Say What? – Hank Williams Jr.

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August 19, 2012

Hank Williams Jr. has been making headlines this weekend.  Perhaps you’ve heard?

At an Iowa State Fair performance, he sang one of his latest songs, “We Don’t Apologize for America.”   He followed the performance with this statement:

“We’ve got a Muslim president who hates farming, hates the military, hates the U.S., and we hate him.”

I don’t really care much what Hank Jr.’s politics are, and I don’t really care if he espouses his views from the stage. Obviously, the feelings of hate he projects on to the president and on this audience are a matter of opinion. I believe they are misguided and poorly supported opinions, at least regarding how the president feels about farming, the military, and the U.S., but they are opinions nonetheless.

In truth, his words are a fairly typical caricature of what a person on the left believes, made doubly unbelievable when describing a man who is actually the Commander in Chief of the military and has dedicated his life to public service. But I think only the most ideologically blinded person would believe otherwise anyway.

I want to talk about the factual error he makes in describing President Obama as a Muslim president, an oft-repeated lie that one must be completely misinformed and/or terminally naive to believe.  Still, it’s not the factual error that’s bothering me. It’s the othering that is deeply embedded in it.

Frankly, I am sick and tired of “Muslims” and “lovers of America” being treated as mutually exclusive groups.  It disgusts me to see the faith practiced by more than 2.5 million Americans as an epithet. I’m not even going to bother qualifying that statement by noting that there’s a good chance Hank Jr. has never met a Muslim person or is simply unaware about the actual tenets of

the religion and the  Americans who follow it.

I’m not going to bother because there is no excuse for being so ignorant. Not in the globalized world we live in. Not in the richly diverse country that we live in.  Not when we have so many thousands of years of recorded history where dividing a nation’s population into “us” vs. “them” has resulted in so many horrific acts of violence, genocide, and oppression.  Not when there are so many other marginalized groups that are dismissed, devalued, and degraded because they are “them” and not “us.”

From the Iowa State Fair stage on Friday night, Hank Williams Jr. made a blatant appeal to the most base and vile instinct that lurks in the darkest parts of us: “You are not like me.  You do not believe what I believe.  You are the enemy.”

I’m sure Hank  would be quick to profess his deep and unwavering love for America. How tragic that he has so much contempt and vitriol for millions of his fellow Americans.

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  1. DevinNo Gravatar says:

    It just embarrasses me that most of my political beliefs (and the genre of music I love) is portrayed to the public by ignorant people like this.

    When Hank Jr. spouts off some garbage like this, it’s like every conservative, southern, white male (myself) is instantly branded a hateful, unintelligent racist. Obviously not EVERYONE thinks that, but you’d be surprised how often people judge just because of where you’re from, your political beliefs, or even the genre of music you listen to.

    Politics are a polarizing thing and they tend to illicit a lot of rash and hateful things. There’s really no solution to problems like this one. And that makes me want to avoid political matters at all costs, despite it being very important (and something I find genuinely interesting).

  2. Greg MNo Gravatar says:

    I hope this passes the word along, and everyone then burns Hank Jrs. Discs, starts bomb fires, and Country Music bans him from anything radio related from here on out.

    Why do you ask? Well, compare what he just said to what the Dixie Chicks said in 2003? If that top paragraph does not happen, THAN THE COUNTRY MUSIC INDUSTRY AND THOSE “FANS” ARE A BIG BUNCH OF HYPOCRITES. I don’t care if I’m harsh, or I’m talking to the right crowd. What I just read a lot more harsh than anything Natalie Maines said and those consequences should be a whole lot more worse.

  3. Jake JNo Gravatar says:

    This is what we call racism kids. Disguised in many forms but always just as toxic. And I agree with ya Greg everyone should be treated equal. It was practically a 21st century witch-hunt on the Dixie Chicks, yet Hank gets numerous passes? Oh that’s right he’s a conservative white-republican man, he’ll always get a freebie. That makes sense doesn’t it?

  4. Ben FosterNo Gravatar says:

    Well said, Kevin. It’s very sad to see a country artist of Williams’ stature using his platform to promote such hatred.

  5. JohnNo Gravatar says:

    The saddest part of this to me is that I’m not surprised by this at all. What kind of a country is this?

  6. Tara SeetharamNo Gravatar says:

    Disgusting.

  7. Noah EatonNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t even watch television anymore, just so I can eschew the ideological groupthink that has saturated so much of that medium and turn my attention to what really matters most to me: social consciousness…….which volunteering frequently, I’ve found, brings out the best in how we all truly interrelate.

