Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue

While on a vacation/road trip this week, I had the chance to hear lots of country music, etc.  For Memorial Day, the various radio stations focused on just a few “patriotic” songs written after 9/11.  These songs include Charlie Daniels’ “This ain’t no rag, it’s a flag”, Bo Diddley’s “We ain’t scared of you (my Eagle is pissed)”, Toby Keith’s “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”, Martina McBride’s “Independence Day”, and a few others.

I started thinking on the difference between these songs and the older songs that speak of “O Beautiful for Patriot’s dream”, “My country tis of Thee, sweet land of liberty”, “let freedom ring”, “land of the free and the home of the brave.”

In these songs, war is not glorified.  We do not sing about the “statue of liberty shaking its fist”, “a day of reckoning”,  or how we’re going to destroy and kill and do it with a piqued pleasure.

Doesn’t it sometimes seem like what used to be of great worth to this nation has been replaced with a cheap nationalism?

Perhaps it is time for us to return to the real principles of America?

18 thoughts on “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue

  1. I completely agree. I’ve wondered myself if we are becoming a warlike people, and if we value America’s “strength” (as measured in our active warfare) more than her virtue (which is rapidly disappearing, if it hasn’t vanished already).

  2. Ram,
    I agree. I’d also say that perhaps we’re too close culturally and historically speaking to make such a judgement, but you’re probably right anyway. My point was, that the “classics” we remember are because they are more works of art that popular historical music of the day. I would assume, people being as they are, they had just as irreverent and rowdy bar songs “back then” too, but they’ve been consigned to the dust bin of history. I don’t think Toby Keith’s ode to the ass-kicking nature of the flag will stand the test of time.

    In short, we as a nation don’t “get it” when it comes to aligning our practice with our principles. But I’m not sure if we can point to many instances where the common citizen “got it”. Rather, it seems we always were blessed with great people to point us to the dream of America. Unfortunately, it seems as society is declining, we’re producing less great ones… or at least we’re paying less attention to them.

  3. Rame, agreed completely. Don’t like Toby Keith precisely for this reason. Our freedom is not about being defiant and militaristic. Our freedom is about trying to live in peace with the world and defending ourselves only when attacked.

  4. Onward Christian Soldiers is not exactly noninterventionist, altho there are portions you could interpret as a spiritual rather than temporal battle.

  5. I suppose one upside to being stuck in the 80s with my music is I’ve never heard of any of those songs, and only one of those artists.

    Man do I love “My Country Tis of The” though, I was just singing it to myself in the car this morning (much to the annoyance of my ten-year-old).

  6. Good one John,

    How about this?

    “Still onward we pressed till our banners
    Swept out from Atlanta’s grim walls.
    And the blood of the patriot dampened
    The soil where the Traitor flag falls.
    We paused not to weep for the fallen
    That slept by each river and tree.
    But we twined them a wreath of the laurel,
    When Sherman marched down to the sea”

    Or this one…

    How the darkeys shouted when they heard the joyful sound!
    How the turkeys gobbled which our commissary found!
    “Sherman’s dashing Yankee boys will never reach the coast!”
    So the saucy Rebels said, and ’twas a handsome boast;
    Treason fled before us, for resistance was in vain,
    While we were marching through Georgia.

    But all we remember from the Civil War is the Battle Hymn of the Republic and Dixie Land.

  7. Or this one!

    You have called us and we’re coming,
    By Richmond’s bloody tide,
    To lay us down for Freedom’s sake,
    Our brothers’ bones beside;
    Or from foul treason’s savage group,
    To wrench the murderous blade;

    But the point still stands man is a warlike creature and we should avoid such delightful boasts of our ability make war.

  8. I think some consideration must be made to the events which the OP’s songs are referring to. Sure, it’s militaristic, but at the same time, it’s a response to an enemy attacking us on our homefront. I think a few songs representing the desire to kick enemy behind is largely harmless. It’s not like I’m going to enlist up in the army because I listened to Toby Keith, or support a mis-guided war because of it.

