I spent the last few days in Minnesota, and on Saturday morning, when I was driving across the rural southern part of the state I heard the most offensive song ever on the radio. It is titled "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (Angry American) by Toby Keith. I think Mr. Keith needs to be ashamed of himself. Below are the lyrics to the refrain, and the worst verse of the song. Apparently this song was written in 2002, in the year following September 11th. I never actually heard this song prior to Saturday, probably because I think country music is the soundtrack to hell and avoid it at all costs.
Hey Uncle Sam
Put your name at the top of his list
And the Statue of Liberty
Started shakin her fist
And the eagle will fly
And its gonna be hell
When you hear Mother Freedom
Start ringin her bell
It’ll feel like the whole wide world is raining down on you
Aw brought to you Courtesy of the Red White and Blue
Justice will be served
And the battle will rage
This big dog will fight
When you rattle his cage
You’ll be sorry that you messed with
The U.S. of A.
'Cause we'll put a BOOT in your ass
It's the American way
Patriotism is a dirty word for me. Mostly because it has been hijacked by people like Toby Keith and other Americans who want to maintain the supposed cultural superiority of America. America has done a pretty foul job of taking care of its own people, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, our elected leaders have descended into adolescent arguments over ideological differences and the world hates us.
I wonder what damage this song, and others like it, and furthermore, the sort of patriotic ideologies that accompany the social group to whom this song appeals, are doing to people. The line "We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way" makes my blood boil. Whose America are they talking about? Not mine. But I worry that impressionable people are listening to it, and want to somehow feel good about themselves, by trying to be superior to someone else, anyone else.
This week there has been a deeply disturbing video that surfaced on youtube of US marines urinating on the bodies of Afghan men. (UK Daily Mail article) This is just the latest in a series of really horrifying things perpetuated by the military over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. What makes me really sad and angry is that conservative commentators are agreeing with the actions of these marines as "patriotic." In this case, Americans are not patriotic or superior, they are just being assholes. And these marines, their commanding officers, and anyone who agrees with their actions should be ashamed of themselves.