Thursday, November 5, 2009

Small Town Charm

After more than five years of active resistance I raise my white flag and say out loud (or at least online) that I like country music. Rascal Flats, Little Big Town, Keith Urban, Josh Gracin, Sugarland, Lady Antebellum and the rest of those gracing the screen on GMC and CMT. It is catchy, it is relaxing and it is fun to sing along with the stars of Nashville. It is also so unbelievably condescending to my and a majority of Americans’ life-style.

My favorite song is “Boondocks” by Little Big Town. As you can imagine, the song glorifies the benefits of growing up in a small town. I really love this song. I challenge anyone to not want to sing along after hearing it a few times. But the glorification of the “simple” life in small town America is fantasy.

Most people in this country live either in cities or suburbs. And for good reason: a vast majority of the wealth, culture, medical services, transportation and country music is found in and around these population centers.

Granted New York City isn’t for everyone but the glorification of New York via song always has the “it is nasty but it is home to me” mentality that is so clearly missing from the Boondocks and other “small town is better” country songs.

A few weeks back 30 Rock traveled south to find “real American” comics. But to Jack Donaghy’s eternal dismay, small town simple folk suck just as much as big city slickers. Ah the truth through popular culture.

But more than the primetime parable from NBC’s critically acclaimed and viewed only by New Yorkers show, small towns have nothing to offer besides being the subject of country songs and escape plans in high school movie classics.

Nothing is instilled by a small town. There is nothing in the water in these places (well sometimes there is mercury).

The Conservative Revolution that has taken place in our society over the past 25 years has created a false sense of safety that “traditional small town values” complete with 1950s style gender roles, an omnipotent Church and a small, feeble government will protect the true American way of life.

Wow is that stupid.

What makes America strong is the commitment to progress. Going backward -- which is what these small town activists want -- does nothing to help support the American Dream. American character is instilled by caring families, dedicated teachers, strong relationships with friends and in many cases meaningful religious experiences.

These things aren’t found only in small town America. These experiences are fostered by individuals and communities dedicated to the preservation of progress and betterment. The American Dream is no longer about white picket fences but making the world a better place for our children so they in turn can do the same for their kids.

So really this isn’t an indictment of country music, just the fantasies some of its most noted artists continue to propagate. Yet some of the other themes present in the best country music also support the above described American character building exercise.

Sugarland’sBaby Girl” kind of hits it perfectly (and it is almost as catchy as “Boondocks”). Singing to her mom and dad, Jennifer Nettles belts out:
Whaddya know, we made our dreams come true.
And there are fancy cars and diamond rings,
But you know that they don't mean a thing.
They all add up to nothin' compared to you.
Well, remember me in ribbons an' curls.
I still love you more than anything in the world...
Your baby girl.

Her parents’ support and love helped her become a star. Not the small town or the city life or anything else. It was dedicated parents who can live in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Marlin, TX, Adams, TN or Bayboro, NC. The support of her family, friends and teachers is what made her great (oh and a good singing voice…).


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