I’m a late comer to country music. Which is crazy because all of my uncles and especially my grandfather, the ultimate patriarch, loved all things country. I can see him now in his elder years (he died at 97) in his dress shorts with dress socks, a ten gallon Stetson and his cane hobbling over to his chair saying, “darlin’ turn on the cowboy movies for me” when he would be visiting us from the old country.
I’ve seen every John Wayne and (early days) Clint Eastwood and every other big name country movie ever made, ever, at least twice (and that’s a tempered estimate). I used to cringe and hide at the sound of the ricocheting bullets sounding the inevitable showdown with the quiet eerie of the desert hollowing out the sound in a menacing way into our living room. Now when I’m scrolling and I see one playing I stop to watch to the loud and heartwarming groans of my children, because I was them, once. My favorite is still The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. I think they made us watch this one in school as well so I got it from every end.
I know it’s easy to sum people up by this genre, laugh at their accents, look down your nose at the middle of the country, basic bitchness of it all. All I can say is don’t, we do such a disservice to each other when we do this. Like when I backpacked Europe and I ran into some of the rudest people. They hated me and I hadn’t even said anything. I was just there, alive, and American, and they wanted nothing to do with me. But for every one of them there were heaping handfuls of kind, helpful, true humans.
I remember in the Paris metro being hella lost with my friends. Fresh out of university with limited city time, I was reasonably new at navigating subways. I was the one who spoke French, university French but reasonably fluent none the less. I remember asking for help from one person, a student, who I thought would be sympathique as they say. Not so much. Holy Nasty Batman! along with a go back to your tasteless country snipe at the end. Ok, but we were still lost so I asked what should have been the worst person, a gentleman in a well cut, sleek suit, groomed and immaculate.
This man was the equivalent of a Harvard train M&A managing partner with homes in every quadrant of the world hitching the train because their driver was out sick for the day and wouldn’t it be a lark. This man could not have been kinder or more welcoming or helpful. He walked easily ten minutes out of his way to take us to our train tunnel talking about how he had just come back from Disney with his family and how much fun they had and how kind everyone had been. (We’ll talk about his questionable Disney feelings later.) But I know for a fact from living here all my life not everyone he encounter was so wonderful, but I also know from living for as long as I have, most of them probably were. And he was choosing to remember the real and true ones over the ones who exist to be angry, the trolls.
Give people a chance. The one thing I seem to do over and over in my stories is put together two judgmental people and then start trying to break down the barriers between them. We all have a story and most of them are worthy of respect and dignity. Something to remember when the mob sends out their call to arms. It’s time to send the trolls back underground they should have never been given a seat at the table.