Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Night at The Westerner in President-Elect Trump's America

There are a few things I know for sure, and one is when a man who looks like a straight, white redneck in blue jeans, a plaid shirt, and a camo baseball cap gets on stage at a bar called The Westerner to do karaoke, and he sings "Don't Cry Out Loud," you can be pretty sure he's not what you first thought him to be.
After, you will turn to your friend and say, "He's a closeted gay man," or something to that effect.
Later, when two older gentlemen, one in a giant black cowboy hat with a white mustache and beard, the other in a baseball hat, going by the names "Jack Daniels and Bud Light," get up to sing a version of "Beer For My Horses," you will begin to worry. The song, written by Toby Keith and Scotty Emerick, and originally recorded by Keith and Willie Nelson seems to be a benign country song in the tradition of many such country songs. Some of the lyrics, however, began to grab your attention and cause an uneasy knot to form in your stomach.

Grandpappy told my pappy

Back in my day, son
A man had to answer
For the wicked thing he done
Take all the rope in Texas
Find a tall oak tree
Round up all of them bad boys
And hang 'em high in the street
For all the people to see

Are you alone in being reminded of, say, a lynching? You look around and most of the mostly white people in this bar are singing along and don't seem to be aware of the words that are actually coming out of their very own mouths.

We got too many gangsters
Doing dirty deeds
Too much corruption
And crime in the streets
It's time the long arm of the law
Put a few more in the ground

 Is it the word "gangster" (code for African-American?) or is it the idea of vigilantism that now makes you worry, not only about yourself, but about lots of other people, some of them in this very room?

The cute young man in the plaid shirt has signed up for another song. He has a good voice. The song turns out to be "Sweet Transvestite" from Rocky Horror. Uh-oh. He gives a strong performance with some, but not too much, flair. You look uncomfortably around the room for any men who may be looking violent/disturbed. You say to your friend, "okay, maybe NOT in the closet."
A very talented friend has already signed up to sing a song by the Dixie Chicks. She reminds you of the very public battle between Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks resulting in the F.U.T.K. t-shirt. Too late now. On she goes. Luckily, she sings like an angel and thereby, through the magic of music?, wins over Jack and his friend Bud. When she comes down from the stage, Jack gives her a high five. He must of forgotten that TK hated the DCs. Good!
Before you leave, you tell the young gay man that he has a good voice and that you liked both his songs. He hugs you. He is gathering his things, and you hope he is leaving, but you see him and his friends heading to the dance floor. 
It occurs to you that he is brave, in Post-Trump America, to dress like a redneck and sing like a fabulous gay man. You complimented him because you wanted him to know you are on his side, you wanted to encourage him, but now it occurs to you that he saw right through you. That he recognized immediately that you were the one who needed a hug, not him, because he has the knowledge and security of being 100% who he is. 
Even at the Westerner in President-elect Trump's America.