This past weekend was the Louder Than Life Music Festival in Louisville, Ky, my first full festival since Sonic Temple 2019 in Columbus, Ohio. The COVID-19 Global Pandemic shut that shit down along with most of the World. I don't know about you, but I have a small set of things I look forward to every year: My children's birthdays, My anniversary, WWE Royal Rumble, and the aforementioned festivals of Rock On The Range/Sonic Temple and Louder Than Life, the latter referred to from here forward as LTL.
Why are the festivals so important to me? It's a showcase of what's right in the world. With rock music, the meaning has always been in the music. You go to a festival because of the music and you know the person next to you is there for the music. Everything that makes you different from your neighbor is secondary. Race, Religion, Gender, Sexual Orientation, Education, Political standings - all secondary to the mutual love for music. In fact, more personal and more atypical lifestyle choices are generally more accepted. I've always felt safe within the confines of a Festival. Asshats make their way in, there's always a few, especially after the drinks start flowing, but for the most part, it's a very safe place to be.
We start the day at one person's house or, if out of town, at one's hotel, gather the "necessary supplies", and caravan to the venue parking lot to begin tailgating. While tailgating, we reach out to whoever seems cool in the lot and invite them to chill with us. Most people are receptive and join in, even if only for a drink or jello shot. Eventually, we enter the festival space, take in the sights, and enjoy the music and the moments.
Highlights this year include making a ton of new friends, seeing the Butcher Babies again, seeing Metallica for the first time without fear of drowning, eating Island Noodles (THE food of a good festival), and honestly, just being out in that pre-pandemic type of environment again. I was at a convention earlier this year, but the sheer volume of people doesn't compare and shouldn't. Conventions, like Imaginarium, should be generally small. It makes them more intimate and is better for networking and making friends. Festivals, like LTL, are made for large gatherings of people to all enjoy one particular thing.
This blog isn't about LTL.
This blog isn't about festivals in general.
This blog is more about something that happened during this festival and my feelings about that thing that happened...more so that thing that was said.
Night 1 of LTL featured sets by the bands Staind and Korn, fronted by Aaron Lewis and Jonathan Davis, respectively. During Staind's set, Aaron Lewis would, first, mention that he "tends to get in a lot of trouble" for the things he says, so, instead, he shows off a T-Shirt that said something to the effect of "My freedom are from God, not government" (Not exactly what was said, but I wasn't by the stage at the time so I could hear him, but couldn't see him. Attempts to find a clear picture of the shirt have turned up fruitless). Secondly, he changed a lyric in one of his songs to "patriot". Third, he would lead the crowd in a "Fuck Joe Biden" chant.
After Staind, Jonathan Davis would begin the Korn set with a message telling the crowd to use this time to put aside the worries, stresses, and division of the world and enjoy the music.
Why am I bringing this up? This, in my opinion, works as a snapshot of where we actually are as a country. This is a reflection of how things are as we walk down the streets of America in almost any given town.
I want to be crystal clear before I continue: I don't care what Aaron Lewis believes politically. He has the right to feel how he wants. I'm not here to condemn him for his views. That's not what this is about. Aaron Lewis, during his time on stage, can say what he wants. I can agree or disagree; not important. He did, however, showcase a few negative American traits that I've noticed and it's THOSE I want to address. Let's look at this snapshot more closely, shall we?
It's not a lie - The United States of America is more divided now than it has been in a while. This division goes back. This division is not exclusively the of former President Trump. This, in my opinion, has always been present, just not as presented.
In my "Beware the Misguided Middle Ground" blog, I told the story of a woman who believed that the Speaker of the House had to be a member of the House because "it's always been that way" despite being given evidence to the contrary. Full disclosure, I believed that too, but I was open to the clear evidence and was willing to accept that I was wrong. She was not. She held on to the "because it's always been that way" argument and there are a lot of people who feel that "the way it is" is the only way it should be, "it" being whatever it is we're talking about at that moment.
When Barack Obama became President of the United States, a lot of people felt that he shouldn't be President, not because they disagreed with his viewpoint or his stances, but because "only old White man should be President. That's how it's always been." This view was always reflected when Hilary Rodman Clinton was running for President. Clinton, a White woman, was also hit with the "it's always been a man" criticism. Obama was hit with the "Birther Movement", a social campaign to discredit Obama's eligibility to become President, questioning his "natural born citizen" status, as required by Article II of the U.S. Constitution.
Donald Trump, pre-politics, would be the face of this movement after a while, personally challenging Obama to present his birth certificate, passport, and college applications to prove that he is indeed a natural-born American citizen, despite the fact that this is vetted when one applies for candidacy. Let's call a spade a spade here - The Southern Republicans that backed this movement were racist and they didn't want a Black man to be "in charge" of America. Say what you want, this is why the Birther Movement happened. Even after all was proven, many people continued pushing the false narratives including that Obama was "a Muslim terrorist wanting to bring Sharia Law to America" - that was a real claim!
Racism has always been a part of America. The opinion that People of Color are somehow inferior to their White counterparts is as American as apple pie (a shame too, because I love apple pie) and well documented. An example, the National Football League has been battling to change Race-Norming, a part of concussion protocol, where test scores are adjusted to account for the race of the test taker.
