In these hard times, Americans are trying hard to relax and take refuge in entertainment. But The Washington Post is insisting that country music fans are not really sympathetic figures. They are prone to self-congratulation and "closing ranks" behind the thought that they live in the "real America."
The Post music critic going by the name Josh Freedom du Lac -- that just can't be his name -- doesn't really seem to like patriotic music, despite the patriotic byline. He worries that songs like Jason Aldean's "Hicktown" or the Zac Brown Band's "Chicken Fried" do something wrong: They are "narrowcasting to a specific community: the core country audience, whose roots aren't exactly in America's urban centers."
That claim in itself sounds silly. Aren't people who make rap music or big-band music or polka music "narrowcasting"? Maybe du Lac just doesn't like this particular niche audience. He doesn't like the message that's offered, either. "The symbolism and prideful sentiments of the songs are intended to create a sense of belonging among people with similar backgrounds and lifestyles, or at least people who romanticize life in the rural South," he wrote. "To some listeners, though, it might sound as if the artists are closing ranks."
Then he arranged an expert to echo his theme: "Some of these songs seem to fall into the 'we're from Real America, and you're not' camp," said Peter Cooper, who covers country music for Nashville's daily newspaper, the Tennessean. "Seems like being divisive while the industry around you crumbles is a poor decision."
At this point, the country music fan has a question: Is a newspaper writer from Nashville possibly making an unwise decision to deride his hometown industry while the newspaper business crumbles around him?
Where, oh, where, is the controversy in country music fans loving their country? Offended urbanistas (like big-city newspaper writers) never seem to ask whether they can be accused of their own superiority complex about how much smarter and more sophisticated they are than those ignorant rural rednecks.
Is divisive anger what these country musicians are selling? Take a quick look at lyrics from the Zac Brown Band song singled out by the Washington Post: "I thank God for my life/ For the stars and stripes/ May freedom forever fly, let it ring./ Salute the ones who died/ And the ones that gave their lives/ So we don't have to sacrifice/ All the things we love." Those things include fried chicken and beer and blue jeans.
Where, exactly, is a call to "closing ranks" in those lyrics? Is embracing freedom and the American military a form of "narrowcasting"? The only ones who could possibly be uncomfortable or feel excluded are those who don't embrace freedom.