Tuesday, October 16, 2007

As Country Music Goes, So Goes the War

"Country music is singing a different tune on the war now"
from the Cleveland Plain Dealer
Posted by Connie Schultz October 16, 2007 05:39AM

Anyone silly enough to claim that patriotism can be whittled down to who wears an American flag pin and who doesn't, or who supports the war and who doesn't, had best pay attention to what's happening in country music.

Forget all those political polls, which partisans love attacking as too partisan, anyway. When it comes to judging the mood of the American people, there's no better barometer than country music.

It appears that a lot of people who love country music have had their fill of this war.

"Country music has always reflected the country's mood, but it also challenges that mood," says David Whisnant, a professor emeritus of English at the University of North Carolina who has studied the politics of country music.

Clearly, some country music singers ate a big bowl of testosteroni right after 9/11.

Just as clearly, the menu has changed.

Consider Toby Keith, who declared himself the quintessential Angry American as he sang about the Statue of Liberty shakin' her fist, Mother Liberty ringin' her bell and U.S. bomber pilots lighting up the Afghanistan sky like the Fourth of July, "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue."

That was when the war was just beginning. Now he's distancing himself from a war with no end in sight.

In June, he told the Associated Press that, contrary to the impression he may have given everybody, he was actually a "lifelong Democrat."

"I supported the ousting of the Taliban [in Afghanistan] 100 percent," he told AP. "My 9/11 song was all about that. But the far left won't allow that to be. They have to plug me into every pro-war thing they can find. ... I never said I support the Iraq war, but I never said I didn't, either."

So, um, does he support the war?

"That war has been over since 48 hours after it started. Our military disarmed them in two days. The dictator has been ousted. They [Iraq] need to step up with their oil money and fund it on their own. I don't say we shouldn't be in there. I say we should be there and step back and let them have their own fight ..."

Somewhere in that rambling is an apology for linking the 9/11 attacks to Saddam Hussein, I'm sure.

Singer Darryl Worley started out gung-ho about the war, too. Annoyed with those who opposed it, Worley also tried to tie the 9/11 attacks to Iraq with his song, "Have you Forgotten?"

In that music video, he was as clean-cut as an Eagle Scout, reminding everyone about the fallen towers and the Pentagon. "Don't you tell me not to worry 'bout Bin Laden," he sang.

Four years later, he was singing a different tune, this one titled "I Just Came Back [From a War]." He wrote it after learning about a U.S. Marine who was struggling to readjust after his return from fierce battle in Fallujah.

Worley looked mighty battle weary himself, his long, scraggly hair framing the hard face of a man who'd had his fill of someone else's big idea. The Marine in his song had returned to "a land where our brothers are dying for others who don't even care anymore."

Soon after, none other than that Okie from Muskogee, Merle Haggard, was defending the Dixie Chicks for publicly criticizing President Bush. Then he wrote his own take on the war.

"Let's get out of Iraq," he sang, "and get back on track."

Merle. Haggard.

I'll leave you with superstar Tim McGraw, who made news around the country by singing "If You're Reading This" at the Academy of Country Music Awards this year.

The soldier in the song wants his family to know that the letter in their hands means he's "already home." With God, that is.

After McGraw finished singing, the lights rose over a group of people standing silently behind him. Overhead, a sign read, "Families of Fallen Heroes."

McGraw just stood there as the tears flowed all around him.

But one thing was missing.

I looked and I looked at his plain, dark shirt, but it just wasn't there.

The flag pin on the patriot's shirt was nowhere in sight.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Haggard's Okie From Muskogee is not a reflection of his own views but rather a character study. So it was not at all suprising to here him speak against the war