Sunday, November 25, 2007

Hayseed Dickhead

So a Times guest blogger thinks that the sung values o' de heartland have been nigh unto ignored. If only this could be explained in the context of a Connecticut-born prep-schooled fortunate son being elected (or hell, even being nominated) on a platform of jes' plain folks pablum.

Taken together, contemporary country western music paints a picture of an America committed to hard work and traditional family values. It is deeply God fearing but can be surprisingly compassionate and open-minded, sometimes when you least expect. The songs describe regular people striving to live better lives in the midst of temptations and daily reminders of failure.


Yes, even with its love for the vehicular and alcoholic, country western is the best place to start to learn a little something about what it means to have a family, to struggle making ends meet, to own a gun or a pickup truck, to support our troops unquestioningly, to enlist in the military and fight our country’s wars and to generally be very proud of what America stands for — and to profess confusion over just what all this fuss is about when it comes to our foreign policy choices.

As a musician and a music-lover, this is hard to digest. I'm not at all opposed to the earthy strengths of country -- I grew up watching Hee Haw, and genuinely enjoying their performers, as well as Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and other old-school paragons of the people's art form. Indeed, both Kurt Vonnegut and Michael Moore have sung the imperative praises of recognizing the importance of country music to its listeners.

But this fails utterly in describing the cognitive gap in which these niches overlap, where putative practitioners of heartland values are consistently and repeatedly bamboozled into voting against their own interests. On the one hand, your job is being outsourced to northern Mexico, on the other, fags are a-gittin' hitched. Is this coincidental? Studies conclusively imply, eh, not so much.

Look, the continuing plaint is that Dems disrespect or condescend to the salt o' the earth folk when they fail to genuflect appropriately to their loudly professed valyews (as if no one between New York and California is ever gay or gets an abortion). So let them make their points abundantly clear, that they do not get something for nothing, that their fuel and even their food comes at a very real price, that they need to find greater things besides Black Friday to strive toward. Write a fucking song around that shit, if you wanna get real.

It's really not that complicated. Either people want to learn and prioritize appropriately, or they don't. Politicians -- successful ones, anyway -- can ultimately only reflect those priorities.


thedevilzone said...

Dammit, I used to have a link saved - I think it might have been to Slate - where someone finally took the piss out of this stupid romanticizing of the southern yokel types. The best I could find for now was this one. I'll keep looking.

thedevilzone said...

Ahh, here we go.

[...]Part of this is that, to be frank, while people in Rhode Island or Oregon don't look on presidential candidates who come from regions other than their own with suspicion, lots of southerners seem to be reluctant to vote for people who don't share their drawl. Of course, this is never characterized as pathological regional xenophobia -- it's just how regular folks think, and there's not supposed to be anything wrong with it.

Southern-ness, furthermore, is supposed to be a marker of "authenticity." People who are from the South are genuine, forthright, the kind of folks you'd like to have a beer with, while if you come from somewhere else, chances are you're a big phony. Witness Fred Thompson, the "down-home" corporate lobbyist. Southerners are always taking offense at people who supposedly look down on them, but to someone who was raised in the Northeast, the idea that southerners are inherently more "real," and more American, than the rest of us is deeply insulting.

Of course, this is part of a whole complex of stereotypes about what and who is really American. And nobody embraces them more than the liberal northeastern elitists in the media. As far as they're concerned, the South is more American than the Northeast or the West, small towns are more American than big cities, country music is more American than folk or jazz or hip-hop, NASCAR is more American than basketball, and so on. The fact that those media Brahmins themselves don't live in small towns or listen to country music or watch NASCAR is precisely what feeds their idealized view of what a "real" American is, and what his beliefs and tastes are.

But yeah, country music, one of the most fake genres there is, where a bunch of attractive, buff millionaires who can't write a note of their own songs (but shore can look purty up on stage!) are jes' folks because they talk like they've got their sisters' tit in their mouth.

OneMadClown said...

This argument pisses me off more than most...first off, fuck the South and fuck Southerners. You want country, you pricks? I come from just south of the Canadian border in the rolling emerald cow pastures of northern Vermont, where there are precisely 3 professions: farmer, Ethan Allen factory worker, and service industry. I have a large number of straight-up hillbilly-ass relations. But, I supposedly know less about "country" and real American values because I can string two syllable words together without drowning in my own drool. I lived in the Deep South for a time, and while the ol' southern hospitality is no lie -- so long as you're white and don't announce too loudly that you were born north of the Mason-Dixon line -- y'all can start claiming some sort of moral superiority over me when they stop finding nooses hanging from your trees.
Second, fuck country music right in its bleached, distressed-Gucci jeans wearing, faux-hayseed asshole. I grew up on and still love Willie and Merle and Johnny and George, et. al, and this crop of no-songwriting synth-pop fucktards is about as country as a Maroon 5 CD.
These pricks aren't country, and neither are the drooling idiots who listen to it -- hell, in my area, you're more likely to hear this garbage blaring from a Hummer than from an '85 Ford pickup. This is the balm of idiot culture, soothing the troubled minds of the reluctant low-level corporate whores who get to put on their cowboy hats once a week and boot-scoot away that feeling that they aren't fucking real people anymore, and simulataneously fool the lower classes into thinking that there is some sort of patriotic virtue in being poor, undereducated, unquestioning, jingoistic cannon fodder.

thedevilzone said...

Yeah, that's the other thing - here in the northernmost part of the South, no one, and I mean no one, will admit to liking any current country, always voicing a nostalgia for the old greats, which makes me wonder who the fuck is buying these CDs?

Just this past weekend, though, I gave some Howling Willie Cunt and Ween discs to a guy like that at work, and he absolutely loved them. Came in today blasting Ween's "Piss Up a Rope" loud enough to wake the dead!

RonB said...

"The songs describe regular people striving to live better lives in the midst of temptations and daily reminders of failure."

I can go to old Catholic hymnal books if this is what I want from music...

onna monopia said...

Man, I didn't think I could love this post MORE after reading the title (tip o the hat, Heywood--that Hayseed Dixie version of Calling Dr. Love makes me smile every time.)

devilzone: A lot of that old skool cuntry was maudlin crap too--I'd rather listen to Garth Brooks, who I pretty much loathe, over someone like Don Williams.

It has taken most of my life to get me to claim even being in the neighborhood of being a country music fan, but IMNSHO, Piss up a Rope is ONLY one of the FINEST country songs ever written (and by a couple of Pennsylvania-dwelling, scat-loving fans of brownhole everything, no less.) Almost all of the backing musicians on that Ween album were some of Nashville's long time finest practitioners of the genre. Everything Ween kicks about 19 kinds of ass.

Has anyone actually read the Seth Godin book "All Marketers are Liars: the power of telling authentic stories in a low trust world" ? I haven't read it yet, but it sounds like it might take apart some of the reasons why political candidates act all down-home and folksy to win votes.

I have learned not to underestimate someone playing the hick card. For folks who place a premium on brains, that whole song and dance is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. Surest way to get caught out looking foolish is by a smart person pretending to be stupid. Never play down to their level or mistake what those good ole boys are up to with that--it's what they're counting on you to do.