Jingoism Versus Activism: The Difference Between Country and Rock Regarding 9/11

Rock and roll has long had a history of activism, political commentary and “calling out” those in power who are abusing their positions. Folk music was the catalyst for this, then country music somewhat picked up the banner. In the 1960s, however, political discussion in music became the domain of rock music.

The Vietnam War was the spark that lit this fire. As young men from the U. S. were sent to their potential doom in someone else’s battle, many rock artists and groups pointed out the ludicrous nature of this endeavor. Perhaps the best example of this was in the Crosby, Stills and Nash classic “Ohio,” which took on the dual tangent of the Kent State Massacre and the involvement of the U. S. military in the quagmire in Asia.

From then on, rock music took on several political targets. The birth of punk was in direct rebellion against the “corporate” nature of the music industry and government. Soul, funk, R&B and rap showed how life ACTUALLY was on the streets of inner-city America, despite the glowing terms of what the politicians said. Country, for the most part, took off into a “star-spangled” obedience of those in charge, refusing to question anything about everything.

As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, this divergence has never been more apparent. While country music continues wrapping itself in the jingoism and faux patriotism that they do so well, rock music actually points out where there are problems in the system. This is pointed out in the work especially well in the music that came out from artists and groups after the attacks of that fateful day.

Many of the songs from rock musicians tried to tell the stories of those from the perspective of people who actually were in the situation that 9/11 presented. Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band gave us “The Rising,” a song focused on a firefighter who attempted to rescue those in the World Trade Center after the attack. Yellowcard did the same thing in their song “Believe,” writing about the rescue workers who faced the challenges of the destruction.

Sleater-Kinney, Rush, and Paul McCartney all presented songs about the attacks of 9/11. My Chemical Romance actually was formed after the 9/11 tragedy, with their first song “Skylines and Turnstiles” written by vocalist Gerald Way after he witnessed the Twin Towers fall on that day. Rappers stepped up with their own contributions, including The Beastie Boys, Twista and Faith Evans, Eminem, and 50 Cent, while other singer/songwriters like Tori Amos, Sheryl Crow, John Hiatt, and Melissa Etheridge added in their contributions.

So, what about country music?

Toby Keith - CBS News

Much like the rest of its sophomoric output, country music wrapped itself in imagery of the flag, the “righteousness” of religion and the “kick assery” that the badass U. S. of A. was going to inflict on ANYONE (they weren’t very particular, to be honest) that crossed their path. There were several artists who epitomized this moronic, Neanderthal mindset.

Toby Keith was perhaps the worst of them all, with his idiotic “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue.” The song’s subtitle is “The Angry American” and Keith brought out about every trope there was about idiotic Americans and their perceived “exceptionalism.” Keith wasn’t the only one who fell to this mindset, however. The Oak Ridge Boys, Alan Jackson, and The Charlie Daniels Band were just a few of those who chose to go uber-patriotic instead of actually caring about the people involved and what brought about the situation (and this isn’t even mentioning Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the U. S. A.” and its “God only supports godly Americans” idiocy).

This perhaps is more of a demonstration of the division of the musical genres by political calling more than anything else. For the most part, those that hew conservative (or vote Republican) want to “rally around the flag” and trumpet about their patriotism rather than actually doing something about the situation. Those that hew to the liberal side (or vote Democratic) find stories in the midst of the overarching situation and choose to tell those stories in an attempt to effect change, both political and otherwise, through their musical endeavors.

Sure, there are those that don’t match up with these thoughts. In the rock world, there is Ted Nugent…no more needs to be said. Kid Rock has also shown his asshattery through his words and stances. Country is also changing, with artists such as Willie Nelson, Jason Isbell, The Chicks, Maren Morris, Kacey Musgraves, The Highwomen and many others demonstrating with their actions that they are progressive-minded people.

Popular music and the arts as a whole are reflective of what the situation is in the country or city-state, something that has been true since the Greeks first offered their poetry, dramas and music for the citizens of Athens. This nation has been polarized since at least the day of the 9/11 attacks and, as a result, particular arenas of the arts have been “claimed” by those for their purposes. It isn’t surprising, then, that country music went to the chest-thumping, flag waving side (although Johnny Cash was reportedly quite liberal in his thought process), and that rock music went to actually trying to question why things happened the way they did.

