Margaret Hair: Team American pop culture

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Margaret Hair

Margaret Hair's column appears Fridays in the 4 Points arts and entertainment section in the Steamboat Today. Contact her at 871-4204 or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com.

— Pop culture figures, in general, have a different way of showing their patriotism than people in other areas of society. And because their efforts are more publicized and often less definitive than hanging a flag or attending a parade, they're often harder to understand.

Some of these statements are blatant: Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." can only be interpreted one way, and that is why it played in the background of patriotic television commercials throughout the early 1990s.

Some of these statements are subtle: Joey Chestnut downing 66 hot dogs and buns in 12 minutes at the 2007 Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest - taking the throne from six-time Japanese champion Takeru Kobayashi - is a less direct assertion of American pride in something the country is known for (hot dogs and eating).

And some of these statements are debatable: Bruce Springsteen's persistence and escalating fervor about American politics, best expressed in his uncertainty on 2002's "Rising Down," and in a steady climb toward resolve in marathon live shows ever since, might, to many, not seem proud at all.

So what's more patriotic? Watching Fourth of July fireworks on TV with the Boston Pops playing in the background, or watching Joey Chestnut house five dozen hot dogs in just more than 10 minutes? Listening to Bob Dylan calmly muse on the state of American politics and the state of American baseball on XM Radio, or listening to the entirety of Toby Keith's "Shock'n Y'all?"

There are so many ways for these people to express how they feel about their country and so many ways to express why they feel that way, it would be endless and pointless to argue which one of them is closest to right.

My guess is, any of these people would solve the argument of how best to show pop culture pride in their country and their heritage by saying the same thing: "Do what you want to do."

If you, like me, never liked that Lee Greenwood song, don't listen to it. If Toby Keith horrifies your music tastes - not because of the message, but because of how it is delivered - don't buy his CDs. There are too many ways to go about celebrating the Fourth of July to quibble about whether or not Springsteen's mid-concert breaks for politics are necessary.

In this edition of 4 Points, the intersection of art and the American way comes up in a few places: Charlie Parr shares his love for early American blues and folk music, Richie Havens unites the American subconscious with concert tales, Fred Hodder idealizes the raw factor of the American West in photography, and Susan Gill Jackson takes a different view on the same topic in oil painting.

So happy Fourth of July, and go Joey Chestnut, go.

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