America at the Crossroads

Play "America at the Crossroads" (Complete)

This dramatic music dialogue was performed July 4th, 2011 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowshop of Centre Country (UUFCC) in State College, PA. Accompanying music was  Georgia On my Mind, Thunder Road, and What a Wonderful World:


America at the Crossroads

Listen to the Opening Words

We come together to be connected, inspired, comforted, and challenged.

Today we look at America at the crossroads – connected to the past but yearning for a better future – for all the world’s people. We celebrate America’s birth, and ask in what form will America’s rebirth come.

We think that we see things as they are; we don’t. We see them as we are. Let these words inspire us to see the world from many points of view, and in the mirror of how the world sees us, understand who we are on this anniversary.

We take comfort from the action of great leaders who placed us on the right path. Let not this comfort placate our hunger to bring about a better world.

We light this chalice as a reminder that we are the light of the world.

Dramatic reading: two readers. Left column is read by “America” and the Right column is ready by the speaker for the “world.”

Play Part I





America the concept,

the blueprint for humanity

America the promise,

the silver lining of a mirage

that fades as you approach the horizon.

America. A People United.

Out of Many, One.

In God we Trust.

And trust we did.

But what has come of all those promises

in your back pages, America?

Time for self-examination is now,

on your anniversary.

Yes. Let’s. I’ll speak for America.

And you – as the voice of the world – can go first.

America I welcomed you

And kissed the ground when I arrived

I saluted lady liberty

Whose flame shines as a symbol.

“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-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

And the one who wrote those words also wrote:

“Until we are all free, none of us are free.”

America, you thrived in the days of Kings, Empires and Revolution

Whether faith, power, or reason formed the core,

we have yet to move beyond those days of strife and war.

America has inspired so many nations.

Our hopes and dreams live in documents:

The Declaration of Independence.

The Constitution.

Dear World: soon Change will come, and stay.

Those Dreams have become mere archives.

Ideals for a civics class.

Why do they never shine on Main street,

Wall Street, or Capital Hill?

The statue of liberty was a gift to America.

And since then, instead of erecting statues

to the liberty we spread elsewhere,

we have become

“The New Colossus” of wealth and power to the world.

But the rising tide of prosperity lifts all boats, doesn’t it? Peace and Prosperity – the lexus and the olive branch – go hand in hand.

But have they? Standing here in our small town,

We don’t see things as they are; we see things as we are.

Look at your own history.

 Of how this New World

Lured dreamers from old world shores…

…Who, through every stone laid,

And furrow turned,

Did build a world never imagined before,

With free religions, many hearts unchained,

Any many roads to justice paved,

Many paths to the American Way,

All this we forged.

But greed a sly temptress was she.

And when our labor failed

You made your suitors dare

look to African shores.

For hands to steal and chain.

For our dream became a game of more

And theirs a wretched nightmare.

Pioneers on fruited plains

A Trail of tears behind the growing pains

Both true.

Descendents of those slaves also made this land great.

One of whom wrote:

I am the darker brother

they send to eat in the kitchen

when company comes.

But one day America saw how beautiful he was

and we became ashamed. Countries change.

for this same poet believed: I am America.

And right he was. But now we are America too.

America has become more than a country.

It’s a belief. And we of the world are taking

The reins from you.

You’ve grown up. You’re at a crossroad.

Which path will you blaze?

Will you join us, or go your own way?

I thought we were helping you:

From the Halls of Montezuma,

To the shores of Tripoli;

We fight our country’s battles

In the air, on land, and sea;

No that’s not the America

we’re dreaming about.

What then?

We hold these truths to be self-evident

That all men are created equal

And that to secure these ends, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Destructive governments shall perish from this earth.

But that same America fought the war on terror for you.

What about Guantánamo Bay?

Very Un-American, I’d say.

We built the allied army that won World War Two.

And rebuilt conquered lands in the decades that ensued.

History, like America, is full of contradictions.

Like Julia Ward Howe,

author of the Battle Hymn of the Republic.

She is the same who created a Mother’s Day for Peace.

She proclaimed:

‘From the bosom of a devastated Earth

 a voice goes up with our own.

It says: “Disarm! Disarm!

The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”

While singing:

He has sounded forth the trumpet that shall never call retreat;

He is sifting out the hearts of men before his judgment-seat:

Jesus died to make men holy, let us die to make men free.

His truth is marching on.

And praying:

Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn

All that we have been able to teach them

of charity, mercy and patience.’

Mine eyes have seen the glory

Of the coming of the Lord;

He is trampling out the vintage

Where the grapes of wrath are stored;

Hah! The Grapes of Wrath. What a true American story!

That’s the America I know.

All power, all glory.

America – here are words from one of your own, a communist:

America I’ve given you all and now I’m nothing.

