Look in the Mirror
The unqualified arrogance of last week's letter from Michael Crowley was astounding ("Democracy Defeats Terrorism," issue of Dec. 1-7). For "an old man who knows his history," Crowley is remarkably full of cliche, chauvinism and ignorance.
According to Crowley, "radical Islam — distinguished from Islam itself" is "barbaric," "bloody" and needs to be "erased." I wonder who he talks about here? When Malcolm X spoke of achieving freedom by any means necessary, was this "radical Islam?" Were the rebellious Africans on the slave ship Amistad followers of "radical Islam?"
What exactly does Crowley mean with this vague phrase? Perhaps he's referring to the so-called "insurgents" fighting a foreign occupation of their country? Or maybe George Bush's business partners in Saudi Arabia?
Crowley further asserts that "free and educated people don't become barbaric and blood-thirsty religious zealots."
Surely he doesn't have America in mind here! Even a cursory knowledge of the facts shows otherwise.
American history is littered with barbarity, blood and zealotry — "witches" burned at the stake, genocide of the native population, the enslavement of Africans. Radical Christian terrorists have bombed buildings in Oklahoma and assassinated abortion providers. Jerry Falwell publicly threatened the lives of gays and lesbians in his sermon. Worse yet, the most infamous radical Christian terrorist organization, the Ku Klux Klan, was permitted to rally on our own Fountain Square for nearly a decade!
The U.S. imprisons more of its population than any other country in human history and continues to execute prisoners at a rate surpassed only by Iran and China. Furthermore, America has invaded dozens of the poorest countries on earth, including Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, Puerto Rico, Grenada, Vietnam, Korea, Afghanistan and Iraq.
Zionist Israel's record is not much better when it comes to racism and brutality. In fact, all of the world's major religions have been used as a cover for brutality, oppression and warfare. And America's record is surely among the worst, which is why the world continues to oppose the war on Iraq. But Crowley prefers to scapegoat the Muslims.
If we're really interested in peace and freedom, we need to fight our own rulers first.
Intolerant and Stupid Epithet
I find it funny yet disheartening that a band or a writer would throw around the word "hillbilly" so off-the-cuff (Locals Only, issue of Nov. 24-30). I also find it degrading and overtly prejudiced. Frankly, I'm ashamed of both parties.
CityBeat is supposedly a forward-thinking, progressive publication centered around the arts and tolerance, and you should have known better than to print this story about a certain band whom I won't name and their use of the deroguatory term "hillbilly" (Editor's note: The band is locals Straw Boss) and try to put such a hip, modern, super-alternative spin on good old-fashioned adolescent name-calling. I personally don't know the gentlemen of whom I speak, and I doubt they truly meant any harm, but this has to be said: Ignorance is no excuse.
At one time, music performed by African Americans in this country was also referred to as "nigger music" or "race music." Does this make it OK for us to call it that today? I clearly think not. Not only is it disrespectful and in bad taste, it just might also get you a beatdown!
I don't, for a minute, believe that if you said to Jay-Z or Stevie Wonder or Bootsy Collins or the late, great Ray Charles, "Wow, man, you're really returning to the roots of nigger music. I love it!" you'd get away with it. You'd be called out for what you are — an ignorant cracker. And I'm white. And I also play music out in a local band, and I've played and enjoyed all kinds of music throughout my life.
I think what we have here are four or five guys who think if they dress the part, wear their hair just right, play acoustic instruments and have a "Bluegrass/Rockabilly feel" they can get away with saying crass things like "we play hillbilly music." Wrong.
Real Bluegrass and mountain music doesn't mean you put on the right shirt and cut your hair like it's 1950 and that makes you part of the club. It means you know your roots and the roots of American popular music and the cultural differences that lead individuals toward a certain style of music, and you respect them. Bluegrass and mountain music are proud traditions, not something to be parodied.
Have you ever heard the term "blackface?" Al Jolson ring a bell? Or are you too much of a good ol' hillbilly to know about or face those things? The comparison is exactly the same.
Yes, I'm saying that under no uncertain terms calling someone or something "hillbilly" is a put-down, no different than calling someone "nigger," "wop," "dego," "kike," "kraut," "mick," "muck," "camel jockey" or whatever. The list goes on, and it's gutter talk, not material fit for a decent publication such as the CityBeat.
I've been to real Bluegrass festivals held in such glorious places as middle school gymnasiums in Eastern Kentucky to benefit a local resident who's dying of cancer or who's recently had a bad car accident or some other terrible misfortune. Bluegrass and mountain music are about the downtrodden, the coal miner whose back is stiff from bending and crawling through dark, treacherous places to make a dollar to feed his or her family, all the while knowing the coal company he or she works for is slowly but surely taking the ground that his family was raised on as well as poisoning his water and polluting his air. It's music about injustice, black lung, corrupt politicians, moonshine, God, real life.
The guys and gals in these psuedo-Southern-flavored bands are missing the point. They're the same people who yell "Play some Skynyrd" at shows and then giggle and say "What a bunch of hillbillies" under their breath. It's a slam, plain and simple, and since I proudly live and work on the south side of the river, where we have a long tradition of great contributors to music of all kinds — ranging from Stephen Foster to Ricky Skaggs to My Morning Jacket to Nappy Roots — I take offense to it. It's just another instance of the division, instead of cooperation, in the music scene around Greater Cincinnati.
We live on the historical and geographic faultline, and although some of these aforementioned ladies and gentlemen might live or even be from the South, they're alienating themselves from a portion of audiences who are enlightened enough to be aware that you don't call someone a hillbilly in this day and age. It simply shows your own intolerance and stupidity.
I would never walk up to Dr. Ralph Stanley or Loretta Lynn or Willie Nelson or any other great Country, Bluegrass or mountain musician and call them a hillbilly. Anyone should know that.