Monday, June 23, 2014

30 Day Song Challenge, Day 23: A Song That Makes You Angry

If you judged only by the tone of our public discourse, you'd have good reason to conclude that we're a very angry country.  According to a recent study by The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic magazine, America is feeling much more pluribus than unum these days.  A different study (by The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press) confirmed the same, claiming that "Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines-- and partisan antipathy is deeper and more extensive-- than at any point in the last two decades."  There are many causes to which one could point in explaining this deep and extensive antipathy, some of them known, some of them unknown, many of them occupying the curious Rumsfeldian categories of "known unknowns" and "unknown unknowns."  People are angry for different, often opposing, reasons, but what they seem to hold in common is a deep dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs.  If it's true that misery loves company, America may be the easiest country in the world to find a companion right now.

Not to oversimplify things, but I think there are basically two types of angry Americans: (1) the type represented by and in Toby Keith's song "The Angry American" and (2) the type who are angered by the type represented in (1).  You can count me among the folks in Category 2.  This song was written shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, released a few months later in May 2002, and it definitely captured a particular variety of American anger that resonated with a lot of people attempting to deal with the new-- unpredictable, precarious and perilous-- world we found ourselves in post-9/11.  According to Keith, the song was meant to memorialize his recently-passed father's patriotism and to lift the morale of American military troops.  It was immediately controversial and continues, I think, to represent a characteristic divide in American political sensibilities.

The official title of the song is "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue."  Unfortunately, the "courtesy" in the title refers to, among other aggressions, getting "a boot in your ass, the American way."  Here's the song:



This song makes me angry as an American, because what it represents is exactly the opposite of what I think should be celebrated about our country.  It's hostile, militaristic, imperialist, unsympathetic, naively nationalistic, full of hubris and blind to the consequences of its aggression.  It makes me angry to hear it and it makes me angry to think that my fellow citizens would concede to being represented that way.

I'm with the Dixie Chicks on this matter, whose response to Toby Keith and his song expressed an anger that I can call my own.

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Here's your quick-access link to the entire 30 Day Song Challenge 2014 prompt-list and my picks for each day.

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