  9. Jacob,

    I don’t disagree. However, when a special day, such as Memorial Day comes along, what songs do you think we should be playing/hearing regarding the nation? I didn’t hear a truly patriotic song, or one that mourned the loss of our military dead. Instead, I heard Toby Keith talking about killing. So, while I understand why he wrote the song, I wonder why his was the song the radio station chose to play to “honor” our military dead?

  10. Because he’s frickin’ Toby Keith! :) All joking aside, I do think it would be nicer to hear songs giving tribute to our fallen soldiers instead of telling our current ones to go kick @$$. The reason they play the ones you mentioned are mostly because the artists who wrote them are so popular outside of these songs, and the radio does not consider artistry, only what sells.

  11. I’m glad I haven’t heard any of these new songs either. :P
    Way to go jjohnsen my 80s commrade! ;)

  12. Uh, Martina McBride’s “Independence Day” really has nothing to do with patriotism.

    It’s about domestic violence.

    And the rest are just right-wing extremism. I agree with you about those. Ugh.

  13. Lyrics to “Independence Day:”

    “Well she seemed all right by dawn’s early light though she looked a little
    Worried and weak she tried to pretend he wasn’t drinkin’ aagain but daddy left
    The proof on her cheek and I was only eight years old that summer and I always
    Seemed to be in the way so I took myself down to the fair in town on
    Independence day

    Well word gets a round in a small, small town they said he was a dangerous man
    But mama was proud and she stood her ground she knew she was on the losin’ end
    Some folks whispered some folks talked but everybody looked the other way and
    When time ran out there was no one about on indpendence day

    Chours: let freedom ring, let the white dove sing let the whole world know that
    Today is a day of reckoning let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong roll
    The stone away, let the guilty pay, it’s independence day

    Well she lit up the sky that fourth of july by the time the firemen come they
    Just put out the flames and took down some names and send me to the county home
    Now I ain’t sayin’ it’s right or it’s wrong but maybe it’s the only way talk
    About your revolution it’s indepenednce day

    Repeat chorous

    Roll the stone away it’s independence day.”

    Silver Rain is of course correct.

    But it is worth pointing out that Sean Hannity has adopted this as his signature song and turned it into a “patriotic post-9/11″ song.

  14. “But it is worth pointing out that Sean Hannity has adopted this as his signature song and turned it into a “patriotic post-9/11″ song.”

    Oh, sure. Let’s take a song that uses the celebration of American freedom to contrast the fear of violence and effective slavery in which one quarter of the nation’s women live and turn it into a “let’s make violence” song.

    As much as I don’t want to be the “domestic violence girl” this sort of thing makes me growl and gets me all tribe of Benjamin-ish.

  15. “started thinking on the difference between these songs and the older songs that speak of “O Beautiful for Patriot’s dream”, “My country tis of Thee, sweet land of liberty”, “let freedom ring”, “land of the free and the home of the brave.””

    Well, actually, the same song that contains “land of the free and the home of the brave” also features this third verse:

    “And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
    That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
    A home and a country should leave us no more?
    Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
    No refuge could save the hireling and slave
    From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave:
    And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
    O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

    We don’t sing this verse anymore because we rather like the British now. :-)

  16. As a couple of commenters have pointed out, there have been less-than-lofty nationalistic songs in the past — we don’t usually remember them long, though, because they don’t usually last. They don’t speak to the timeless themes of the songs that we do remember, and they don’t address the needs of the next generations, so they tend to be forgotten except as color commentary on the past.

    I hope the same thing happens with the post-9/11 ditties. Most of them aren’t worth remembering, and I hope they’ll be all but forgotten when, finally, the belligerence of the audience they addressed settles into a “never forget” stance in place of the ugly “we’re gonna hurt you worse’n you hurt us!” taunting.

    Even more, I hope that some enduring patriotic song does come out of the 9/11 era. A new song worthy of adding to the near-canon of patriotic songs would be evidence that honest (not jingoistic) patriotism is a part of the 21st century as well as of past centuries.

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