I’m thinking of re-naming my blog, “Notes of a Culture Wars CO,” that is, “Conscientious Objector,” for those born since 1970. Last week I cited the song, “Rich Men North of Richmond,” by Oliver Anthony, because my editor at Mockingbird had spliced it into an article of mine titled, “Grace for the Hillbilly.”
Ever since Anthony’s song caught fire, the combatants in the culture wars have been trying to peg, box, claim, or deny Anthony and his song. So locked in to the culture war are its combatants that they cannot, apparently, conceive of someone who is not taking up arms. The story is told in this Free Press article.
Anthony was claimed by the right when his song was the basis for a question in last week’s Republican debate. Here’s Anthony on that curious turn of events: ” . . . the idea that he has been embraced by the political right baffles him. ‘If anything,’ he said, his music is “more about the right than the left. He added: ‘I’m singing more about, like, a lot of the older, super conservative politicians that brought us into endless war through my entire childhood.’” On the use of his song at the GOP debate he said, “It was funny seeing my song. . . at the presidential debate, because it’s like, I wrote that song about those people.”
Anthony agrees with David Brooks, that making it all about politics isn’t the answer. “Those looking to politics to fix the brokenness of our culture and our country, he said, are looking in the wrong place. ‘You could find the most perfect human being in the world and put them in the White House. The problem isn’t the White House or the federal government. The problem is us—like human to human is where we fix our country. We don’t need the government to save us. We just need to save each other.’”
Meanwhile, progressives/the left looked for reasons to hate on Anthony. “So, they zeroed in on his song’s apparent criticism of welfare recipients (if you’re five-foot-three and you’re 300 pounds/taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds) and, worse yet, his nod to the QAnon conspiracy theory that political elites are running a secret child-trafficking ring: I wish politicians would look out for miners/And not just minors on an island somewhere.
“Except,” as The Free Press article argues, “he’s not really criticizing welfare recipients as much as a government policy that allows them to hurt themselves. ‘We live in a country where, like, food is ridiculously expensive,’ Anthony told me. ‘Commercial agriculture has encapsulated most of North America’s land.’ He added: ‘Even the food that a middle-class American buys from the grocery store—a lot of it is just, it’s terrible for us, you know?’”
And it sounds to me like he’s telling the QAnon pedophilia peddlers, to pay attention to real people not on-line conspiracy shit.
Hard to peg this guy. Which seems to be driving the culture warriors nuts. It is telling that someone called a voice of “the working classes,” is getting dumped on by “progressives” and the left. I guess progressives/the left aren’t interested in those folks, the working class, any longer.
Anthony’s advice for America? Talk to each other. “If there’s anything anyone could do immediately to start fixing things, it would be to stop looking at their phones so much and start looking at people around them and trying to just have conversations with them,” Anthony said. “The best way we heal in the immediate is for us to start having actual conversations with each other. I think that’s probably a good start. We know very little about each other.”
Our apparent need to judge and classify everyone according to which side they are on in the great polarization. “The Culture Wars,” is the problem, not the solution. People are more interesting and unpredictable than the boxes we want to assign them.
I hope Oliver Anthony survives being caught in the middle. I hope we all do.