PC on Music Row
Larry Thornberry
by

It’s worse than we thought. Later than we thought. The totalitarian PC enforcers have even established a beachhead in country music. COUNTRY MUSIC!! Darkness and devils! Hives and hemorrhoids! Is anything or anywhere safe?

Country has always been the music home of more traditional, down-home, red-white-and-blue Americanos. Other music genres may have gone over to the dark side of noise and nihilism. (The only saving feature of hard rock and rap is that I can’t understand the words, about which words I am filled with dreadful surmise.) But conservatives have always felt welcome in the world of steel guitars, pick-up trucks, and cowboy hats. We’ve long accepted that New York, L.A., and San Francisco are occupied territory where our ideas are not only not welcome but verboten and subject to penalties. But has Nashville been captured as well? (I’m working on a deal to trade California to Mexico for a case of Dos Equis dark lager and a stale taco — we’ll retain Santa Barbara, Vin Scully, and Napa Valley. More on this at a later date.)

Read on and be amazed:

Last week was a busy one for news. So it may not have reached you yet that Mike Huckabee was obliged to resign from the Country Music Association Foundation less than a day after he was appointed to it. He bowed out, gracefully, after some CMA members, mostly talent agency types, put up a distinctly ungraceful clamor about his supposedly bigoted views on marriage and his support for gun ownership and the NRA.

To be clear, we’re talking about Mike Huckabee, former governor of Arkansas, former presidential candidate, former Southern Baptist preacher, an amateur country musician, and one of the most inoffensive people one is likely to encounter, even in a long life. And it’s those traditional Christian views that the trendy, with-it music executives find intolerable. Views, by the way, shared by a majority of country music fans.

Jason Owen — who manages such acts as Faith Hill, Kacey Musgraves, and Midland — and Whitney Pastorek — manager for Sugarland’s Kristian Bush — were the chief anti-Huckabee picadors. Owen put it this way: “I will not participate in any organization that elevates people like this to positions that amplify their sick voices.” Owen is a gay man married to a man and has children. He added: “Huckabee has made it clear that my family is not welcome in his America,” making it clear that Huckabee and the millions who still share the traditional Christian view of marriage are not welcome in Owen’s America.

“I find his choice to spend the last ten years profiting off the message of exclusion and hatred to be disqualifying,” was Pastorek’s hateful message, excluding Huckabee from civilization. She accuses Huckabee, on the basis of his conventional, off-the-rack conservatism, of “bigotry, racism, and sexism.” There’s also a bit of partisan politics in Pastorek’s pique. In addition to flogging country talent, Pastorek is an official in her local Tennessee Democrat Party organization.

Other CMA types objected in less colorful ways. Before the fertilizer storm got out of hand, Huckabee resigned from the board in a letter expressing far more charity and openness than was extended to him. (You can read his letter here.) He said he didn’t wish to be a distraction from the mission of the foundation, which officially is to promote and support music education programs for young people, though some CMA members are clearly under the impression that the mission is to advance the progressive project in all its forms and casting deplorables such as Mike Huckabee into outer darkness.

Once again, those who bang on the loudest about “inclusion” effectively exclude anyone who doesn’t agree with them on everything.

Were foundation members serious about their stated goal, they would have realized that Huckabee would be a perfect agent to help advance the cause. He was a consistent advocate for music education in the schools when he was governor of Arkansas. One can believe Huckabee when he says he would not use his position on the board to advance his religious or political views in the way that current CMA members are using their positions to advance theirs. As between Huckabee, Owen, Pastorek, et al., it’s easy enough to spot who the real bigots are.

One is entitled to wonder what the members of the George Jones Fan Club think of all of this. County music has a national audience now. But it remains most popular in the most conservative and most well-armed region of the country. Doubtless, members of the largely conservative and gun-friendly country music base will find this brouhaha as offensive as patriotic NFL fans find the coddling of padded and helmeted thugs who diss America. The NFL has paid a price in TV ratings as well as ticket and merchandise sales. Country music will pay a similar price if its leadership insists that everyone in or associated with the industry must truckle to every left cultural phantasm that comes down the road.

Is it now a requirement that anyone connected with the country music biz in any way be au courant with and enthusiastically in favor of whatever the LGBT political movement is demanding this week? And is it a requirement that country music apparatchiks look upon guns in the same way that Dracula looks upon sunlight and the True Cross? That appears to be the case at the CMA Foundation. Freedom lovers and life-time country music fans like me can pray that this dictatorial approach will not metastasize to the entire industry, which has enough problems already without adding PC tyranny to the mix. (Those problems include but are not limited to smoky stages, music that sounds like rock, and “country” artists who have turned in their cowboy hats and shirts in favor of gear acquired from the Hell’s Angels encore store, rigs more suitable for sleeping under bridges than for performing songs about lost love and yearning.)

And the unedifying flap was all so unnecessary. The CMA Foundation is described as the charity-arm of the CMA. On the evidence of this dreary episode we can conclude that “with charity for all” is not the reigning impulse at the foundation, at least where conservatives are concerned.

I’m glad Hank Sr., George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, and Patsy Cline aren’t here to see this.

Larry Thornberry
Larry Thornberry
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Larry Thornberry is a writer in Tampa.
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