Here’s a Christmas-y song that I think is beautiful:
The song was written and sung by Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders.
Here’s what Hynde said at a rock concert in 2003, not that long after the 9/11 attacks:
“Have we gone to war yet?” she asked sarcastically, early on. “We (expletive) deserve to get bombed. Bring it on.” Later she yelled, “Let’s get rid of all the economic (expletive) this country represents! Bring it on, I hope the Muslims win!”
I like several Pretenders songs (Back on the Chain Gang, for example), and this pretty much spoiled them for me. I’m not boycotting the group…I don’t turn the radio off if one of their songs comes on…it’s just…sad.
Fast forward to 2012. The Korean rapper known as Psy (“Gangnam Style”) was scheduled to perform at a Christmas concert (a benefit for Children’s National Medical Center) which is traditionally attended by the President of the United States. It turns out that in 2002, he smashed a model American tank onstage “to oppose 37,000 U.S. troops that descended on the Korean Peninsula” (in the words of a CBS Local writer who seems to be as ignorant of history as Psy himself evidently is)…and a couple of years later, he rapped:
Kill those f***ing Yankees who have been torturing Iraqi captives/Kill those f***ing Yankees who ordered them to torture/Kill their daughters, mothers, daughters-in-law and fathers/Kill them all slowly and painfully
This rant was apparently inspired at least in part by the murder in Iraq of a Korean missionary by Islamic terrorists after the SK government refused to cancel its plan to send troops in support of the Iraq war.
After the information about Psy’s past performances came out (and Psy issued a standard pro-forma apology). some people thought that Obama might have declined to attend a concert at which Psy was a star attraction. But they were wrong, and he did attend.
One would think it would be obvious that for the commander-in-chief to attend a Psy concert..given the above backstory..is highly disrespectful to American military people, and indeed to Americans as a whole. What would have been most appropriate would have been for the concert organizers to disinvite Psy. Failing this (and there might have been contractual reasons making it impossible even had the organizers been inclined this way), Obama could have issued a brief statement of regret that it was impossible for him to attend given Psy’s comments about Americans. This would have demonstrated that the President has respect for his own country, and that he expects such respect to be shown by others.
No one familiar with Obama’s history would really be surprised that he did not choose this course. What is slightly surprising, and more than slightly disturbing, is that Obama’s attendance seems to have been just fine with many Americans, and with most of the old-line media. This Atlantic writer, for example, uses the Psy-Obama handshake to bash any “right-wingers” who might see anything wrong with Obama’s presence at the concert.
Of course, when a couple of months ago Americans in Benghazi were actually killed, as opposed to just being threatened with being killed, most of the old media showed great lack of interest in digging into the feckless Administration behavior that led to this debacle.
What is pretty clear is that we have a substantial number of people in this country who simply do not identify as Americans. They may identify with their profession, or with their social class, or with their educational background and asserted intellectual position, or maybe even with their locality…but identification with the American polity is missing. (And this phenomenon seems to be strongest among those whose self-concept is most closely tied in with their educational credentials.)
What such people do generally care about…a lot..is coolness, which means they care about entertainers and celebrities. We now have a President who apparently cares more about the transient glory of being associated with a flash-in-the-pan rapper (and whoever else sang at this concert) than about showing respect to those he has the responsibility to command. And this is evidently just fine with many among the media and academic elites.
There’s an old science fiction book (The Star Seekers, Milton Lesser) in which the inhabitants of a multigenerational starship have lost the knowledge that they are aboard a moving space vessel and believe that their internal world is the whole universe. A boy on an initiation journey through the four spheres of the ship (which have become isolated from one another over time) realizes the truth about their larger journey, and that the ship is nearing its destination and will crash unless immediate action is taken. He encounters great difficulty in getting people to take the situation seriously. The people who are least interested in taking action are those who live in the Place of the Revelers. These people were apparently (generations ago) actors and entertainers, but now they only watch old videos and go to “empathy sessions.”
“The end of the world,” said Rolf. “And the Revelers don’t even play games. They do worse. They watch old pictures of people playing games, they sit in their overstuffed chairs and experience empathy.”
As I said in a comment here:
I think much the same is occurring in American society today: the “magical thinking” is that the safety and security of the recent past and of the affluent American environment can be extrapolated.
To which I would add: the “empathy” that today’s Masters of the Place of Revelers wish you to experience is highly artificial and restricted in its targeted objects.
And here’s another thought: What if, after the South Korean missionary was murdered, Psy had called not for the torture and killing of Americans, but rather had called for the torture and killing of Iraqi Muslims?…indeed, what if he had called for specifically for the torture and killing of Iraqi Al Quaeda members and their children and parents. Would Obama have attended his concert? Or would his multicultural sensitivities have prevented it?