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.

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The “Go The Fuck AWAY” Club

GTFA

Recently one of my close friends, comrades, and “brother in arms” Nolan Dalla, penned a list of people that he wished, to be frank, would just go the fuck away (I even stole his doormat for this article!). Because he has a penchant for politics (as befitting someone who was in the diplomatic service corps for the States of America in the 1980s) and in tribute to the current virtual Democratic National Convention, he came up with a list of right- and left-wing politicians that he bestowed his inaugural class honors on. With such an impetus, how could I avoid not doing the same thing.

I chose several right- and left-wing politicians (and celebrities too) that have certainly overstayed their welcomes. Their schtick has gotten tiresome and, either for that reason or for the fact they’ve been around too goddamn long, they need to head to the exits. Thus, without further ado, here’s my choices for the “Go the Fuck AWAY” Club.

The Right

Ted Nugent & Kid Rock: I decided to start with these two because they are trying to stay relevant in their careers and they’ve chosen fuckwit politics as the way to do it. Nugent wasn’t this bad back in the 80s, it’s a persona that he has festered into the worm he is today. Robert Ritchie (AKA Kid Rock) is a white boy who glammed onto a gimmick and is waiting for Nugent to die to take over the “white racist redneck” market. While I enjoy their musical contributions (and I’ve written about that before), they’ve both gotten a bit tiresome with the routine.

LahrenCoulterConway

Tomi Lahren, Ann Coulter and Kellyanne Conway: The three stages of a crack whore who sells their soul to promote a dying conservative agenda. Willing to say anything for a dollar, even though Coulter recently is trying to redeem herself with an “anti-Orange Foolius” stance so she can stay relevant in the party after he’s gone. And Kayleigh McEnany is moving up on this list.

Louie Gohmert, Ted Cruz & Tom Cotton: If there were any other better examples of “ignorant fucking redneck racist,” I haven’t seen them yet. They have absolutely NO scruples other than “what’s the party line” while they try to sell their “good ol’ boy” bullshit with their Ivy League diplomas (OK, Gohmert gets a pass here as far as Ivy League). If you told these three that a Democratic idea would bring back Jesus, they’d want to arrest Christ on immigration charges.

The Left:

Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer: The very example of what is wrong with the Democratic Party. There is some great faces and knowledge coming up from the grassroots, yet these two think that the ideas they’ve tried for decades to put through is the ONLY way to go? I’ve never been one of those for an “age cap” on being in Congress – Pelosi (at over 80) and Schumer (70) this year aren’t the future of the Democrats, they are the past and they should realize this and GTFA.

Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton Campaigns In Las Vegas

The Clintons: Yes, Bill…you were arguably one of the best Presidents of the 20th century for the eight years of your office. But your peccadilloes and dalliances thoroughly damaged everything you did and even trashed Hillary’s (arguably the most qualified person to even run for President) chances at the office. And this doesn’t even touch on the facetious and duplicitous manner that you (and Hillary, for her political career) handled some of those cases. Do like Jimmy Carter…find a charitable cause to get behind and go do it…just stay the fuck out of the operations of the Democrats.

Late night talk show hosts: There’s a handful I toss in here – Samantha Bee, Bill Maher, John Oliver, a couple of others – that, while I enjoy them very much, have pretty much ruined their futures in any other pursuit. Political comedy is best handled in short doses, much like what George Carlin did or Lewis Black does today, not as a weekly bitchfest for the left. It also locks you in a box, as Maher is learning, that the extreme left can turn on you when you actually show that you’re not the uber-lefty that they thought you were. (To be fair, Oliver does sometimes branch out from politics into trying to help his fellow man, so he has moments of redemption.)

This won’t be the last time we deal with this subject. In fact, we may come back with either weekly or monthly nominees. Who would you put on the list?