Friday, December 20, 2013

Free-for-all Friday: Why country pride is terrible for this country

I recently went on a long car trip. My car is from 1997 and has neither CD nor tape playing capabilities. It also gets terrible radio reception. This means that I usually only have one option for radio stations while driving through rural areas. These stations, of course, play country music.

Country music means a lot of things to a lot of people. To some people it means pedal steel and fiddles. To others, it means twang. To me, it means country pride. What is country pride? People with country pride were raised poor and rural with old-fashioned values. They are proud of this fact. I think this is terrible. Achewood said it best, "Oh Lord but we've got country pride simply because we were able to escape starvation in the richest nation in the history of the world."

There's a certain fondness always placed on the past. Cracker Barrel had an advertising slogan: "If the world has a front porch like we did back then." First of all, that isn't even a sentence. Second off, what the hell does that mean? It means that things were better in the past without saying why or how. It is just understood. That is at the core of country pride. Things used to be better when everything was simpler. The world was smaller and we had less money, but we were happier. This past is something to be proud of.

Why would you be proud of being poor? Being poor is the easiest thing in the world! I don't mean it is easy to live a good life if you are poor or even to live a life at all. I mean that it is easy to become poor. More people are doing it every day in America. You shouldn't be ashamed of being poor, but it is nothing to be proud of, either. If you are proud of it, it means that you think there is something noble to being poor. That it makes you a better person. And that if your kids are living a better life than you, they are weak and ultimately worse off. Well, guess what? Kids now are likely going to be poorer than their parents so I guess these kids will be more noble and thus better off. Great!

I think that we, as a country, should be trying to reduce the number of poor people, and that means we stop glamorizing a poor childhood. Look at this:

This music video is pretty terrible. What does the American Southwest have to do with anything? I'll assume the video was filmed in Arizona to celebrate the deportation of brown Americans. That's something to be proud of.

The lyrics to this song really show what country pride is all about. The singer's father says, "We were cane switch raised and dirt floor poor. 'Course, that was back before the war." The chorus goes on to say, "That's something to be proud of." So, you were hit with a switch and you couldn't even afford a floor. But this was during the depression, right? No. The verse mentions his father flying an F-15. F-15s didn't enter service until 1976. Since the Vietnam War ended in 1975, either his father doesn't know what kind of plane he was flying or the war they refer to is the Gulf War. Anyways, based on the singer's age, I believe they are talking about fighting in Vietnam so these people are proud of living in the dirt during the 1960s. I guess the thing they are proud of is not being dead?

I really don't want to disparage poor people here, that is not my goal. My goal is to separate the pride in overcoming obstacles from the pride in having obstacles. Nowhere in this song is there any mention of real success that people are proud of. I can see being proud of overcoming all of the difficulties poor people face. I don't think that is what is happening here. I think the singer is proud of being poor in the first place. The second chorus states, "Just be thankful that you're working, if you're doing what you're able and putting food there on the table." Having a job and food should be basic rights that every American can expect. Right? Or should people have to struggle to not starve? I don't think there is anything noble in that struggle and that we should be ashamed of ourselves as a country that we have hungry people.

People should be able to expect more. I can't imagine having to put all my energies towards getting enough food. I have a job, but I don't like it very much. I'm glad that I have a job, but I'm mostly frustrated that it is difficult to find a new one. Am I spoiled? Am I an ungrateful little shit? I don't think so (obviously). I think it is reasonable to expect more out of life than working at a shitty job to barely make enough money not to starve. Everyone should have more than that. People should have reasonably fulfilling jobs and make enough money to be able to afford food, housing, and health care plus a little more. Anything less than that is not something we, as a country, can be proud of.

So we have two options. We can follow the Dead Kennedys' advice, or we can stop it with the country pride and start helping poor people. Because that is, ultimately, what country pride amounts to. Being proud that you didn't starve even though nobody helped you.


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