I can’t really count myself as a fan of Merle Haggard. It’s not that I dislike him. More that I’ve never really listened to him much. The song I know him best for is “Okie From Muskogee”. I probably first heard it when I was in high school, and he more or less lost me with the first line.
I’ve lived in Saskatchewan all my life. And I must say, it hasn’t been easy. Am I proud to be from, to quote Haggard, a “place where even squares can have a ball”? Not really, no. I’m not a big flag waver either. And couldn’t ever envision myself submitting to being drafted by my government to fight in a war I didn’t believe in.
I can’t speak to Haggard’s original intention when he wrote “Okie From Muskogee” back at the height of counter-culture insurgency in the late ‘60s when Richard Nixon was in the Whitehouse and the U.S. was fighting a major war in Vietnam and homosexuality was illegal and racism and sexism were legally sanctioned and … well, you get the idea. But after what we’ve been through in the last forty years it totally reads as satire for me.
Satire on a bunch of narrow-minded people who are having trouble coping with modernity, and are wanting desperately to revert back to a time when life, for them anyway, was a whole lot simpler. With some things we have to deal with now, like Walmart Death Stars and other mega-big box stores, and outsourcing of virtually every job imaginable to low-wage jurisdictions with no leverage to enforce quality environmental standards, I can’t say I’m entirely unsympathetic. But overall I’d much rather see things move forward a hell of a lot faster than they currently are. And the “Okie” segment of our society is definitely holding things back.
If I had the cash, and tix were available, and it wasn’t at the Casino, I’d totally check this show out. Haggard plays there again tomorrow night too. Here’s video from 1997 of him performing “Today I started Loving You Again” (YouTube)