Yet more evidence of sanity in the heartland yesterday as country music icon Merle Haggard , famous until now for his pro-war, pro-America anthems, “Okie from Muskogee” and “The Fightin Side of Me,” blindsided the entertainment industry with a radical new song titled, “That’s the News.” Haggard seems to have experienced “a turning of the heart” and, some would say, enlightenment. His new song is characterized by implicit but definite and strong criticism of the U.S. government’s desert wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and Big Media coverage of those wars. At his web site Haggard defends the Dixie Chicks, writing: “I don’t even know the Dixie Chicks, but I find it an insult for all men and women who fought and died in past wars when almost the majority of America jumped down their throats for voicing an opinion. It was like a verbal witch-hunt and lynching.”
Haggard’s is an American story: After losing his father at age 9, the rebellious young Haggard was in and out of reform school and eventually served time in San Quentin for burglary before straightening out his life through his devotion to wife, family, and a phenomenally successful career in country music that is widely acknowledged to be the result of talent and hard work. Haggard, with his string of 37 Top-Ten and 23 No.1 hits, was one of the two or three most popular and successful male singer-songwriters in country music in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.
Now 66 years old, Haggard seems to have a firm grasp of home truths that too many other Americans who love to think of themselves as patriots quite evidently do not understand:
Patriotism has very little to do with flag-waving jingoism. Any blithering idiot can swallow an all-you-can-eat buffet of propaganda whole, slap a flag decal on the car, truck, or SUV, and harbor a fearful hatred for “the other” in his or her heart. And many do just that. It takes gumption, time, effort and not a little courage to look beyond superficial and biased Big Media news coverage and come to an informed, thoughtful, and nuanced understanding of complex issues and events. Some patriots go off to war to protect the rest of us, while other patriots work with equal passion and at substantial risk to find alternative solutions, to prevent and/or bring an end to war. The wise among us respect the people and the rights of people on both sides of these life-and-death issues. As Tennessee columnist and author David Hunter has written: “If you think it’s the American way to shout down those who disagree with you and to subject them to contempt and ridicule for standing up to be counted, you were probably absent from school on the day your civics class studied the truth and principles upon which this country was founded–or you just weren’t listening.”
The Okie from Muskogee may have missed that early civics class, but it seems that he ultimately found his way to a deeper understanding.
Merle Haggard gets it.
Freelance Investigative Journalist and Commentator Michael Gillespie writes about Politics and Media for Media Monitors Network (MMN). His work also appears frequently in the popular Washington Report on Middle East Affairs.