Letters: Capt. Goodlander, And Being An American

Host Liane Hansen reads letters from our listeners about Captain Fatty Goodlander's most recent essay and our month-long series on who is an American.

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LIANE HANSEN, host:

Judging from your letters, one of last week's stories was definitely not a driveway moment. Many of you wrote to express your distaste with Captain Fatty Goodlander's essay. Captain Fatty commented on his love of a life of freedom away from dirt dwellers and their slick, glad-handing politicians, and free of taxes and universal health care which he likened to government extortion. Charlie Brumet(ph) of Greensboro, North Carolina, had this to say. "It's wonderful that Captain Goodlander has chosen to leave society. It's sad you've chosen to give him a platform to relate his personal vision of freedom." And Steve Lamont(ph) of San Diego, California, was outraged by the essay.

Mr. STEVE LAMONT (Caller): I just finished listening to Captain Fatty's little message in a bottle, and I found myself repelled by his selfish antisocial attitude. Even if he and his wife are not in need of health care, universal or otherwise, some of his fellow humans, for whom he displays such apparent disdain, are. Let me remind him that his unproductive, carefree lifestyle is only made possible by the rest of us dirt dwellers. Captain Fatty's self-indulgent messages should be stuffed back into the bottle and tossed far out to sea.

HANSEN: Our series "Who Is An American?" focusing on life in Philadelphia from 1708 to the present brought this letter from Robert Stone(ph). "The series on "What Is An American?" reminds me of an effort I heard some years ago to define what is a Yankee. It comes down to something as American as apple pie. To a European, a Yankee is anyone who lives in America. To an American, a Yankee is anyone who lives in the north. To a northerner, a Yankee is a New Englander. To a New Englander, a Yankee is a Vermonter. And to a Vermonter, a Yankee is a Vermont farmer who has apple pie with his breakfast in the morning.

And Joe Baron(ph) of Philadelphia liked our piece on the Fourth of July tone poem by Charles Ives. But he had a bone to pick with music historian Robert Greenberg. "It always bothers me when someone who reads Charles Ives' words makes him come off like a crusty, old coot. Robert Greenberg's impersonation of Ives was aggressive and gravelly like Jason Robards channeling William Tecumseh Sherman."

Mr. ROBERT GREENBERG (Music Historian): It's a boy's Fourth, no historical orations, no patriotic grand eloquences by grown ups, no program in his yard.

HANSEN: "That is not what Ives sounded like," listener Joe Baron continues. "Despite his rhetoric, his voice was not at all craggy. He was a soft-spoken New Englander whose singing voice was a thin tenor. Find the recording of Ives himself singing "They Are There," and you'll see what I mean."

(Soundbite of song "They Are There")

Mr. CHARLES IVES: (Singing) Brave boys are now in action. They are there, They will help to free the world. They are fighting for the right. But when it comes to might, They are there, They are there, They are there.

HANSEN: Have something to tell us? Visit our Web page, npr.org, and click on the link that says "Contact Us." This is NPR News.

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