Racism lived under the radar for the most part until all the brouhaha surrounding the Obama Presidency. With such a prominent figure as billionaire Trump, who was known for being on The Apprentice and the WWE Hall of Fame (2013... look it up), being involved in pushing the narrative, it gave racists an avenue to travel and a platform to speak out safely. The Trump Presidency just turned that avenue into an 8-lane highway. I'm not claiming that Trump is a racist (directly) nor am I blaming him or his Administration for racism in America. Trump had a niche and he was able to play that niche like a fiddle, securing their votes. Other Republicans jumped on the bandwagon because it was working. It's not that these people are racist, it's that they are opportunists that are using and taking advantage of racists.
So, a lot of the racial division that is being highlighted today in 2021: News Flash - it's always been here, living in the shadows. It's been hiding in bank loans. It's been hiding in appraisals. It's been hiding in approved apartment applications. It's been hiding in redlining. It's been hiding in the "War on Drugs" and "Crime Bills". The difference now is that it's being highlighted and accepted in the mainstream because others have created platforms where discrimination is protected under the guise of "Free Speech" - No, not EVERYTHING is free speech. Call in a bomb threat and leave your name and number and address of where you'll be and when the police show up, claim free speech. Email me how that goes.
Then there is religion. The modern-day religion battle boils down to people saying "my God is better than yours" not understanding that in most cases, the deity in question is the same one, just called a different name.
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam ALL fall into the category of Abrahamic Religions, as they all serve the God of Abraham. The separation comes from the details and the practices. So, whether you call him "God" or "Allah" - same dude.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion..." - US Constitution, First Amendment. What does that mean exactly? It means that it is illegal for the law-making body of the Government to officially declare a National Religion. This alone destroys the idea of America being a "Christian Nation". I find it funny that the same "patriots" that preach about the Constitution are the same ones demanding it being held as a "God-fearing Christian Nation". It's just not. The First Amendment defends EVERYONE'S right to practice as they choose, without input or restriction from the Government. This includes not practicing religion at all.
"Dear Children, let us not love with words or speech, but with actions and in truth" - 1 John 3:18 NIV (New International Version)
"Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Ephesians 4:32 NIV
"Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good" - 1 Peter 2:1-3 NIV
I included these verses from the Bible to highlight where modern Christians are getting things SOOOOOO wrong. The way that Christians shun Muslims is appalling. Note: Chapter 19 of the Quran is called "Maryam", as in Mary, Mother of Jesus. This is the faith you shun, Christians? Despite your own Holy text teaching you to show people love and kindness and to rid yourself of all malice, envy, and slander? For shame, Christians.
Keep that in mind when you support the televangelists who condemn and slander Islamic nations and speak ill of Islamic people. And if you have an issue with my support of Muslim people and yet you call yourself a Christian, you might want to have a moment of self-reflection
This last issue is probably more of an annoyance for me but is a serious problem. Hyper-Americanism. This is where people, obviously Americans, strive to achieve status as the absolute BEST American. This is typically showcased with over-the-top flag displays, but could also show itself with other obscene displays of American flags, founders, and other "America"-ness.
Some people, in the last some-odd years, have declared themselves as "Real Patriots" because... well, to be honest, they haven't really done anything special - nothing more than anyone else has. I want to note that the men and women of the US Military have done a LOT more than me when it comes to being Patriots, with is defined as someone that loves their country. Seriously, that's it. That's all that means. I love my country, but American Military personnel who have signed up, voluntarily, willing to die for this country, love this nation much more than I do. Many people have served in the United States Military in its many branches from different races, religions, nations of origin, and sexual orientations. They deserve your respect as well.
Hyper-Americanism was on display during the Staind set last weekend. "Real Patriots" have been using trigger or buzz words like "Freedom", "Patriots", "American", "God", "Constitution", and "Founders", serving two purposes. The first to mark themselves as a Hyper-American and second, to see who else is a Hyper-American for the sake of camaraderie and judgment. You see, when someone like Aaron Lewis, who was in command of a platform (the stage), by changing words in his songs or wearing shirts talking about God and Freedom or chanting against the "enemy of the 'real' President", he elicits a response from other Hyper-Americans who, in fear of themselves being judged, comply with the command. It was interesting to look around at the people in the crowd as they also looked around to see who was and wasn't joining in.
Try it. If you're in a crowd, start a USA chant. See who joins in and watch the differences in the reactions of those that join in and those that don't.
This idea that someone can be more of an American or a better American is weird. The idea that someone from here would criticize another person from here and say that, basically, they popped out of their mother on this landmass better than you did is ...kinda insane, wouldn't you say?
By the way, singing the National Anthem or joining in a chant doesn't make you a better American than me or anyone else. Standing or kneeling doesn't make you a better American than me or anyone else. You don't need to have three flags flying from your Ford pickup truck with an American flag decorated Punisher decal and a "Don't Tread on Me" bumper sticker to be a "true American patriot". Pay your taxes and take care of your neighbor. That's pretty American by my standard.
We are all spinning around the Sun on the same rock. We were all born. We will all die. We all have stories to tell. We all have different life experiences that define us. My brother and I grew up in the same household and we have different life experiences. We can agree or we can agree to disagree. We can bond over our similarities or bond over our differences... yes, bond over the things that make us unique. We can learn from each other.
At this festival, I came across people who think differently than me, believe differently, or lived a different life than me. I met people who struggled to get through the festival with enough money and people who dropped thousands on the festival. I met people with families, single parents, and people who would love to bear children, but God took that card out of their decks. I've met people from all walks of life, but we were all able to bond, become friends, and enjoy the same environment. I met people who, as Jonathan Davis suggested, left their stresses and worries at home and, with a crowd of strangers, enjoyed the music in an environment that the pandemic stole from us.
That's the snapshot of America I'd like to frame and hang on the wall for my children to see.
- The Moon