Sending Toby Keith to Saudi Arabia Is a Genius Move

Trump and Keith are a natural fit, to the extent that Keith performed at the inauguration concert in January despite not having supported Trump’s candidacy. “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American),” released in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, infamously warned Al Qaeda that “you’ll be sorry that you messed with / The U.S. of A / ’Cause we’ll put a boot in your ass / It’s the American way.” Country music, especially Keith’s radio-friendly contemporary kind, has become inextricably linked to the sort of people who are stereotypically associated with Trump’s unlikely success: rural, working-class Americans who may lack exposure to cultures from beyond the United States—and who, in today’s political climate, aren’t always friendly to Arabs or Muslims.

The uncompromising, sometimes-abrasive masculinity that both men embody is an aspect of American culture that the State Department isn’t always eager to showcase abroad. Public-affairs officers in embassies worldwide perhaps recognize the ugly reputation that the United States has in certain places, and so rush to compensate by instead highlighting America’s contributions to ballet, painting and, yes, jazz.

But besides our swaggering president and his salt-of-the-earth supporters, Toby Keith is also reminiscent of something else: the proud, nostalgic, masculine Arab culture of the Gulf. Both the American heartland and the Gulf states are places that revere the wild and past, when life was simpler and purer—whether cowboys on the sweeping prairies or bedouins who, in some cases, only settled down a few decades ago. God, the land, the military and traditional family values are inescapable in both. Even Toby Keith’s stars-and-stripes guitar is a direct descendent of the Arab oud that he’ll be sharing a stage with on Saturday. And both cultures feel pulled between the idealized, noble past and the comforts of the present—a tension that’s audible in Keith’s pop-country as well as his Saudi counterpart’s synth-heavy Arab dance music.

From: Sending Toby Keith to Saudi Arabia Is a Genius Move | The National Interest

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4 thoughts on “Sending Toby Keith to Saudi Arabia Is a Genius Move

  1. Both the American heartland and the Gulf states are places that revere the wild and past, when life was simpler and purer—whether cowboys on the sweeping prairies or bedouins who, in some cases, only settled down a few decades ago.

    This was jaw-dropping, literally.
    I am amazed that people would actually believe such nonsense, or associate cowboys with the heartland.

    How many hands does it take to drive a herd of corn to market?
    How many days a week do these “cowboys” out in the heartland spend riding fence to make sure the soybeans don’t meander off?

    I mistakenly thought the differences between plant and animal were plainly apparent.

    Some very uncomplimentary inferences I’m making about such people right now.

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    • Well, soybeans can be particularly ornery.

      What’s also largely forgotten is that about a fourth of the cowboys were black, and ranchers had been using west African slaves for cattle drives, searching out those from particular tribes whose traditional way of life was traveling on the trail with cattle. European ranching never involved driving cattle all over Europe, as Europe was a bunch of little farms with no vast open spaces anywhere. European folks didn’t know how to do cowboy. Africans did. So they taught us.

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