From Chicken Soup for the Soul of America

An Ode to America

[EDITORS’ NOTE: This article was written by Mr. Cornel Nistorescu and published under the title “Cîntarea Americii” on September 24, 2001, in the Romanian newspaper Evenimentul Zilei (The Daily Event).]

Why are Americans so united? They don’t resemble one another even if you paint them! They speak all the languages of the world and form an astonishing mixture of civilizations. Some of them are nearly extinct, others are incompatible with one another, and in matters of religious beliefs, not even God can count how many they are.

Still, the American tragedy turned three hundred million people into a hand put on the heart. Nobody rushed to accuse the White House, the Army, the Secret Services that they are only a bunch of losers. Nobody rushed to empty their bank accounts. Nobody rushed on the streets nearby to gape about.

The Americans volunteered to donate blood and to give a helping hand. After the first moments of panic, they raised the flag on the smoking ruins, putting on T-shirts, caps and ties in the colors of the national flag. They placed flags on buildings and cars as if in every place and on every car a minister or the president was passing. On every occasion they started singing their traditional song: “God Bless America!”

Silent as a rock, I watched the “Tribute to Heroes” charity concert—once, twice, three times, on different TV channels. There were Clint Eastwood, Willie Nelson, Robert De Niro, Julia Roberts, Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicholson, Bruce Springsteen, Sylvester Stallone, James Woods and many others whom no film or producer could ever bring together. The solidarity of the American spirit turned them into a choir. Actually, choir is not the word. What you could hear was the heavy artillery of the American soul.

What neither George W. Bush nor Bill Clinton nor Colin Powell could say without facing the risk of stumbling over words and sounds was being heard in a great and unmistakable way in this charity concert.

I don’t know how it happened that this obsessive singing of America didn’t sound croaky, nationalist or ostentatious! It made you green with envy because you weren’t able to sing for your country without running the risk of being considered chauvinist, ridiculous or suspected of who-knows-what mean interests.

I watched the live broadcast and the rerun of its rerun for hours, listening to the story of the guy who went down one hundred floors with a woman in a wheelchair without knowing who she was, or of the passengers who fought with the terrorists and helped prevent the plane from hitting another target and possibly killing many more.

With every word and musical note, the memory of some turned into a modern myth of tragic heroes. And with every phone call, millions and millions of dollars were put in a collection aimed at rewarding not a man or a family, but a spirit which nothing can buy. What unites Americans in such a way? Their land? Their galloping history? Their economic power? Money? I tried for hours to find an answer, humming songs and murmuring phrases that risked sounding like commonplaces. I thought things over, but I reached only one conclusion: Only freedom can work such miracles!

Cornel Nistorescu
Submitted by Willanne Ackerman

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