Alex Massie

The T St Rag

Text settings

Here's the usually-savvy Helen Rittelmeyer:

Let’s take it as a given that Martin and Maltz are correct that Red Staters like to follow traditions and bicoastal elites like to question them; it certainly sounds true enough, at least as far as wild generalizations can be. Even given that assumption, most South Carolinians are more morally and philosophically sophisticated than most cosmopolitan Obamaniacs. Let’s put aside the question of whether or not New Yorkers really question their moral assumptions (although if someone else wanted to take up this line of argument, I wouldn’t stop them) and simply look at the end result of this Blue State skepticism. Most of the time, it’s some variation on the harm principle under which the most important ethical question becomes "Does it increase everyone’s happiness?" What could be less sophisticated?

Contrast this with the moral decision-making of a Red Stater who has unquestioningly accepted a truckload of inherited traditions (the clod!). He has to weigh love of country against love for his brother serving in Iraq, not to mention Christian morality, which has a thing or two to say about war. Or he might have to consider family loyalty versus the desire to do something about his sister’s alcoholism. Or loyalty to his wife versus passionate love for another woman. Cheating songs are a sign of moral sophistication (insofar as they take seriously both the sacred vow and true love), and I dare you to name one Blue State genre of music that can boast as many cheating songs as country.

There's plenty to chew on here. But most of it is, alas, nuts. To begin with, it's rarely a good idea to answer wild generalisations with a set of generalisations that are equally rabid. 

Sure, country music may be associated with the right, but that don't mean it's, like, right to do so. I'm guessing there are plenty country fans voting for Obama. Heck, Merle Haggard seems likely to be one.

What's worse, however, is this notion that there is a "Red" America and a "Blue" America. True, this is fostered by all the sweet and pretty maps, but it's still nonsense. To look at those maps you'd never think that a klutz such as John Kerry won almost 40% of the vote in Texas or that Bob Dole won the best part of four million votes in California in 1996.

But, look, just 'cos you love Johnny Cash don't mean much of a hill of beans when it comes to the Presidential election. Now I happen to agree that - for the foreigner - some, maybe most, of the "Red States" are more obviously "American" than some of the "Blue States" but that only means that, to my perspective, they are less like other parts of the world. That's to say, New York City is less unfamiliar to the foreigner than deepest, most glorious Alabama. This should not be either surprising or shocking.

And with the exception of Utah and Vermont, perhaps, it's tough for me to think of a "Red" or a "Blue" state anyway, let alone apportion musical genres to them in an odd attempt to score a political point.

That said, Duke Ellington was born on T St, NW Washington DC. Which is a pretty "Blue" voting district. And shouldn't his legacy count for something? Also, Motown. And hip-hop - wherever that arose...

[Hat-tip: Mr Larison]

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

Topics in this articleSocietymusic