Yesterday, I went against my general policy and called someone an idiot. On rare occasion, something or someone convinces me that policy is made to be broken. Yesterday was Jim Acosta. Today, I’m biting my tongue; I give you “pop music critic” Chris Richards, courtesy of The Washington Post’s “Perspective” page.
I don’t mean any personal disrespect to Chris, but I’m compelled to make order of the mess.
On Thursday, the Post published Chris’s coverage of the President’s intention to posthumously award Elvis Presley the Medal of Freedom today. According to Chris, “Yes, Trump is sending a message here.”
Oh, boy. Here we go.
The first robust paragraph:
“Yes, Presley is among the most pivotal and controversial musicians of the previous century, so yes, this is another needling MAGA maneuver — a little nod to the good old days, back when black visionaries could invent rock-and-roll, but only a white man could become the king.”
Another needling MAGA maneuver!
“Yes, this overture looks ugly to anyone who feels antagonism and regression radiating from Trump’s promise to ‘make America great again.'”
It looks ugly to everyone who doesn’t like Trump? Everyone? So no Elvis fans are anti-Trump?
“And yes, it all feels especially absurd to members of the hip-hop generation — its eldest citizens now past middle-age — who learned how to feel about the legacy of Presley the moment they first heard Public Enemy’s ‘Fight the Power’ blasting a hole through our national mood in the summer of 1989. Yeah, you know the Chuck D line I’m talking about: ‘Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant sh** to me.’ (Yes, Chuck D deserves his own Medal of Freedom, but nearly three decades after ‘Fight the Power,’ America is still afraid of a black planet, so he’ll probably receive his award posthumously, too.)”
“Yes, Trump desperately wants to look like a real president — Reagan, Richard Nixon, whomever. Yes, he knows all about that iconic bizarro snapshot of Nixon and Presley shaking hands in the Oval Office, and yes, Trump surely wishes he could have been the president who famously cheesed with the King instead of being the president who nervously accepted a lopsided hug from Kanye West. Yes, it’s all a bit pathetic.”
Why is he writing as if all people have his singular point of view, as if we’re all thinking with his brain — “Yes, … Yes, …”? It’s an ineffective strategy toward convincing an audience they agree with the writer. And Nixon is who Trump wants to emulate? And Chris knows of Trump’s nerves, knows his inner thoughts?
Yes. Because Yes. And Yes.
“Because yes, Presley was a hero to most, but does hanging a medal on one of the most decorated ghosts in popular culture change anything at all about his complicated legacy or how we think of music today? No. Does it show us how our president continues to use his brazen lack of imagination as a cultural cudgel? Yes.”
cudgel: A short heavy club.
If I could respond to Chris’s article with just one word, it would be simply, “No.”
The Medal of Freedom is not meant to “change anything at all about [one’s] complicated legacy or how we think of music today.” And Elvis’s legacy is really not very complicated.
Two people of whom I’m a fan are Steve Martin and Elvis Presley. In the 80’s Steve presented an idea that stuck with me: one of the stupidest things a person can do is argue about things they don’t know about. Enter Chris Richards.
Oh — and in this case, I’m not writing as a conservative; I’m writing as an Elvis fan. I’m a veritable expert.
Let’s start with the music. To begin with, despite assertions among social justice warriors battling the perceived evils of cultural appropriation (PLEASE see here), a race doesn’t have possessions. Neither black nor white people own music. Did black people create the 12-tone convention of Western music? If not, were black people stealing it to sing the blues? The whole idea is silly. Secondly, in contrast to liberal accusation of theft, Elvis’s style was not purely rhythm and blues. His music, in the 50’s, was a blend of rhythm and blues, southern gospel, and country & western. All three were tremendous influences. Opera was a sizable love and inspiration as well. Just listen to 1960’s “It’s Now or Never.”
In terms of performance, Elvis’s onstage antics were substantially the product of life in the Assembly of God church, not merely a result of mimicking black musicians.
Thirdly, Elvis was one of the most generous people — and likely the most generous — in pop culture history. He constantly gave things away. Monumental presents like cars and houses. He gifted Cadillacs to complete strangers. And a defining trait — confirmed endlessly by those with whom he was close — was that he treated everyone equally. Whether it was the President of the United States or a gardener, he was respectful, kind, and giving. And that included people who were black. Chuck D was horribly wrong; a friend tells me Chuck’s a nice guy, but so was Elvis. If your’e looking for a symbol of racism, don’t look to Elvis.
And despite the category under which the Post published his editorial, if you’re looking for “Perspective,” don’t look to Chris Richards.
For one of seemingly endless touching stories of Elvis’s kindness and generosity, please see the video below — an account by Elvis’s cousin and Memphis Mafia member, Billy Smith, and Billy’s wife, Jo. And if you’re an Elvis fan, subscribe to the Memphis Mafia Kid’s YouTube channel.
Relevant RedState links in this article: here.
Find all my RedState work here.
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