Ponder ‘If I Am American’ by Emily Kurn

by Sister Julie Ann on July 1, 2010

Emily Kurn

During July, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature 'If I Am An American' by Emily Kurn.

During this month Independence Day- focused on self-evident truths endowed on us by our Creator who loves and cares for us, Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity feature the thought-provoking If I Am American by Emily Kurn. As St. Francis was called to be deeply contemplative yet sensitively aware of the societal needs of his time in history, we invite your comments on the song.

Emily’s Comments

I wrote “If I Am American” about 5 years ago after watching a documentary on Bob Dylan and comparing the folk music in the 60’s to the folk music today. I don’t usually write political songs and wanted to explore what I had to say if I were to write one.

About Emily

Although she is based in Anchorage, Alaska, Emily Kurn has maintained a steady presence in the folk music world and on folk and roots radio charts. As sparkling and engaging in her writing as she is onstage, Emily is “one of the exciting voices of folk music”. (Miles of Music).

Emily KurnHer 2007 release, Things Change, recorded at the Signature Sounds Studio with Mark Thayer (Chris Smither, Peter Mulvey), charted for 8 consecutive months on the Folk-DJ Chart, charting at #6 in July 2007. Her song, “Light the Lamp”, charted at #2 in December, 2007. “I’m Just Like You,” was released October 2008.

Emily has earned a host of honors including 2nd place in the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Songwriting Contest (2007), performing as a Kerrville New Folk Finalist (2007), Honorable Mention in the prestigious International Songwriting Competition Americana Category (2008), and 2nd place in the Susquehana Music and Arts Fest Songwriter’s Contest (2008).

In 2007, her song “If I Am American” was featured on the documentary “American Music: Off the Record” featuring Jackson Browne, Iris DeMent, and Noam Chomsky, among others.

 Lyrics 

If I Am American

The dollar is king in the world where I’m living

The heart is a pawn

The whole world is fighting an unnamed war

On my front lawn

            But if I am American born

            If this is what my relatives fought for

            Shouldn’t I be proud of what I am

            If I am American

Out on the street in Cambodia and Vietnam

Locals leaned forward to ask me,

“Where are you from?

I told them “Canada, Land of the Maple Leaf,

Keepers of Snow.”

“Oh!” They said, “You’re from Canada,

Must be very cold.”

            CHORUS

If I am American,

If the one I vote for doesn’t win

If my country doesn’t act in ways that I approve

Am I still a member of the club?

Proud to tell the world where I am from

If I’m not should I just pack my bags and move?

You won’t find a flag on my car,

On my house, in my T-shirt drawer

I support local businesses,

Try not to shop at the superstores

When I paint my new house

I’ll avoid red and blue as a color scheme

As nice as they look, I might have to skip blue

And go with green

CHORUS

Websites

http://www.emilykurnmusic.com/

 http://www.myspace.com/emilykurn

What would you include in a song entitled If I Am American?

19 thoughts on “Ponder ‘If I Am American’ by Emily Kurn”

  1. At this time of celebrating the gift of our country it is so important to remember, as Emily sings, it is about being true to one's faith, values, and relationships. True freedom comes from God's Spirit alive within us! Thanks for the song Emily!

  2. I've always liked how the end of the Declaration of Independence reads…”we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor”. Thanks for the song, Emily, and for stirring us to deeper reflection on our lives as Americans.

  3. Sisabelle says:

    This song is very appropriate for this month and I can definitely say I AM PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!!

  4. Sisabelle says:

    This song is very appropriate for this month and I can definitely say I AM PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN!!

  5. Sr. Monica, novice says:

    I really like this folk song. It really puts into words how I have felt about being American these past several years, with our relations with other countries. Thank you!

  6. Along with relations with other countries, Emily's mention of 'green' is simply Franciscan.

  7. srsharon says:

    Great song

  8. Geralynne says:

    I am studying Ojibwe culture and learning of the attrocites that occured when Europeans made contact…this song reminds me of the juxtaposition of what the country should be and what it really is…..I have always looked to St Francis since I was a girl and I am appreciative of the song and its ability to cause one to look at their values and ethics..

  9. M.T. says:

    I think she captures the tension that many people feel–conflicting feelings over what being “American” means! (Canadians are Americans–part of North America, just like the U.S. and Mexico). We (in the U.S.) enjoy many freedoms, but what do we do (as a country) to maintain those freedoms, and who pays the price? What is the death toll in Afghanistan and Iraq? (both on “our” side and “their's”). How many innocents suffer so that we can enjoy a comfortable lifestyle?

  10. LynneKarnitz says:

    While I do not always agree with our leadership's ideas or course of action, I pray for our leaders to make fair and just decisions. Yes, I am proud to be an American that prays to God to protect and guide our country.

  11. Ssb says:

    We need to still be personal leaders, and can't fail to live our convictions, even when we are different from the norm. Made me think about living the Catholic faith. Please reflect on the chorus using Catholic instead of American.

  12. Ana K. says:

    Wow, this song was amazing!! I loved the message, and I thought she had a beautiful voice!!

  13. Ana K. says:

    Exactly!!

  14. Ana K. says:

    Very good point Sister Mary Ann! I was wondering how old you have to be in order to be a Camp Fransiscan leader, thanks!!

  15. Rwgauger says:

    I am a proud American and pray for our country and our freedoms every day. Our freedom of religion is in jeopardy as recently stated by Franklin Graham. He was this year's chairman for the National Prayer Day and was not allowed to say the prayer in Washington.

    We have to be very careful about the definition of words, such as social justice, as it means different things to different people. Catholics may mean social justice is to help others and political meaning may be distribution of wealth.

    I found this song sending conflicting messages.

    Sheri Gauger
    Manitowoc

  16. The freedom to pray to God in the way I feel the most comfortable is a freedom that is true gift! Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  17. Anna, knowing Sister Mary Ann might not get to answering your question for a few days, I thought I'd give it a try! Those completing freshman year of high school are welcomed as Camp Franciscan leaders. (It is good that you will be completing that year soon.) We welcome your question. Please comment (or ask a question) again soon.

  18. I find wisdom in this quote from Pope Benedict's Charity in Truth: “One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation.” I feel a universal vision of social justice includes true communion, 'not simply a group' of individuals 'who happen to live side by side', but a family working together in love. Thanks Sheri for your comment.

  19. I find wisdom in this quote from Pope Benedict's Charity in Truth: “One of the deepest forms of poverty a person can experience is isolation.” I feel a universal vision of social justice includes true communion, 'not simply a group' of individuals 'who happen to live side by side', but a family working together in love. Thanks Sheri for your comment.

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