Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Like Austin But Different

I have lived in Austin but it was at another time when I was another person and George W. Bush was still the Governor.   Austin has long been an it city and Nashville is trying to claim that crown as the high point of the social calendar is the Stanley Cup and the Predators bringing a true award to a city that is full of them, just musically related.

As I wrote in the last post I struggle in Nashville/Smashville daily.  I don't think I could live in Austin today either as the political climate there has dramatically changed to resemble more of Tennessee only with fisticuffs.  But hey we have the Beav!  No one brings the smut to the party like Mae Beaver.  Did I say smut? I mean stuff.  This hateful woman has a bag of hate she will bring with her on her run for the Governor's gig.  Yikes it makes me miss Bush in any gig at this point.

I just found this article in the Guardian and it perfectly summarizes the division that marks the old country with the new. 

Nashville lies at the heart of a divided country: ‘Trump got bubbas to the polls’

As the president staged a rally attended largely by out-of-towners, Democratic-leaning denizens of Tennessee’s ‘Brooklyn’ pondered an urban-rural rift

Repentant Trump voter James Walker in Nashville, Tennessee. ‘I thought it would be a positive change and it would shake things up. It has shaken things up but in a bad way.’

David Smith in Nashville
UK Guardian Friday 19 May 2017

Men in stetsons, check shirts and jeans swing their partners around to the thrum of drums, fiddle, keyboard and steel guitar of Mike Oldham & The Tone Rangers. The walls at Robert’s Western World in Nashville, Tennessee, are coated with beer logos spelled out in neon or on lampshades or mirrors, old concert posters, photos of country music greats and three rows of cowboy boots for sale. The tiled floor is barely visible under the heaving crowd.

At this and other honky tonk bars on Broadway, Nashville’s main tourist drag, the music is old country: songs about drink, divorce, hardscrabble heartbreak, the miserable struggle to make ends meet. It is a playlist that has taken on new resonance in the era of Donald Trump, like a requiem for white working class voters in small towns who, feeling left behind with nothing to lose, propelled him to the White House.

But Nashville is a booming city where southern civility, religion and conservatism collide with a young, creative and liberal population. Paradoxically, the heart of country music is increasingly at odds – in class, culture and politics – with the heartland that surrounds it. In this it mirrors the dislocation of other burgeoning American cities that are islands of Democratic blue in deep red Republican states.

“There is a vast gulf in ideology and approach to the world,” said Bruce Dobie, a Nashville-based media entrepreneur. “It’s just crazy right now. My street and city are overwhelmingly Democratic. We’re astonished by everything we see at the moment.”

Dobie estimated that when the US president rolled into Nashville on Wednesday for a campaign-style rally, around 80% of the crowd was from out of town. Trump’s warm-up acts were country singers the Gatlin Brothers and Lee Greenwood, whose rendition of “God bless the USA” earned a cheer with the words “to the hills of Tennessee”. Trump joined him on stage, grinned, shook his hand and raised two thumbs up as the crowd chanted “USA! USA!”, some with fists raised, in a near-religious frenzy.

“So I’m thrilled to be here in Nashville, Tennessee, the home of country music, southern hospitality and the great president Andrew Jackson,” Trump said, referring to the 19th-century populist described by the state museum as “champion of the common man” and notorious for forcing Native Americans off their land.

The crowd waved signs including “Promises made, promises kept”, “Lefty media lies” and “Women for Trump”. Carma Williams, 63, a retired office manager who had travelled from 70 miles away, said: “I love him because he’s honest. He’s doing everything he said he would do during the campaign. I think he’s the first president who’s done that.”

Outside the Nashville Municipal Auditorium there was a modest gathering of protesters. One stood out. James Walker was wearing a red “Make America great again” baseball cap, sunglasses, a beard, a black North Face jacket and khaki trousers. He held aloft a sign that said: “I’ve made a huge mistake.”

