I went to the Wal-Mart on Friday night. For all of you who do not share my admiration for Wal-Mart as the ultimate place to meet America, we must continue to agree to disagree. It is often a happy place, as it was on this visit. It was approximately eight o'clock in the evening, and it was pay-day, and it was wall-to-wall families of every color with raptured expressions on their faces. The joy was contagious. Although I went in for something simple, I caught the fever (it was pay-day for me too). I walked out with "treats" for the whole family, cheap DVDs, a CD for the kids, a magazine for my wife and something for me: "Merle Haggard: 24 All-Time Greatest Hits."

I own quite a bit of Merle, but this one is special. This offering from "TeeVee Records" showcased "country's greatest singer/songwriter," claiming to feature all the "songs that made him a legend." There he was on the cover, perhaps early-to-mid-1970s Merle, hard-eyed and chiseled, bearded, hairline just beginning to recede--but still jet black.

Hey hey, the working man, the working man like me
I ain't never been on welfare, that's one place I won't be
Cause I'll be working long as my two hands are fit to use
I drink a little beer in a tavern
Sing a little bit of these working man blues

Once this election passes, I intend to consider the American electorate at a crossroads. Who we are. Where we want to go. How the Democratic Party lost us. Can they get us back? Why the GOP seemed to understand us but now seems incapable of sealing the deal. Part of the answer of who we are lies in country music (American music). Why the hicks from the sticks lost faith with the Dixie Chicks. How President Bush missed an opportunity to call the Toby Keith/Martina McBride generation to national service.

Finally, on Sunday afternoon, I had the chance to listen to the Merle CD. Driving along Waco Drive, crossing the Brazos River Bridge into East Waco, I listened to:

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