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The On Being Project

We Are All Part of Prince’s America

At On Being, we think a lot about the American project: How do we navigate, embrace, and challenge its multitudes? Is that even possible?

In his tribute to Prince, who died two years ago today, tech blogger Anil Dash puts forth his own American hypothesis: All highways of U.S. history eventually lead to the High Priest of Pop. His talk, “I Am #Transformed,” weaves together a dynamic portrait of what Prince’s legacy means in the context of the American project, honoring both the iconic and the obscure. He articulates America through Prince’s victories in the face of histories of exploitation — as the interplay between Davids and Goliaths.

He celebrates hidden figures like Bernadette Anderson, whose basement we can credit as the birthplace of the Minneapolis Sound. Or of Dash’s own father, an engineer who immigrated to America as a graduate student and helped engineer Florida swampland into the Disney World we know today. Echoing Prince’s penchant for the underdog and the lovably obscure, Dash champions a history of America that remembers — honors — each of our small contributions to the rich complexity we live.

Prince is also a symbol of finding community for Dash: In his interview with Krista Tippett, he reflects on how his fandom brought friendship into his life:

“I was, like, 19, and I found the online Prince community of other crazy fans. And some of those people I’ve known for decades now, and seen us all grow up and have families, and after his passing, come back together and grieve together. And that’s been profoundly meaningful. Those are some of the most consistent presences in my life is the people I met through what is essentially just pop fandom. It could have been very superficial. And instead, it ended up being very meaningful.”

Dash’s tribute articulates how some version of America is reflected in all who pass through — and all who choose to share space with one another. We all have bittersweet stakes in that.

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