You made me want to be a saint.

America when will we end the human war?

America when will you be angelic?

When will you take off your clothes?

When will you look at yourself through the grave?

America why are your libraries full of tears?

Are you going to let our emotional life be run by Time Magazine?

Your machinery is too much for me.

I’m sick of your insane demands.

When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks?

America after all it is you and I who are perfect not the next world.

America this is the impression I get from looking in the television set.

America is this correct?

Everybody’s serious but me.

Then it occurs to me that I am America.

We are all America

In the sense that we all want a better life for our children.

And a fruitful future.

It’s just that Fear of the other clouds our vision and spoils our wisdom.

Each year you and I need to have this conversation

And see where are, and where we came from.

This next song for me embodies the spirit of America:

[Is america’s resilience better described by a story of a fortress bombardment, or a holding on to freedom and the dreams of our youth as we get older?]

 I’ve rewritten the lyrics a bit.

Play Thunder Road MP3

Thunder Road / America

Freedom Man & Lady Liberty

Like a vision she dances of Eden across the seven seas

Like a storm he travels on the wind

while you and me, we sing through the din

Our lives bring meaning to cacophany.

Don’t run back home yet, cause there’s more to America.

Are you scared and thinking that maybe

we ain’t that young any more

Show a little faith in our magic twilight

You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re all right

Oh and that’s alright with me.


You can hide beneath your covers and study your pain,

Make flags from your crosses, throw roses in the rain,

Pray for a savior to rise from these streets

But Redemption just aint free

Well every hero comes seasoned with wounds underneath

We talk about the glory but hide our history

With a chance to make it good somehow, hey what else can we do now


Roll back the window and take in the scenes

An American crossroad of divided dreams

We got one last chance to make it real

To trade in our legends of history for what understanding of this world reveals.

There were ghosts in the eyes of all the boys you sent away

They haunt this dirty beach in the skeleton frames

of burned-out Chevrolets

It was a hefty price to pay

And I hope what we bought at the end of the day

Will shine like the heavens and hum like a Harley

Because the hopes for our country (carry more than you and me.)

They scream your names at night in the street

From Indo China to Tripoli

We got one last chance to make it real

to trade in these wings on some wheels

Climb in back, heaven’s waiting down on the tracks

Oh come take my hand  We’re ridin out tonight to case the promised land

Oh oh thunder Road, oh thunder road, oh thunder road

Dialogue, continued

Play America at the Crossroads Part 2: "What Now?"




This is the New America calling.

This is not about you.

It’s not even about me.

It’s about everybody crowded together.

So let’s not sufficate each other.

We’re at a crossroads and we need each other.

America – I think the world shares your Fears.

Let’s Live Deliberately.

Don’t just allow things to happen.

For now on, lets NAME the things to which we aspire.

Dreams are the scaffold upon which we build a stable future.

What do YOU want to see for our future then, world?

I don’t know. We can’t make up our minds.

I don’t want to wake up one day

and feel your yoke around my neck.

This great nation was built by simpler people

Who believed in justice and sacrifice.

We can promise to keep your neck free.

Then it’s time you talked to your minions on Wall Street.

Conquest to protect American business is a big part of your history.


But I have my inner compass to think about.

There’s a Fear we can’t compete, and a Fear we must do without.

 Like all empires of power and might,

You shall wax and wane before you set things right.

That’s going to take time.

Time to live deliberately again.

Own your history.

Write your future.

I have a greater fear than for America’s power to wane:

It’s that it grows beyond our control

– the people who are America.

Then it is up to each of you to be America.

Whatever was done can be undone.

Make this your beautiful life.

Make this our wonderful world.

I can see how what we do sometimes doesn’t make it all that wonderful. Too many things just allowed to happen.

People aren’t mean; they’re busy.

Too busy for housekeeping of the American Dream.

The World Dream, you mean.

Right. So what next?

We live as if we are America.

We must Inspire others

to become all these things that are America too.

And every day we make the world a little bit more wonderful.

(sing What a wonderful world and America the Beautiful)
Play Part 3: What action can we take... Closing words

[Closing words (start at 8:05 in recording)]

I’ve lived a quarter of my life abroad. Sometimes I feel like I don’t know if I am American enough to lead a July 4th service, and so I’ve put a different spin on this to sort of show that when you live part of your life as a an American Abroad, what “being American” feels like tends to change.

It gets broader.

Let us carry with us the spirit of America. The Fourth of July is not just a day to remember our history and give thanks for the country we live in, but also a day to reaffirm our commitment to the future we want to make.

There is no Left or Right in this story. There is no wrong or right. These are stories of people who can hold contradictory ideas and be Americans. America is all of these things. We need to find a way to live as a people, not just as peoples.


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