For the last year I’ve been dealing with internal hypocrisy. I have been enjoying some music that is completely opposite from my political and philosophical leanings. It’s causing constant introspection of a sort. How can I like this music, how can I reconcile my beliefs with my musical indulgences?
Okay, what is the music? I’ve really taken a liking toward a subgenre of country music. I guess it’s called “hick hop”. A mixture of hip hop, country, mixed up with outlaw and country gangsta flavored with political and religious undertones. Here’s a older sample:
When you get to some of the “outlaw” and “social/political” artists the music starts sounding very Trumpist and MAGA, if not racist and misogynistic. Why in the hell would I listen to music like that when my politics are completely different?
I like to think that I’m a pragmatist when it comes to politics and what is best for the USA.
Nothing scares me more than blind and unthinking adherence to any religious system or political ideology. Even more repulsive to me is propagandistic proselytizing of said religion/ideology OR incorporation of those blind beliefs into policy and worse law. It’s not a left-right or religious-atheist thing, but about rationality and long-term thinking. Modern science has proven over and over again that there are few certainties in life and that the more we think we know, the less we actually know.
So why would I listen to that music given that particular set of perspectives? I think in some ways it’s romanticism, a longing for a time when honor mattered. Yes, I spent some time in the South and as a military kid grew up around many people from all places and walks of life in the USA. Back then, the draft almost ensured our military families were made up of a real mix of people from all over America.
Honor was a big deal. Honor, doing the right thing, protecting the family, protecting your “tribe”; well those were real things to me. Still are. The music seems to take me back to those romantic notions.
The music represents a mix of black, white, country, and urban music traditions. To me, it expresses suburban angst, rural problems, and in many ways hits a nerve laying open the uncertainty of the male role in modern American society.
There’s a stream of proud frustration expressed in so many of the lyrics. I hear it. It echoes with me in some way. There’s a real sense of disconnection from other parts of America. The modern economy vs. the old economy, progressives vs. conservatives. It seems as though this music represents a traditionalist reaction to the changes happening on the east/west coasts as a result of technology and expanded, mass liberal education.
It’s easy to write off the music as MAGA-music, but I’d say that’s not what it is about. Sure — there are artists that capitalize on the MAGA minority, but it’s deeper than politics.
I listen to this music because of the lyrics of struggle, the rebelliousness, the focus on family, the idea of honor, the unique sound, the patriotism, the resistance against compelled and imposed change. Defense of traditional family values. All of those find some kind of resonance.
I find it hard to deal with what is expressed in some of the music: racism, stubbornness, sexism, and violence. Because these go against what I see as American values as I learned them.
Oh sure, these days I feel like those “old fashioned” learned values are more “aspirational” than real, but many of these are values should re-discover and aspire to: Honor, civility, sense of shared destiny, community, common respect, and pride — especially for how we are attempting to evolve our nation.
In the end, if folks listened to this music and tried to listen beyond the sometimes ugly surface of the lyrics, they might learn and feel something about what drives MAGA, what drives role confusion, what underlies some of the social tensions in the country — all in an effort to understand one another.
Or have I been too long on the bottle?