One More Day for Progress: The Glorified Past and Rascal Flatt’s “Mayberry”

In which taxes are listed most ominously.


To my dear reader,

While sorting through the mail, I came across a form from an employer, and while the form’s purpose was unclear to me (clearly I am very new to being an adult), what was clear to me was the amount listed for the portion of my paycheck taken for taxes. Frankly, I don’t make much, so the amount I’ll pay in taxes isn’t tremendous, but then again, I don’t make much, so first seeing that amount listed made me make a noise somewhere between laughing, crying, and a dog’s squeaky toy being stepped on. Yet it also made me think an ironic political thought: I see a reason people voted for Trump.

As I discussed in a previous post, I voted for Hilary Clinton, but have been attempting to be understanding toward those that didn’t. Despite my dissatisfaction with President Trump, I still try to be sympathetic, and it’s at moments when I stop to consider how much I’ll pay in taxes and how difficult being self-employed is that I glimpse reasons to have voted for Trump, who promised to alleviate these difficulties. At the end of the day, however, I could never get on board, because Trump’s “Make America Great Again” message is built on illusion, and as I’ve mentioned in a previous post, this holds a striking similarity to many messages of country music.

Take, for example, Rascal Flatt’s song “Mayberry.” Like so many country songs, the lyrics reminisce about simpler times, what with six strings and clouds and only white people mattering (that last one isn’t mentioned… explicitly). Even the music itself harkens back to earlier days by, ironically, being more complex – using a variety of vocal textures, differentiating sections with distinct instrumentations, and using three different tonal centers. (That’s more tonal centers than some classical pieces use, so rock on, Rascal Flatts.) The lyrics are coherent and meaningful, the performance is masterful, and the composition is inventive, yet I still find the song hollow because it glorifies a past that, frankly, sucked. Hard.

I mean, the Cold War. Genocide of Native Peoples. Bubonic plague. Lack of indoor plumbing. I say it all the time, and I’ll say it again – there is no better time to be alive than now.

Yet I hear country music and Donald Trump constantly denying this, claiming that there was a golden age where everyone was happy and America was number one and bald eagles soaring over Midwestern plains blah blah blah. What they’re really talking about, however, is a time when the world seemed simpler because everyone was willing to live in the rigid boundaries of patriarchal, Eurocentric, Christian society, and now the world seems more complex because the boundaries are blurring. Both “Mayberry” and Trump are touting this dream, and both are enticing – “Mayberry” with its elegant tertial transitions in tonality, and Trump with his offbeat, racist-uncle charm – but I’m not buying. Yes, having three tonal centers is cool, and paying even less in taxes is even cooler, but I know Trump doesn’t really want either of these things. He only cares about the glorified past, and no matter how beautiful that may seem, it was always an illusion. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have taxes to file.

With all due respect,

Daniel Wolfert


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