The 31-year-old explained: “I voted for Trump. I thought it would be a positive change, a change that Obama didn’t come through on, and it would shake things up. It has shaken things up but in a bad way. I realise now that some of the things that were just campaign promises seemed to carry on beyond the election and become a reality.”

Walker, who grew up in California and spent two years in the military, said he ordered the trademark “Make America great again” hat many weeks ago but it had only just arrived. “So that was the spark: I know what I’m going to do with this.”

He expressed a desire for atonement. “I don’t know what that’s going to be but this is the first step: showing up and being honest.”

Walker now works as a wine broker and lives across the Cumberland river in east Nashville, dubbed the city’s “own Brooklyn” with its embrace of beards, tattoos and artisanal foods, along with Jack White’s record label and an explosion of diverse guitar bands and songwriters. Walker added: “It’s mostly Democratic, blue territory. Only a few of my friends admitted to voting for Trump and did so in confidence. Today is the first day I’ve gone public.”

Beside him at Wednesday’s demonstration was Lisa Kaas Boyle, an environmental attorney holding a bag that posed the question: “What would Dolly do?” – a reference to country music hall-of-famer Dolly Parton, who supports gay rights but said of Trump and rival Hillary Clinton: “I think they’re both nuts.” Surveying the queue of thousands of Trump supporters that snaked up and around and down a grassy hill, she said: “I’m shocked by this huge turnout. It really feels like a gut punch for me. I’m sure they came from far and wide. It’s shocking to me that people have no regard for their fellow Americans.”

Boyle has just returned to Nashville after 30 years, partly to be close to family and partly in response to Hillbilly Elegy, author JD Vance’s personal insight into problems of the white working class including alcoholism, divorce, domestic violence, drugs and hopelessness. As the Washington Post put it, elites in both parties are studying the book as “a sort of Rosetta Stone” to understand the conditions that enabled the rise of Trump.

The 52-year-old, said: “After reading Hillbilly Elegy, I feel progressives have to be involved. I can’t just hang out in California with my like-minded friends. I have to make a difference here.”

In last year’s election, Trump trounced Hillary Clinton by 26% in Tennessee, a “Bible belt” state that was the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan and was last won by a Democrat when Bill Clinton, a southerner, carried it in 1996. Among the few counties he did not win were those containing Memphis and Nashville.
‘There are a lot of liberal artists’

Now, Nashville is thriving with an influx of young professionals priced out of other cities. A record 13.9 million people visited the area in 2016, up 45% over the past decade. The music industry is worth $10bn to the region, according to a 2013 report commissioned by the Music City Music Council, and includes Americana, jazz and other genres as well as country.

It has come a long way since the Grand Ole Opry barn dance became a radio hit in the 1940s, leading to a recording industry and stars from Hank Williams then to Taylor Swift today. It has long been seen as music of the conservative heartland – when Elton John denied a rumour that he would perform Trump’s inauguration, he suggested, “Why not ask ... one of those fucking country stars? They’d do it for you” – but its relationship with politics has always been more complex than often assumed.
Downtown Nashville. Visitors to the area, drawn by its famous music scene, are up 45% over the past decade.

Bob Dylan, the troubadour responsible for some of the 60s’ defining protest songs, spent the end of the decade in Nashville and collaborated with Johnny Cash, “the man in black” who performed for presidents and prisoners. Merle Haggard’s 1969 Okie from Muskogee was regarded as a conservative anthem but he later defended the Dixie Chicks after they condemned George W Bush’s invasion of Iraq and recorded a song in support of Hillary Clinton.

During last year’s presidential election an informal survey conducted by the trade publication Country Aircheck found that 46% of industry professionals supported Trump while 41% favoured Clinton. But unlike Hollywood, most prefer to remain silent, perhaps fearing that any declaration of allegiance risks losing half their audience.

