Monday, February 13, 2017

Musical Monday - Rocky Mountain High by John Denver

Because it is so close to home, most Americans don't think of Rocky Mountain High as being a song about an immigrant, but on a fundamental level, it really is. This oversight is, I think, in part why Americans in general don't really understand the immigrant experience. For the most part, we only understand an immigrant story when it is explicitly couched as an immigrant story in the most hamfisted way possible. We recognize An American Tale or Gangs of New York as stories about immigrants, because they club us on the head with that fact, but the reality is that we as Americans are literally surrounded with immigrant stories.

The American myth is that we are a nation of immigrants. What most people think of when they say that is that we are a nation of people whose ancestors came from some place in Europe, Asia, or Africa, but the story of the United States itself is of migration. The westward expansion was a wave of migration - all those people who set out on the Oregon Trail were emigrating from somewhere, whether it was Ohio or Alabama or New Jersey. The central character in this song may not have emigrated from another country to Colorado, but they clearly emigrated from somewhere. And the wonder that is expressed in this song, the sense of rebirth, the sense of new possibilities, that is the immigrant experience. We forget that too often, attributing to immigrants the characteristic of looking back, reminiscing about their old life in their old home, when for the most part, an immigrant is looking forward, to the new vistas afforded them in their new home.

Previous Musical Monday: You Ruined Everything by Jonathan Coulton
Subsequent Musical Monday: Great American Melting Pot by Lynn Ahrens and Lori Lieberman

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