I noticed my own hypocrisy with Toby Keith.
Hypocrisy? Perhaps double-standard is a better characterization. Either way, I’m not sure I’m happy with it.
Music means a great deal to me. Long before I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be Alex Van Halen. Then Neil Peart. Then Larry Mullen, Jr. There are times, even at 38 years old, when listening to “The Unforgettable Fire” or “Moving Pictures” or “2112” and banging on my drumset that I still want to be those guys.
But as much as music means, I find I’m not much of a fan of country. Much of the music I like, and the vocal harmony of the old time country, the musicianship of bluegrass. But I have a hard time with much of the hard-right nationalism and religion of country artists. I don’t like songs that tell other countries it’s the American way to put a boot up their ass if we don’t like what they say.
I tend to think of those artists as hard-right politically (and yeah, I tend to think of them as a monolithic group, with no differences in degree or thought). They vote red state, worship red state, celebrate and educate red state, eat and sleep red state.
Worse, I see them celebrate going to war. Doubly so Toby Keith, who has made a vast American fortune reminding people we’ll put a boot up their ass (witness his horribly titled album “Shockin’ Y’all”).
I stay away from his music because I don’t like his politics. I gravitate toward U2 and Sting, Peter Gabriel and Rush, because I dig their tunes but also because they are where I am politically. Oddly enough, being both a Texan and in law enforcement, I am a lefty. I am a liberal.
Here’s the problem. Toby Keith has a fabulous new song out. “As Good As I Once Was.” It’s about getting older and not being quite as quick on the draw or quite as tough as in the old days. Great lyrics, hysterical video, bad politics.
Now the hypocrisy: I tell myself not to worry about the politics when I’m listening to that song. Separate art from artist, I tell myself.
Except, I don’t tell myself that when I’m listening to U2. I revel in their politics, their world view. It is my seeming selective application of ‘separate art from artist’ that concerns me. Why do I usually ignore that advice, then suddenly follow it when it’s some whose politics I don’t agree with?
Tricky question, that. Hypocrisy? Cheap rationalization? Or massive over-analysis of a fairly petty issue?
It could be as simple as wanting to hear a good tune and ignoring the politics unless I happen to agree with them. After all, I lean more toward the Barbra Streisand side of politics but can’t stand any single song she’s ever done. With her, I don’t separate art from artist, I separate self from Streisand. (Okay, it’s a cheap joke, but you get what I’m saying.)
I have no answer for this, if there even needs to be one, I just find the question an interesting one to explore. For now, I’ll continue digging Red-State Toby’s new song and I won’t worry about the politics because chances are pretty good our votes would cancel each other out anyway.