Earlier this month an analysis by BuzzFeed found that of the 87 artists currently on either Billboard’s Top Country Albums or Hot Country Songs charts, only five – Sturgill Simpson, Justin Moore, Chris Janson, Maren Morris and the Brothers Osborne – have gone on the record with clear pro or anti-Trump views.

Sitting at the bar at the Red Door Saloon in east Nashville, Clay Johnson, 29, a composer, said: “Trump probably got a lot more support from country music artists than hip-hop artists. But there are a lot of liberal artists. It would be wrong to paint them all as conservatives.”

Musing on the urban-rural divide, he added: “In rural Tennessee you’ll see people who’ve lived there and grown up there. In Nashville people tend to come and go like in any city. It’s population versus space. It’s shitty how one side can dictate how the other side lives because they live different lives. It’s the same anywhere. When you live in the city, it’s different from living on a farm.”

At another table as the clock ticked past 1am was Zie Campbell, 25, a freelance illustrator and teacher. “Tennessee is a red state, Nashville is not,” she said. “It’s a melting pot, as much of a New York as it’s going to get down here. This has been very hard for our specific community because we are surrounded by ignorance and bigotry.

“In the rural areas there’s not a desire to experience anything else. ‘My dad smokes Marlboro Reds, I’ll smoke Marlboro Reds. My dad listens to Johnny Cash, I’ll listen to Johnny Cash.’ In the city you don’t have that option any more: whether or not you are seeking it, you’re forced to see others.”
Zie Campbell, an illustrator and teacher in Nashville: ‘This has been very hard for our specific community. We are surrounded by ignorance.’

Campbell’s parents live 220 miles away in Knoxville. Her father voted for Trump but she found Clinton’s defeat “devastating”. She continued: “I am an example of the exact opposite of my dad’s opinions. When the sexual harassment allegations against Trump came out, my dad and I had a long conversation. I cried. We decided we’re not talking politics after that.”

‘If the other side is willing to bomb Dresden, how do you fight that?’

How can the rift between urban and rural, between blue and red, be healed? “I don’t know if there is something to be done,” Campbell said. “I don’t think anyone is trying to sway anyone else. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of grey area.”

Dobie, the media entrepreneur, said: “That’s the $64m question. If you’re a modern Democrat you’re not in the mood to pussyfoot any more, having been subjected to what amounted to the bombing of Dresden in the last election. Trump committed Dresden. No one is in the mood be accommodating or easy.

“We’re now in a moment when I don’t see much room for sitting around the campfire and holding hands. If the other side is willing to bomb Dresden, how do you fight that? You really have to take it to the streets.”

Both parties are likely to compete fiercely for what might be described as the country music constituency. Dobie said: “Struggling to meet bills, shooting a deer, breaking up with your girlfriend – the lyrics of the country song speak the needs, desires and concerns of the conservative folk and that’s why it’s been successful.

“That’s the crowd we’re all talking about. That’s the demographic that’s up for grabs in America and Clinton couldn’t harness. Trump got the bubbas to the polls; Clinton did not. The bubbas are listening to country music.”
Clay Johnson, a composer in Nashville: ‘It’s shitty how one side can dictate how the other side lives.’

The divisions here are reflected across America, after an election that exposed brutal faultines and the education split among whites was said to be the critical factor.

Nadine Hubbs, a professor of music at the University of Michigan and author of Rednecks, Queers, and Country Music, said: “In the US, our cities are places where many of us go to prosper while small towns or exurbs or suburbs are often places where people are left behind.

“Nashville and Austin [in Texas] are really good examples of this phenomenon. To bridge the gap there are economic inequalities we need to pay attention to. Often the most unbridgeable gaps are the ones created by contempt for another group: lack of respect and stripping of dignity.

“The way people who are prospering look down on folks who are in rural spaces, often associated with country music, creates the kind of divisions that are really hard to bridge.

“The elites talk about the need for education of people in rural spaces; well, we know almost nothing about them. The economic and social segregation of the classes is worse maybe than it’s ever been in our history.”

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