    I have also found the more I take the bus across country lines, the more I find my relational empathy sharpen, and understand the sentiments those who have decidedly more rural livelihoods, for instance, have in fear of new development weakening their sense of heritage and communal identity, while also experiencing the often overlooked beauty in urban settings……..and how the best of both settings often truly overlap, from urban farming to large-scale street fairs in smaller communities.

    As much as accounts like this sadden my heart deeply, I aspire not to let it dwell on my mind too much and continue to go out of my way to volunteer and experience more of the community, with the belief that even broadening your day-to-day experience to the slightest can achieve wonders for the better and ultimately open us up to one another more.

  8. CMWNo Gravatar says:

    Well said, Kevin. Hank has really been taking the contempt for anyone unlike himself to an intensely unflattering extreme here lately, setting the cause of real thinking conservatives back a good bit in the process. The stuff he’s spewing is actually dangerous.

  9. SweetcheeksNo Gravatar says:

    I think Kevin’s commentary is excellent.

    Anyway, its not new that political rhetoric is often heated; even George Washington’s opponents pictured him as an ass. But Hank Jr’s comments go beyond the pale, and I say this as someone who has been quite critical of Obama before. Hank’s commentary isn’t the normal, standard fare vitriol and name-calling, its a poisonous stew of hatred and ignorance. It is sad; I don’t know what more to say.

  10. bobNo Gravatar says:

    Great article. Since he accused President Obama of hating the military, I was a bit curious about this super patriot’s military service. I checked his website but couldn’t find anything. Since he was born in 1949, the Vietnam war was well under way when he turned 18 in May of 1967. There’s no mention of his attending college and the draft lottery didn’t begin until 1970. The draft itself ended June 30, 1973. How did old Hank express his love of the military back then?

  11. bllNo Gravatar says:

    Amen. How sad it is in today’s supposedly ‘enlightened’ society that this bile is still being spewed by anyone let alone someone from a stage. When did being a religion other than one based in Christianity become an ideology to be condemned? After all we are a secular country with rights to freedom of and FROM religion. How sad that so many ‘Christians’ display such ignorance and bigotry whilst being so vocal about it.

  12. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    Hank Jr. is in a class with John Wayne, Charlie Daniels, Ted Nugent, Chuck Norris, and other blow-hard right-wingers who talk a big game about “patriotism”, but who don’t back it up with any real meaningful action like millions of others either have done willingly or have been forced to do. His is the kind of patriotism that philosopher Samuel Johnson once called “the last refuge of a scoundrel.” And Hank Jr. himself is the lowest of scoundrels in my book.

  13. stephanieNo Gravatar says:

    Wouldn’t be surprised if he still walks around with a white sheet over his head at times! People like this are cowards and only take advantage of fear and ignorance to get what they want. Because in the end that is what it is all about again; greed and the need to only make sure you have a good life, not feeling the necessity to share! This man has never done anything for his country, he just confuses stuff and thinks that singing about patriotism makes him a patriot. Don’t give him attention, give that to people who really earn it! He is an embarrassment to his country and to the south.

  14. luckyoldsunNo Gravatar says:

    I have a lot of old Hank Jr. discs and believe he was a good artist.
    But this latest stuff from Jr. is just repulsive. I saw the interview that he did on Fox News last year that started this off, and frankly, he appeared to be brain damaged. Whether it was strictly from alcohol and drugs–or maybe a delayed effect of his falling off the cliff–I don’t know. But I’ve heard enough vile rantings from him and I’ve heard about his latest CD that I have no intention to ever hear the disc.

  15. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar says:

    Let’s leave John Wayne out of this – he’s been dead for 33 years. Moreover, the Wiki has this to say about him (an account I’ve seen corroboration): “America’s entry into World War II resulted in a deluge of support for the war effort from all sectors of society, and Hollywood was no exception. Wayne was exempted from service due to his age (34 at the time of Pearl Harbor) and family status, classified as 3-A (family deferment). He repeatedly wrote to John Ford, asking to be placed in Ford’s military unit, but consistently postponed it until “after he finished one more film”,[27] Wayne did not attempt to prevent his reclassification as 1-A (draft eligible), but Republic Studios was emphatically resistant to losing him; Herbert J. Yates, President of Republic, threatened Wayne with a lawsuit if he walked away from his contract[28] and Republic Pictures intervened in the Selective Service process, requesting Wayne’s further deferment.[29]

    Wayne toured U.S. bases and hospitals in the South Pacific for three months in 1943 and 1944…”

    Chuck Norris four years in the USAF, so I’d say he did his share. Moreover, he’s had significant involvement in charitable matters.

