It's been awhile since I've waved a political flag over here, and not like anyone who doesn't know me, read here, or read my work, doesn't know where I stand -- but sometimes I still feel compelled to talk.
My car got dented recently, and I had to take it into a shop and get a rental car for a week. The rental car only had country radio station presets.
I found this a bit odd, seeing as I don't live in the center of the US, and I know from my own presets there's a lot of rock and hip-hop stations in my area, but all six options were different versions of country music. A lot of things on the rental car baffled me (it was frankly nicer than my own, admitted under duress because I have a profound emotional attachment to my car) and so I decided not to touch anything radio-wise and just listen to the stations as they were.
I used to be a fan, in the way that when you're trapped in a household that everyone watches football, eventually you know what the ten yard lines mean. Growing up in Texas, attending a future farmers of America magnet-type high school, and having been forced to volunteer at the local rodeo after having made the poor decision to be in pep squad in an effort to avoid gym, you're going to know the words to all my exes live in Texas by heart. (Especially if your bio dad has ex wives in Texas. Especially.)
Not all of it is bad -- I'm a fierce fan of the Old 97's, who I believe to be musically genius. But a lot of it is hoo-rah "let's be joiners, keep on joinin'" stuff, without introspection, that I just can't stand.
Anyhow. Listening to presets, trying not to drive my zippy rental car off the road, these two songs came up in this order:
The first song made me want to cry, the second one made me want to puke. (And from recent events, you all know what a grand fan I am of that.)
Cost of Livin' is a heart wrenching song about someone trying to just get by today. No jobs, no experience, a family to feed -- as the chorus says, cost of livin's high and going up. The second song is a paean to how great America is, I only buy shit that says made in America, I am so proud for me to be here.
The first song -- the man in it needs health insurance, for him and his kids. He needs a social net that'll help keep his family fed while he looks for jobs, keep the water and electricity going to his home -- a home that needs to have a foreclosure postponed on it, until he can get back on his feet again.
The second song pretty much tells the protagonist of the first song "Fuck you, things are fine." His solution is to buy American, not tax people fairly and vote pro-health care.
I have no idea how Toby Keith and people who gladly sing along to his song in their car can sleep well at night. I'm looking at you in particular, Texas. Texas has more homeless children than any other state. You'll have to pardon me if I don't want anyone who proportionally lets the most kids go to sleep hungry at night in the state that he's Governor of become President any time soon.
Country music has the power to move people, more than most music, because it it tells you how it really is. People make fun of it because it's simple -- but that's part of its deception. Its powerful in its simplicity. It gets in close and then it punches you in the gut.
I hope that the people who're listening to Ronnie Dunn's stuff uncritically really hear the words inside their heart and are filled with empathy and compassion for their fellow humans. That's the only thing that's going to get us through.