Recently, I've had fewer iPods than usual, which means I've listened to the radio in my car on the way to work. Maybe you haven't noticed that upwards of 75% of FM radio stations are country stations, but upwards of 75% of FM radio stations are country stations. And not the kind of country I like. The kind of country where a song comes on and I think 'wow, this sounds really cool' and then the deep-south twangy dude singer comes in and I realize this isn't the Dixie Chicks after all.
I mean, I guess it makes sense — country is America's most popular genre of music. There's a lot of urbanites out there, and they all listen to different kinds of music. There's also a lot of rural people out there, and they all listen to the exact same kind of music.
What the radio showed me was that real modern country is not the new Decemberists album. It's Toby Keith and Keith Urban and other variants of "Keith" and/or Rascal Flatts. It's uninhibited patriotism and drawl, more recently combined with other core values of drugz n' bitches from modern radio.
I totally knew this already, but my utter lack of exposure to modern country still left me a little semi-shocked to hear Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue (The Angry American)."
I'm all for patriotism. It gives a lot of (sometimes red) color to the world, and it adds a lot to a culture. I'm also all for America. I love the American landscape and American history and American literature and America's old values. I'm also all for supporting the troops. They're not in charge of our American wars; most of them, I think, are just doing their jobs, some in areas of the world that need our help and some in areas that don't. DISCLAIMER OVER, THIS SONG SUCKS.
It's cheesy, which is okay. It's tailor-made for the radio, with some righteous, time-tested, punk-rock guitar chords building into a crashing chorus of good ol' American country anthem. Lyrics time.
"There's a lot of men dead,
So we can sleep in peace at night when we lay down our heads."
This is true. Militaries are nasty things, but without some sort of craaazy global revolution, we're going to need some kind of army to take for granted while we live our lives of gross American luxury. Maybe not trillions of dollars of army, but hey, shit happens.
"My daddy served in the army where he lost his right eye,
But he flew a flag out in our yard 'til the day that he died.
He wanted my mother, my brother, my sister and me.
To grow up and live happy in the land of the free"
Aw. That's sweet.
"Now this nation that I love is fallin' under attack.
A mighty sucker-punch came flying in from somewhere in the back."
Right again. No matter who was behind 9/11, it was still a devastating event for America. And it might be added that this song was written a decade ago, so using the present tense is relevant.
"Soon as we could see clearly through our big black eye,
Man, we lit up your world like the fourth of July."
Whoa! Toby! That seems a little rash, are you sure you want to record that?
"Hey, Uncle Sam put your name at the top of his list,
And the Statue of Liberty started shaking her fist.
And the eagle will fly and it's gonna be hell,
When you hear Mother Freedom start ringing her bell.
And it'll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you.
Ah, brought to you, courtesy of the red, white and blue."
Starting to lose a little faith in you, Toby. Getting harder to defend you.
"An' you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.
'Cos we'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way."
I don't pretend to know a lot about politics. Monday Nick's in charge of that. But god damn. This is a pretty bad song. I recognize, and it's important to note, that this song was written and recorded within a year of 9/11, a time period where it was pretty understandable for most of the general populace to be a little shaken and uninformed. I don't hold Toby Keith responsible for that. It's also important to know that, from the little research I did, Keith surprisingly seems to be a very fair, level-headed man with his politics. He considers himself independent, although slightly to the left, and despite the sentiments of the song we just witnessed, he says he never supported the Iraq War. "(But) I don't apologize for being patriotic... If there is something socially incorrect about being patriotic and supporting your troops, then they can kiss my ass on that, because I'm not going to budge on that at all. And that has nothing to do with politics. Politics is what's killing America."
But Keith's song still rides the radio waves in 2011. The mentality of blowing to hell anyone and anything who touches us is dangerously ignorant and fosters the kind of prejudiced hate that embarrasses me about America. In the small, narrow world I live in at college, it's an extinct belief. But my world is narrow, and I'm not used to being exposed to the true body of America, much of which still buys into this destructive mindset almost ten years after ripping out Iraq's organs and reassembling it with toothpicks. Sometimes it's eye-opening to look over Mizzou's gates and get a glimpse into the real world, even when I already know what I'll see.