Joining the ranks of Toby Keith, Darryl Worley, and Clint Black in the Warmongering Country Musicians Club is the inestimable Tim McGraw. I heard a new song of his the other day (or new for me, rather, since I don’t listen to the radio that often) called, “If You’re Reading This”. The ballad is written as a letter from a dead soldier to his wife, and is clearly meant to glorify the “heroism” of sacrificing oneself upon the altar of the State’s most grandiose program, War.
There was one part of the song that particularly stuck out to me, and struck a chord (pun intended) in my heart. It goes:
If you’re reading this
Half way around the world
I won’t be there to see the birth of our little girl
I hope she looks like you
I hope she fights like me
Stand up for the innocent and the weak
I’m laying down my gun
Hanging up my boots
Tell dad I don’t regret that I'd follow in his shoes
The first thing that hit me was the line “stand up for the innocent and weak”. It called to mind the propaganda we so often hear about our military, as justification for the pursuit of Empire, that our armed forces are agents of morality and virtue, who are holy warriors sent to crush “evil doers”, and usher in a golden, Utopian age of human dignity, prosperity, and enlightenment.
What a crock of shit.
I think back to when I was in high school. Admittedly, I was not the largest of kids, and on top of that, was a relatively docile kid. I wasn’t a troublemaker, and although I was a bit of a smartass, it was all in good fun. I had many friends, and I was always the type that wanted to bring people together for a good time. To satisfy my adolescent desire to rebel, I grew my hair long and listened to heavy metal music. Although I looked like I was a part of the thug crowd, it was more image than reality. I was probably the straightest kid in my school.
Of course, given my physical size and demeanor, I attracted a lot of bullies. Bigger kids who came from dysfunctional and abusive homes, looking satisfy their own longings for self-worth through the re-brutalization of others. Not surprisingly, I know more than a couple of them who went into the military after high school. These kids who found joy in tormenting smaller, weaker, more vulnerable kids for sport, now found jobs that would allow them to project their physical strength upon weaker targets, satisfying their craving for domination and brutality.
Now, Tim McGraw wants to celebrate these types as altruistic heroes who stand up for the weak and innocent.
Well, Tim…where was the heroism in standing up for the weak and innocent when Dave Barnes was busy humiliating a stable of terrified kids 40 or 50 pounds smaller than himself? Or when Effraim Lugo threatened to smash a kid’s skull into the pavement, grinding it to a “bloody mess” because he didn’t like the way he kept his hair? Or when a psychotic Dave Matekovich would routinely terrorize kids who were less than popular, attractive, or part of the “in” crowd, for nothing other than pure sport and entertainment for those who enjoyed witnessing degradation of another human being?
These types are heroes who stand up for the weak and innocent? Bullshit. These types would sooner brutalize the weak and innocent than protect them. That’s why they gravitated to a profession dedicated to the continued projection of domination and power, as the U.S. military invades backwater, 3rd world countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and Somalia, and countless other places where our technological superiority allows us to slaughter countless innocents. Stand up for the weak and innocent?
Two words: Bull. Shit.
A leopard can’t change his spots. I’d be more inclined to believe this propaganda if we could see how the weak and innocent were defended by these types when the only thing that guided their actions was their conscience. But they have no conscience. They are not reflective, self-sacrificing philsophers who pursue their career because of a natural longing for justice and righteousness. If they held those values in their hearts, they would not have been the sadistic predators that they were.
My message to Tim McGraw… I love your music, and you’ve recorded some of the most touching songs I’ve ever heard, largely in part because they speak bits of truth about our lives in ways that resonate. However, this one is beneath you. It is based on a lie, and is not what country music is about. As loudly as truth rings out in your songs, so too does falsehood. As as soothing as your music can be, this one burns.