    I can’t really speak to Charlie Daniels or Ted “Kill It and Grill It” Nugent.

    I suspect that Hank Jr is suffering delayed effects of his fall, perhaps coupled with the effects of some form aging related illness such as Alzheimers or some other form of dementia.
    The young Hank Jr was considerably different that the version that emerged after his nearly fatal injuries. I’ll just say that during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s he was a great artist. Since then he’s become a characture of himself

  16. Kevin John CoyneNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t think that you have to serve in the military to be patriotic or to support military action.

    That disclaimer aside, Ted Nugent’s dodging of military service is legendary, at least in some of his personal recollections of it:

    http://www.snopes.com/politics/military/nugent.asp

  17. [...] not like me.  You do not believe what I believe.  You are the enemy.”  -Kevin Coyne in this from-the-gut post. A must read. Share this:Share Tags: Country Universe, Hank Williams Jr. Click here to cancel [...]

  18. There’s one very important point here, as regards public reaction: mainstream radio hasn’t really paid Hank, Jr. any attention since the early 90s. It’s hard to want to see him denied radio play since no one really plays his new stuff anyway. That’s quite different from where the Dixie Chicks were in March, 2003, when they were on the cusp of their third consecutive #1 from Home.

    Essentially, he has a free pass to say and do as he pleases. How much money is he even generating for Curb Records? It can’t be much, since he hasn’t had a gold or platinum certification from the RIAA since his Greatest Hits was certified 5x platinum nine years ago. So what if he upsets people who weren’t buying his music anyway? He’s very unlikely to lose any of the active fan base he still has.

    And there’s the rub. Throughout the Obama administration, I’ve heard one outrageous thing after another from one crank after another. Each time, someone dismissed their views by saying, “It’s just that one guy. Who cares what Donald Trump/Ted Nugent/Hank, Jr./whomever says?”

    Except, it’s not just that one guy. They give voice to scores of people who think and feel the same way. That’s why it’s so disgusting. If it was just Hank, Jr., so be it. As someone tweeted last year when he spouted off over the Obama/Boehner golf match:

    “I trust Hank Williams Jr on Political Theory almost as much as I trust Hank Williams Jr on Good Clean Livin.’”

    https://twitter.com/JohnFugelsang/status/120988029052653568

    The problem isn’t with this one paranoid bigot. The problem is with the millions (and yes, there are millions) of paranoid bigots for whom he really does speak. Any discussion about Hank or any of the others must acknowledge that these are not isolated incidents of marginal cranks running their mouths. They represent a very strong strain of people and it is an egregious mistake to underestimate how dangerous they are.

  19. Erik NorthNo Gravatar says:

    One thing I widely suspect about HW Jr. now is that, at the very least, he is extremely uncomfortable about there being a colored guy in the White House. And at the worst, I suspect him of being, if not a closet member of the Klan, then probably an out-in-the-open member of the John Birch Society, which is just a couple of steps removed from the Klan.

    Whatever the case may be, we need to speak out against demagogues of his ilk who clearly want to take this country backwards to when anyone who wasn’t White was to be bullied, beaten, or lynched. Those people have no place in America whatsoever.

  20. EthanNo Gravatar says:

    I agree with John that the most disappointing thing about the points Kevin makes is that they’re not surprising at all. But it IS rare to hear such clear-headed outspokenness in the arena of country music about this blatant ignorance that infects the fan base. As an aspiring country artist, and a gay man, I can only hope that “othering” will soon die out if country music is to be, as Tim McGraw said at the CMA Awards years ago, “truly music for everyone.”

  21. TomNo Gravatar says:

    …where just does this absurd conviction derive from that love for one’s country would appear so much bigger, when linked with putting down others?

    “too country? – i don’t understand…” (“whispering” bill anderson)

  22. ZING!

    Thanks, Kevin. This post makes a far more elegant point than I can.

  23. GloFishNo Gravatar says:

    Sounds like he’s fallen off the wagon…

    Make no doubt about it, he made some fabulous music back in the ’70s and into the late ’80s, “Pride’s Not Hard to Swallow” is an under heard masterpiece, but his buffoonery since he jumped on the Palin freight train to nowhere has just been a sad, embarrassing epilogue to his legacy.

  24. His bizarre fixation on the idea of his parents living happily ever after has always convinced me he’s not terribly comfortable living in the world the rest of us live in anyway. There was, of course, the report a few years ago when his daughters were hospitalized following that accident that he had pitched a fit to get them a white doctor. In fairness, I dismissed it as gossip but I admit it certainly didn’t surprise me that the guy who recorded “If the South Woulda Won” might not embrace racial diversity.

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