FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Merle Haggard: "Let’s Get Out of Iraq"

The other day, a friend sent me a long e-mail string from a chatroom about back-and-forth arguments over whether or not Merle Haggard is the all-time if greatest country artist. Almost in baseball terms, people were contemplating who is the MVP in country music history as songwriter, musician, performer, recording artist, bandleader, icon, etc. Several people posited Johnny Cash as a likelier candidate. Then the Willie Nelson advocates chimed in.

Discussions such as that are all well and good, but I feel like citing Waylon Jennings’ reasoning as to why he, by and large, greatly disliked and tried to avoid music awards shows: He felt there shouldn’t be competition between musical artists. He said it was hard enough being one and trying to live up to his own high standards, without being measured and judged — largely by non-artists. I agree with that.

That said, there is little doubt that Haggard’s achievements will stand as being among the highest in all of popular music history, not just in country music. His new album, Chicago Wind, is a fresh reminder of just why he is so important. And it speaks volumes about him that he was asked this year to open shows for both Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.

At age 68, he’s just about seen it all and done it all and heard it all, but he still has many things on his mind. Over the years, he’s commented on the state of affairs in this country, but he’s never been politically predictable. Haggard has always been deeply patriotic, but obviously that does not always mean hewing to a particular political stance or political party. He speaks his mind.

His “Okie From Muskogee” and “The Fightin’ Side of Me” were very much socially polarizing songs. More than once, I was in Texas bars or nightclubs back in the day when I had long hair and much of the clientele in those joints did not. When those songs came on the jukebox, you could count on the tension level being ratcheted up, and you knew to expect some remarks and a veiled threat or two. And you always measured the distance to the door and your car.

So Haggard is not afraid to speak his mind. And he does so again, very frankly, in the song, “Rebuild America First.”

“That’s the News,” his 2003 song commenting on Iraq, pretty much chastised the government and the media for swallowing the administration’s spin that the war was over and won. Now he moves on to the matter of the U.S. being in Iraq, period. “Rebuild America First” is pretty honest and blunt. In part, he sings:

“Yea, men in position but backing away
Freedom is stuck in reverse
Let’s get out of Iraq and get back on the track
And let’s rebuild America first.”

Haggard also comments on the current political and social scene in the song, “Where’s All the Freedom?” He describes a country almost paralyzed by uncertainty, a nation where the Ten Commandments can’t be displayed, where the grandparent of a soldier in Iraq can’t afford to buy gasoline to drive to the grocery store, where individual rights are uncertain anymore.

He concludes: “Are we a nation under God anymore/How long do we cower down/Is this really still our ground/Our country is like a prisoner of war/Where’s all the freedom that we’re fightin’ for.”

As a revered country music pioneer — and as an American citizen — Haggard has earned the right to speak out. I think it’s laudable that he does so when many other country artists feel — rightly so, unfortunately, in many cases — that to do so would jeopardize their careers with retail and radio. They’re probably right. It would risk harm to their careers. Haggard isn’t worried about that anymore. Good for him, agree with him or not. Country music was built on frankness and honesty. It still needs frankness and honesty.

CHET FLIPPO, longtime music journalist, is editorial director of CMT.com, where this column originally appeared.

 

More articles by:

December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
Ajamu Baraka
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70: Time to De-Colonize Human Rights!
Andrew Levine
Thoughts on Strategy for a Left Opposition
Jennifer Matsui
Dead of Night Redux: A Zombie Rises, A Spook Falls
Rob Urie
Degrowth: Toward a Green Revolution
Binoy Kampmark
The Bomb that Did Not Detonate: Julian Assange, Manafort and The Guardian
Robert Hunziker
The Deathly Insect Dilemma
Robert Fisk
Spare Me the American Tears for the Murder of Jamal Khashoggi
Joseph Natoli
Tribal Justice
Ron Jacobs
Getting Pushed Off the Capitalist Cliff
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail