Being an American who has been fortunate enough to experience extensive travel, I've routinely been in the position to be asked, "You are from America?" I, like many others, have struggled with the answer. Do I lie and say I'm from Canada?
With this song, I wanted to take some time to explore that pause. I mean, I come from the “land of the free and home of the brave”, right? The reality is that the rest of the world doesn’t chant that mantra when picturing the United States and it can be easier to set American pride aside and hide from my country of origin when outside the security of it’s borders.
While waiting for a room to be prepared at a hotel in Marseille, France, I was in the middle of a pleasant discussion when the inevitable question arose. On the wall of the beautiful lobby was an art deco painting of President Obama. Feeling that the bust of my Commander and Chief looming over my head might grant me some kind of political asylum, I proudly announced the pedigree of my passport.
The discourse that followed was, while civil, one that may have given an answer to my reasoning behind concealing the country I come from. The gentleman described a power hungry nation that chews up and spits out anyone who comes in it’s path, a worldwide political leader who has very little regard for the ethnic makeup of the countries it has soldiers stationed in. In short, this man described a bully. And I, one who avoids confrontation, finally faced his viewpoints as an eventual reality. But I had to make sure he wasn’t the only.
Therefore, in further excursions outside of the United States, I welcomed any conversation about America. In many cases, I even asked for opinions. Most discussions were mild-mannered and a few were quite animated. However, the trend of an insensitive and bullheaded empire found it’s way into each examination. My friend in the hotel lobby was certainly not alone.
Being that this journey started in France, I opted to use the phrase “off with your head” as a reoccurring theme. During the French Revolution, the guillotine was a very popular form of capitol punishment. Additionally taking the phrase from Alice in Wonderland, where we have Alice far outside of her comfort zone. The title of “Flower Girl” came from a childhood game of popping the heads off of dandelions.
From there I simply recounted some of the most repeated motifs of my unknowing interviewees. The message that was supposed to be uncomplicated took on a life that was just the opposite. With very few words the lyrical content of this song became confusing and murky. I believe that this is because the journey to discover one’s own ethnocentricity is perplexing and slightly humiliating.
So while this upbeat jangly tune might just be a series of guitar riffs to one and it might be a political fight song to another, to me it was an exploration of how big the world is and how very small I am.
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