Confession time: I like country music. And no, I’m not being facetious. And no, not just the alternative kind. Gimme a steel guitar, a banjo, and a slow southern drawl, and I’m jammin’. When I put on the New Boots playlist, however, I do get looks ranging from disbelief to slightly annoyed to amused. Not that the reaction surprises me. As is the nature of stereotypes, there is some truth to them, but they also don’t cover all of the vast cornfield called country music. And honestly, you don’t have to strain your ears (pun intended) to pick up on all there is to hear.
We Americans harbor a huge dichotomy in our attitudes toward our country. We display our patriotism in borderline chauvinistic manner, playing the national anthem before every major sporting event, and church services frequently include impassioned praise of our nation and sometimes promote the idea that loyalty to god must include equal loyalty to the country.
We Americans, myself included, love our country. It’s surprising that many of my fellow citizens hate our government. It’s a pejorative to call someone a politician. Candidates for office who have no government experience proudly run as ‘outsiders’ and often easily win a seat. Americans do not recognize popular public programs as government created and sponsored by Washington. I’ve heard more than once the demand, “Keep government out of my Medicare,” which is, of course, a government program. President Ronald Reagan was cheered when he told us, “Government is not the solution to our problem, government is the problem.” Americans perceive correctly that the government does not represent all the people.
I think it’s likely true that the people of all nations love their patriotic songs even when they don’t agree with their message.
I love American patriotic music, although some of the lyrics are much too bellicose and virtually all of it is much too religious for this atheist to embrace. And the music itself may or may not be American. Indeed, the music of one of our most prominent songs, “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” is the British national anthem “God Save the Queen.” This rendition is sung by Aretha Franklin at Barack Obama’s inauguration:
Perhaps more ironic is the fact that our national anthem, “The Star Spangled Banner,” a poem written in praise of our efforts against the English in the War of 1812, is set to the tune of a British drinking song, “The Anacreontic Song.”