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Springsteen? Mellencamp? Creedence? Heretics All!William Norman Grigg
As a necessary accompaniment to today’s saturnalia of state worship, the kind folks at Newsbusters (published by the Media Research Center, which is devoted to “exposing & combating liberal media bias”) have published the War Party’s equivalent of the Index Librorum Prohibitorum.
In this case, rather than “heretical” books, the guide describes “5 Songs You May Not Know are Un-Patriotic.” The MRS offers this public service on behalf of those who earnestly seek to have their every thought taken captive by the sacred nation-state, and seek to avoid sullying their lips by humming along to infectious songs secretly laden with “anti-American” sentiments.
Heading the roster of proscribed tunes is Bruce Springsteen’s much-misunderstood “Born in the USA,” which is censured for expressing anti-Vietnam War views and lamenting the plight of veterans left wounded and unemployable after being sent abroad to kill foreigners who posed no threat to us.
The Guess Who’s “American Woman” is next on the list, although the essay singles out Lenny Kravitz’s cover version for criticism because his “sexualized version of the song camouflages the Guess Who’s anti-American lyrics.” The Guess Who’s impassioned anti-Vietnam perspective was inspired, at least in part, by the Canadian band’s experiences with the US immigration bureaucracy, which almost manipulated them into registering for the Vietnam-era draft.
Green Day’s “American Idiot,” an eruption of punk disgust over the Iraq War, was the next selection, edging out a much better anti-war candidate, “Wake Me Up When September Ends” (most likely because the former mentioned America in the title). John Mellencamp’s requiem for the economically marginalized, “Pink Houses,” is presented as representative of his supposedly anti-American oeuvre.
Mellencamp, who has spent his entire life in Bloomington, Indiana, is a living archive of middle America’s musical heritage and a champion of what Bill Kauffman calls “front-porch patriotism.”
“No, I cannot forget where it is that I come from, I cannot forget the people who love me,” sang Mellencamp in “Small Town.” “I can be myself here in this small town, and people let me be just what I want to be.” Such sentiments are unshirted blasphemy to people who worship the Warfare State: Parochial attitudes of that kind detract from the unity required for The Indispensable Nation to carry out its divinely ordained global mission.
Creedence Clearwater Revival’s high-octane protest song “Fortunate Son” is lambasted for “criticiz[ing] nationalist imperialism,” as if this were an indictment rather than an endorsement. John Fogerty, who was drafted during the Vietnam era when soft-handed hawks like Dick Cheney and John Bolton were seeking deferments or hanging out at Plato’s Retreat, said that his song was inspired by “the old saying about rich men making war and poor men having to fight them.”
Each of those selections displays more authentic patriotism than the entire catalog of insipid post-9/11 jingo jingles extruded by Nashville. It’s curious that country titan Merle Haggard, who came to the defense of the Dixie Chicks when they were execrated for criticizing the Bushling at the beginning of the Iraq War, was spared criticism for his anti-war protest songs “Where’s All the Freedom?” and “America First.” Perhaps Haggard was given an indulgence for his 1960s counter-counterculture anthem “Okie from Muskogee.”
For faithful adherents to the cult of the Warfare State, “patriotism” requires an unwillingness to acknowledge our country’s faults, let alone to offer objections to the government’s hugely destructive and needless wars. This attitude is less a love of country than idolatrous admiration of the Regime’s ability to inflict violence on those who do not submit to it.