America's Inside of You
AMERICA'S INSIDE OF YOU was written in October of 2001.
Soon after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, I was scheduled to report for jury duty. While I had never been enthusiastic about participating in what I considered a personal inconvenience, this time was different. I experienced a profound surge of patriotism and was more than happy to make the 90-minute drive to the county courthouse. The trial to which I was assigned was to last almost a week. However, with what Americans were going through in New York City at that moment, this was the very least I could do.
At the beginning of the second day of the trial, the judge entered the room and announced that a key witness was “stuck in traffic.” He said it would be a few hours before the individual would arrive. He then asked the jurors, “Would anyone mind taking an early, three-hour lunch?” Hmmm.
The first thing I recall from that day was that there were televisions set up inside the courthouse. Everyone working or waiting outside the courtrooms got to see continuing coverage of the 9/11 aftermath. The second thing was the anti-Muslim slurs I heard spewing from the mouths of a few, very loud customers drinking and eating inside the deli to where I had walked several blocks to get a sandwich. Everyone there was also watching the news.
I didn’t care to continue hearing ignorant rants, so I ordered my food to go and walked back to the courthouse. On one side of the building I found a peaceful, grassy area with benches. I sat down, enjoyed my sandwich and bottle of water, then stretched out on the green lawn, using my jacket as a pillow—and closed my eyes.
Immediately lyrics and melody for a new song penetrated my consciousness. However, since my digital recorder was locked inside my car in a nearby parking structure, I wrote down my ideas on an unused napkin. Confident that, now, I wouldn’t forget anything, I folded the napkin and slipped it carefully into my left-side back pocket before returning to the courtroom.
As I was driving home that afternoon, I turned on my recorder and added more lyrics to the song. But it wasn’t until I stopped at a store to pick up a few groceries that I found the inspiration to complete a still-missing line at the end of the first verse: “Just look around. It’s in the faces you see, people just like you and me.”
I hope you will agree that, today, America’s Inside of You is a fitting tribute to those we still find “around” us—those willing to confront adversity. This time, that’s millions of us, all confronting the devastating COVID-19 pandemic together. MORE
AMERICA'S INSIDE OF YOU
Words and Music
John Dominick Carratello
America’s not a statue or flag,
A monument, even miles of land.
Just look around. It’s in the faces you see,
People just like you and me.
Raise yourself! Raise all the people, too!
We are the real red, white, and blue.
Give your heart to everything that you do.
AMERICA’S INSIDE OF YOU!
America’s not the language we speak,
The things that we have, or the things we believe.
It’s on the playgrounds where our children run free,
Dreaming what they want to be.
We are America, every race, color and creed.
We are America. America will be.
America’s not a chapter in time,
A legacy for people just of one kind.
It’s freedom’s torch that took so long to ignite.
Hold it up and shine the light!
We are America and the time has come
For hope, respect, and liberty for you and everyone.
America’s not a physical place.
It’s everywhere. It’s in the whole human race.
People everywhere are locked in history’s chains.
Free the world. Be the world. We are one world. We’re all the same.
Copyright © 2020 by John Dominick Carratello
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
More About the Song
A good friend once suggested I change the line that says, “or the things we believe,” to “It’s the things we believe.” The reason I kept the original lyrics was to acknowledge the fact that we are a pluralistic nation, but, although we are all Americans, do not share the same beliefs—except for one. That is a belief in the ideas embodied in the United States Constitution, brilliantly crafted in an age of enlightenment.
I was an elementary school teacher for over 30 years and, in my soon-to-be-released book, Test Education vs. Best Education: Let’s Save Our Children from a Bad Idea, I state the importance of our public education system and the vital role it plays in supporting our plurality:
Our neighborhood public schools are the only institution we have capable of providing the glue that can hold this improbable nation of immigrants, diverse cultures, and various beliefs together in a community of citizenship. Without this glue, it’s just a matter of time before we are added to the scrapheap of failed civilizations. The elementary school classroom is where this glue begins to set.
America’s Inside of You is simply a different way to express the same ideas presented in the book. The “glue” to which I refer in the book doesn’t originate from any particular religious or political belief. It comes from ideas more fundamental to our humanity. Those ideas have allowed us to peacefully live, work, and prosper alongside one another, whether we call ourselves Republican, Democrat, or Independent, or whether we call ourselves Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Atheist, or something else.
Yet the freedoms and rights we enjoy as Americans have not taken hold or flourished everywhere on Earth. Throughout our world (sometimes even in our own country), people continue to be “locked in history’s chains,” even if they are simply the “chains” of extreme ideologies or manipulated cultural fears that serve to suppress the rights and free thoughts of individuals.
When I say that “America’s not a physical place” and that “it’s in the whole human race,” I am speaking of the underlying spirit of America, shared by many other nations on Earth. It is that spirit that not only frees us, it can ultimately “free the world.” It’s within that spirit that I say “We’re all the same.”