most useful tools to teach anyone about the attitudes towards Race in America in 1973.

As for me? I have no illusions. I know that just because I play Dick Gregory and Godfrey Cambridge, and Not Bill Cosby, does not mean I’m righteous and clean. I am the recipient of the benefits of racism everyday. At least I am now that I’m in Chicago. San Antonio was a different situation; same stacked deck, but a different game. I’ll play you some Jose Jimenez down the line, and we’ll talk about that later.

As for John Wayne, he’s to big to take in, a lot like America. I have received a lot of benefits from being an American, a great deal of comforts and a tremendous amount of security—a triple treasure easily unmatched by any civilization the earth has ever seen. But all those treasures are sticky with the filth of slavery, oppression and profiteering. Can I remove that filth? I can sure as hell can try. Can I hate John Wayne? No. Can I blindly love him as I did? No.

The messed up part is racism was once considered a good thing. And so good people were racists, an impossible oxymoron to maintain. Because I am white, I cannot speak to the evils of racism, as I have not suffered from racism, only benefited from it, even if passively. I’m looking to learn, y’all. And that’s why I’ve sought out these lost words and phrases of the past, in the medium that used to fill everyone’s shelves. John Wayne may have just been smoking some primo shit, high as hell and said sure, I”ll read the dumb ass poems as a favor for Robert Mitchum, who was the author’s brother. Or he may have had a white robe in his closet.

Unirregardless. . .

Here are his words, once heard and bought and consumed by the masses, for us all to measure him, and ourselves by. I hope you dig it.

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