The problem is that there won’t be a cure for this. The camps are entrenched in their beliefs, although you will have those that “rage against the machine” and demonstrate their individualism. Instead of being the unifying force that many think the attacks of 9/11 were, they have actually laid wide open the crevasse that exists between both sides – and this extends to the arts and music especially.

The Aftermath of 9/11 – Has it Been Worth It?

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Today marks 18 years since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center changed the world forever, and not for just the States of America. 19 terrorist hijackers primarily from Saudi Arabia – 15 of them held Saudi citizenship, two were from United Arab Emirates, one from Lebanon and one from Egypt – seized control of four aircraft flying cross-country routes from Boston, Newark, NJ and Washington, D. C., to California (Los Angeles and San Francisco). Loaded with jet fuel, the terrorists utilized the planes as weapons, employing training that they had received at flight schools in the U. S. to pilot one plane each into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, one into the Pentagon in Washington and, after an uprising of the passengers on the flight, a forced crash landing in a field in Pennsylvania instead of its intended destination of the White House or Capitol Hill, home of the U. S. Congress.

The results of the 19 terrorists’ actions were immediate and numbing. 2977 people – and not all of them ever had any physical evidence of their existence ever recovered from the wreckage – were killed in the four instances, the worst terrorist attack on U. S. soil in the country’s history (the 1941 attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor technically did not occur on U. S. soil as Hawaii was a territory of the U. S. at the time, not a state). And, much like when Pearl Harbor was attacked, the response from the country was swift and powerful. But the question has to be asked – 18 years later in the aftermath of the 9/11 attack, has it been worth it?

In the days following 9/11, first responders sifted through the rubble of the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and that field in Pennsylvania, trying to find any survivors and, when it became apparent that there were no survivors, recover the bodies of those who were killed in the attacks. Meanwhile, the presidency of George W. Bush aggressively moved to act against an unknown opponent. In an address to Congress mere days after the attacks, Bush announced that a “war on terrorism” needed to be conducted and, with the blessing of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, received virtually everything that was asked, including wide-sweeping mass surveillance of citizens of the U. S. (the Patriot Act of 2001) and broad ability to conduct military actions anywhere in the world.

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That thoroughly expected military action is still ongoing. As a part of the actions given to the Bush administration, on September 14, 2001 a broad Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF) was granted by Congress. This allowed the Bush administration to immediately attack – without the consent of Congress, who is the body that has the right to declare war against another country – anyone viewed as “responsible for the attacks of September 11” and any “associated forces.” The AUMF has since been used by subsequent administrations.

There has rarely, in the history of the U. S., been two documents that affected the future as much as the Patriot Act and the AUMF. With the Patriot Act, it became possible for the government itself to spy on its own people, something that would have been abhorrent to the founders of the country or, even more recent, those that fought against oppressive governments in Germany, Japan and Italy in World War II. With the AUMF, it basically allowed the government to wage war virtually anywhere in the world in the name of the “war on terrorism;” it has been used to justify military actions by not only the Bush administration but those of President Barack Obama and the current occupant of the White House in countries as diverse as Afghanistan, Yemen, Georgia, Syria, Kenya, Ethiopia, Iraq and Somalia, among others.

But other, uglier actions arose from 9/11. Now called “hate crimes,” attacks against Muslims, Middle Eastern “looking” people, people of Asian descent (Sikhs in particular, who wear turbans that are erroneously confused with being associated with the Islamic faith) and others precipitously rose, blaming them for the actions of the 19 terrorists. This included taunting people in public and burning mosques all the way to killing people, when white supremacists took lives of those that “looked like terrorists” or were “towel heads” in a murderous rampage. It is arguable that these actions go on to this day.

Citizens themselves are not absolved of any responsibilities or blame for the devolvement of society since 9/11, either. If Watergate damaged the image of the country in peoples’ minds, the 2000 election controversy between Bush and former Vice President Al Gore and the actions of 9/11 totally destroyed any belief in a “just” government. These shattered thoughts and beliefs have tumbled over the past two decades into a massive snowball that ravages the psyche of the country in an avalanche of unsubstantiated thoughts and “alternative facts,” weaponized by extremists and employed by those to justify their philosophies.

Beliefs that the U. S. were a part of a “New World Order” (a phrase, ironically, uttered by Bush’s father, George H. W. Bush) brought about the idiotic conspiracy theories that 9/11 was an act by the Central Intelligence Agency and other nefarious operators, both domestic and international, to take freedoms from the citizens of the U. S. The use of fraudulent intelligence by the Bush administration that led to the Second Gulf War and the overthrow of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein further ripped the fabric of the country. And the virulent rhetoric from both sides of the political aisle – that if you didn’t fully support “American” action, then you weren’t a “true American patriot” – contributes even today to the massive schism that exists in our political process.

