Be warned: The following post has absolutely nothing to do with sports.
While listening (because I was in a place where the music was playing, not because I chose to) to some modern country music the other day I was put off by the general laziness of the song lyrics and the accompanying music. Essentially today’s country music is one generic song about partying in the country with a basic stereotype about country folks intertwined either accidentally or more likely purposely. It irritates me.
I grew up in the country on a small farm. I have been to a field party or two, I’ve been to the lake, I’ve likely been in the vicinity of all those songs. But that is not the summation of country living. I know for a fact that there is much more to it than that.
For instance my father and his father and most of my family grew up poor and rural. Their lives were not constant field parties with four wheel drives. Their lives were tough and work driven. They were lucky if the family had a vehicle to share amongst them. Go back and listen to the songs of that era and you will see a different type of “country” that reflects such a way of life. Listen to “Workin Man Blues” and maybe you’ll find what it really was to be from the rural working class.
In that era my grandfather who was both literate and formally undereducated (it is possible to be both) pushed all of his children to move forward, to pursue education so that they perhaps wouldn’t have to live such a hard life. He wanted better for his kids. That is not to say that he didn’t appreciate the life he lived, but that he understood that it was far from a big party.
His vision came to fruition. His children all graduated from high school and so did his grandchildren. Some graduated from college and hold advanced degrees. But we are all still from the country. And I guess this is part of what bothers me. Stupidity and ignorance and recklessness are not the rural attributes I recall. Not all of us are called to be brain surgeons, but the rural life of my youth was a place where grown ups acted like grown ups. And we valued intelligence in all its forms.
I suppose I grew up thinking the definition of a country boy (or girl) was somebody who could do it all. I envisioned someone who could put tobacco in the barn, put a basketball in the hoop and put a good book to use. Somewhere that view of rural life has evolved into the petty ridiculousness found too often in today’s country music. It lacks the thoughtfulness and the intelligence that really exists in the country and instead portrays us all as a bunch of party going morons. This is a shame.
There is a place out in the very edges of Monroe County that is very special to me. Without giving its location away, I will share that few have been given access to it. The men who bought the land and built the building that sits there are some of my favorite people. To me they are the definition of country boys. They can hunt, fish, build, drive, work, party…everything one would imagine. If the world was burning, I would want these guys with me because as Bocephus said, they would find a way to survive.
But among them are teachers and businessmen and financial advisors and manufactures and construction workers and farmers. They are literate. They can read. They are wildly intelligent and thoughtful. They are not your country music stereotype. Nor are most of us.
So my message to the young people especially who listen to this drudgery and believe they have to live accordingly or else be a traitor to their roots. No. What you are seeing on that CMT video or hearing on that pop song disguised as country music is not real. You can be from the country and still be smart. You can use the farm for more than a party. Education and responsibility are not for some citified elite but for all of us. After all, Robert Frost was a farmer.