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.