The costs of the “war on terror” brought by the 9/11 attacks also have to be questioned. The human toll is striking and depressing simultaneously – the U. S. military has seen roughly 7000 deaths and tens if not hundreds of thousands of injuries from operations contributable to the “war or terror.” The civilian cost is estimated to be conservatively 1.3 million deaths, although some estimates set the total closer to four million. And the costs to cultural, religious and historic areas – ISIS has destroyed many sites of antiquity in their version of the “war on terror” – are too numerous to mention.

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The human costs are arguably the most important thing, but the financial costs of continuing the “war on terrorism” are approaching astronomical figures. Since 2001, it is estimated that the three U. S. presidential administrations that have conducted the “war on terrorism” have spent $7.6 TRILLION pursuing terrorist targets around the world and added $2.4 TRILLION to the U. S. budget deficit. This isn’t counting what other nations, including our NATO allies, have spent in their support of the actions following 9/11.

What has all of this brought to the U. S. and the world? “Terrorism” is something that can never truly be snuffed out. It is an action that dates back to biblical times (a Jewish group called the Sicarii would use concealed daggers to execute their targets in large crowds before slipping away and the Hashhashin, an Islamic sect, were a terrorist group in the 11th century that employed terrorist killings – the group’s name is where the word “assassin” comes from) but, in recent history, has moved from a “nation-state” action to a tool used by an individual political, religious or social group that has no traditional physical base of activity. It is one of the reasons that al-Qaeda (the terrorist organization responsible for 9/11), despite the protestations of the current administration, continues to thrive around the world.

And what has been the collateral damage from the aftermath of 9/11? In the U. S., we have raised a generation of children that know nothing but “war” and a misguided view of “patriotism” that is foisted by some who use that “war” as a political tool. In the world, there are people who have seen their families affected by the bombs of some far-flung U. S. drone attack, the bullets from a U. S.-made weapon or the ravages of imprisonment for “being (insert your religion or nationality here)” that has permanently implanted anti-U. S. sentiments in their minds. And the money that has been spent on the pursuit of “war” hasn’t been spent on areas to improve life for EVERYONE, significantly impacting all facets of life around the world.

On this 18th anniversary of 9/11 and in the future, as the costs both human and financial continue to rack up, we all must ask ourselves – “Was (Is) it worth it?” The nationalism that is becoming prevalent in the world nowadays can be directly traced back to 9/11 and it is something that has to be combated because it will only acerbate terrorism throughout the world. When it comes to the aftermath of 9/11, everyone has to have the ability to examine this question and plenty of other ones truthfully and come up with their own answers because this current situation cannot be continued in perpetuity. The current situation also cannot be allowed to flourish, lest it destroy civil society and plunge the world into an anarchistic state or theocratic or fascist rule. There is no such thing as “total security” and these thoughts present not only the people and leaders of the U. S. with a complex challenge but the world as well.

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What Do You Do When You Already Know What’s Going to Happen?

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Usually when a President (note the capital letter) calls for the networks to open some airtime for him to address the nation, there is a tremendous interest from the public. I remember back when President Bush I announced the invasion of Iraq, President Clinton’s confession of his affair with Monica Lewinsky, President Obama’s announcement of the killing of Osama bin Laden, or President Bush II’s commencement of the Second Gulf War in Afghanistan following 9/11, just to name a few. All of these prime-time speeches were monumental, they Meant Something.

For the first time in decades, I have absolutely no interest in what this resident in the White House has to say, tonight or at any time. Perhaps its because of the 7000-plus documentable lies that he has told over the past two years, including the latest doozies that “all the previous presidents have told me they wished they’d built a wall (no goddamn prior President has told this asshole that)” or that “the people not working/not getting paid are behind me on this (union leaders have roundly derided that statement as false)” or “the people are calling the White House switchboard, telling me they want the wall (guess what gets shut down during a Government Shutdown, you moron? The White House switchboard).”

You might say that “politicians lie,” but this asshole has taken it to unprecedented levels. When you absolutely have no trust in what someone has to say, then why do you even want to hear them drone on about an issue when you could be watching The Big Bang Theory, Anderson Cooper 360 or, for fuck’s sake, even Hannity? But there’s a further issue at hand here – why watch it when you already know what’s going to happen?

