By Sam Burnham
There's a lot of talk in the news of late about laws passed by Southern legislatures. We find ourselves under assault by various and sundry groups who claim that they are standing for this group or that and promising to boycott the states involved. We've heard from Bruce Springsteen of New Jersey, Bryan Adams of Canada, and now Ringo Starr of...well...wherever Ringo Starr is living these days. A compelling argument could be assembled suggesting that the latter two performers made this decision to attract attention to the fact that they are still performing and even touring. At this point many folks might be asking if Adams was in the band Chicago and talking about Ringo being, after George Martin, the Fifth Beatle.
I'm not going to discuss the laws. They aren't what this article is about. I'm not going to talk about the ubiquitous accusations of "bigotry" and "prejudice" that seems to get attached to everything done in the South that does not line up with progressive liberal philosophy, no matter how frustrating that trend has become.
What I want to talk about is the coercive steps that are constantly taken by non-Southern institutions to try to dictate policy and culture in the South. Why is it that people from New Jersey, Canada, and Parts Unknown (to me anyway) feel the need to try to strong arm us with liberalism? Do you ever see a group of Southerners descend on New York and Los Angeles and demand that they lower taxes, restore the 2nd Amendment, or respect private property rights? No. When we say we don't care how they do it, we mean it.
That being said, we are at a point in history in which we need to search our own souls and decide how much influence we are going to allow outside groups to have in shaping our culture. Bruce Springsteen has likely not read the law he claims to oppose. He has also likely not thought about the fact that without the South and her traditions he would be just a dude named Bruce sitting at home after his state's bad economic policy forced his employer to move the factory to Mexico. Without those Southern gospel, blues, and jazz roots, there would be no rock and roll to put filet mignon on his table.
What we must decide is whether Born in the USA is worth compromising our beliefs. Do you really care if you never hear Ringo's live cover of Don't Be Cruel? Close your eyes and imagine Bryan Adams singing in his raspy voice, "You know it's true, everything I do, including feebly aspiring to wreck your economy by not playing a concert for a bunch of empty nesting former soccer mom tourists in Biloxi, I do it for you."
What should we do? On the music front, our task is a pleasant one. The South and Appalachia are the birthplaces of almost every respectable music form that is indigenous to America. Good American music evolved from Southern traditions. And good music is a tradition that thrives today. In fact, if you do a little searching, I'm sure you'll find, within an hour or so from your home, a singer or group you've never heard of that is far better than any of the singers threatening to blackmail your state right now. They are just waiting for us to discover them, appreciate local talent, and quit sending our entertainment budget to Canada or New Jersey.
And music is not all there is. This is an opportunity to reclaim our identity. We have plenty of ugly in our past. We shouldn't try to deny that nor should we excuse it. But neither should we wring our hands in fear every time someone accuses us of bigotry. We know the truth and we can't let external forces hold us hostage. Be proud of your home and the culture we have here.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire