One of the sites I regularly visit is Juanita Jean’s–The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon. The proprietor of that establishment–a Texan who posts as “Miss Juanita Jean herownself-“-reminds me a lot of the late, great Molly Ivins. Over the past couple of years, she has shared posting tasks with several others, and while most lack her wit–and brevity– the site remains a good source of Texas criticism and occasional snark.
I’m not a fan of country music– or for that matter, the contemporary music scene of any genre (actually, nothing much since Dean Martin and/or the Limelighters…) –but I’ve certainly seen reports about the song and the reactions to it. The racism was evidently barely veiled, leading to the deletion of some Black Lives Matter video, but the linked post by Nick Carraway focused on the song’s even more damaging stereotype: the belief that “small town” people are somehow different–and nicer–than the evil “others” who populate the country’s urban hell-holes.
As Carraway writes:
In looking at the lyrics for Jason Aldean’s song “Try that in a Small Town” you can see the subtle nods towards racism. When looking at the video you can’t avoid the subtle nods for racism. Left vs. Right is the main fault line everyone focuses on, but big town vs. small town is another fault line. There are others. Honest vs. Dishonest. Asshole vs, Kind. Narcissist vs. Empathetic. America has always been a collection fault lines and separations. Essentially we have made it through by standing with people we have common cause with even if we have other areas where we disagree. As much as the overt racism and sexism bothers me, there was something else I noticed immediately.
“Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk
Carjack an old lady at a red light
Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store
Ya think it’s cool, well, act a fool if ya like.”
I hate to be the “nobody is talking about” guy, but there is an image inherent here about big city life. I’m sure this is what people in small towns believe. It’s only been shoved down their throats for decades. Hell, the 2017 inaugural address was titled “American Carnage”. It was offensive on any number of levels, but more offensive to me as a writer. It was like a sixth grade thought experiment where the winner got his/her dystopian essay read on national television.
The biggest fault line dividing America today is fact vs. fiction. Aldean is telling a terrific story here. You could probably picture Gotham from all of those Batman movies where everyone was afraid to go outside and crime was just around the corner. SNL had a sketch years ago where they talked about someone in New York getting mugged every thirty seconds. So, they just made it the same guy. Chicago, Portland, New York, and Los Angeles are all billed as hell on earth. Yet, crime statistics per capita would tell you that they are statistically more safe than traditional red areas.
As Carraway says, this mythology has morphed from “left versus right” to fiction versus nonfiction. Songs like this one paint a picture of “big city” life that is–as he correctly notes –about as true as a dystopian novel.
Several commenters to the post offered confirming examples drawn from the small towns they’d grown up in; others offered statistical confirmation of Carraway’s point. As he wrote in response to those comments:
It’s the politics of exaggeration. Do carjackings happen? Sure, of course they do. Do they happen at red lights? I suppose there’s a non-zero chance of that happening. Of course people rob liquor stores. I’ve never heard of anyone being sucker punched on the street but I suppose anything can happen….
I suppose the hysteria over “Democrat run cities” and “groomers” makes perfect sense in that bubble. If the gay/lesbian/bi/trans population were really 20 percent as they believe, then something nefarious is happening. Except it’s not happening at that rate. None of it is.
(Actually, I wouldn’t consider 20% of the population being gay as nefarious. I’d welcome it. What is genuinely “nefarious” is the 20% or 30% who are MAGA….)
I call these fantasies about urban life “alternate realities.” Carraway calls them fiction. Both terms apply far more accurately to the lunatic caucus in Congress, where the GOP is currently “investigating” alien life and looking for little green men…which raises a question:
Since people like Aldean are so frightened of those urban Black folks, I wonder how they’d react to Green ones…