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Normally when a President calls one of these prime-time addresses to the nation, it is a seismic moment that the President wants to calm a nation, offer them solace or explain to the country the reasons for a drastic event that is about to take place. The address from Orange Foolius tonight? It has all the drama of an episode of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn without the “charming” children to try to make it entertaining.

Here’s how tonight’s address from Orange Foolius is going to go:

Scenario 1

The dotard gets on the screen and simply repeats many of the already disproven lies that he or one of his sycophantic minions has been spewing over whichever airwaves they can reach. Everyone has seen Chris Wallace’s dismemberment of Press Conwoman Sarah Huckster Suckabee on Fox “News” over the weekend – where Wallace basically fact-checked the brainless rube live on the air for her falsehoods – or Jake Tapper basically laughing in the face of “Acting” Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney when Mulvaney with a straight face tries to say that Orange Foolius hasn’t debased politics with his previous actions. This list is a long one, including that there is an “invasion” on the southern border (crossings are at their lowest point in years), that drugs are coming across (drugs aren’t hauled by “mules” crossing the border, they are more likely to enter at sea ports) or that “illegals” are rushing across the unprotected border (most “illegal” immigration is done through overstaying visas, not crossing on the southern border), among others.

One of the most brilliant ideas I’ve heard (and I certainly wish I could remember where I originally saw it simply to give accreditation) is to put a soundtrack on Orange Foolius’ shit spewage tonight. Put a laugh track that activates whenever he starts bragging about himself or what he’s done; have a slide whistle or a “BBOOOINGGG!” sound effect when he tries to pass off an obvious lie as a truth; go with a buzzer sound effect when he tries to blame someone else (AKA the Democrats, Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer) for the Government Shutdown because HE SAID HE WAS TAKING RESPONSIBILITY FOR IT. Feel free to add your own sound effects because A) it would make for a much more entertaining speech, and B) because we’re not going to get anything substantive out of it.

Scenario 2

Unfortunately, this one is serious…and unnerving.

Orange Foolius takes the mic tonight to announce that he’s calling a National Emergency at the border, immediately ordering military troops, engineers and financing from the military to pay for all activities on the border, including the insanity of a “wall” that, according to “conservatives,” will MAGICALLY shut down all border crossing and drug trafficking for the remainder of time!

If you don’t see the seriousness of this act, then you have problems. First off, to make such a declaration is one step from institution of Martial Law, which would allow a sitting president to suspend habeas corpus rights, use the military in manners that are prohibited in normal situations (the Posse Comitatus Act) and/or basically bring a fascist state to life. While “conservatives” jizz in their shorts over the potential for these things to become a reality, anyone who believes in a free society should be outraged.

If Orange Foolius calls for a National Emergency, he should be immediately impeached for illegal actions by an elected official. There is absolutely NOTHING that makes what is occurring on the border a “national emergency.” It has been going on for the last 70 years, since the close of WWII, when the States of America became the preeminent country in the world. When you build something that everyone wants a part of, that says you’re doing the right thing. To then take an action that would be so outstandingly stupid, not to mention illegal, would be…just what this asshole is known for.

This is not a situation that calls for a “national emergency” declaration. It is women and children, for the most part, fleeing for their lives over thousands of miles. It is families looking to be able to save themselves and start a new life under freedom rather than dictatorships (mostly created by U. S. government policies, but that’s a discussion for another time). And it is people actually looking to avoid being used by cartels and demagogues for illegal purposes.

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The Congress isn’t to blame in this situation. They did their jobs, in the last Congress, to pass a compromise piece of legislation that was initially acceptable for the jerkoff in the White House until Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh whipped his ass with a rolled-up copy of the National Review. The House, under the leadership of Pelosi, has done the job in this Congress (the Senate, under Yertle the Turtle, won’t bring the legislation to a vote because it would pass and embarrass Orange Foolius and, by extension, themselves). The person to blame is the one who said in December he would “own” the Shutdown…Orange Foolius himself.

When 9PM rolls around tonight, I’m not giving this asshole the privilege of my viewership. I can catch up with the “post-game” shows afterwards. Of the two scenarios above, however, Scenario 1 is most acceptable, although nothing will be done from it. If Scenario 2 actually occurs, however, then the Constitutional Crisis that has been discussed for the past two years will actually come to life…which side do you want to be on?