Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Oh, Beautiful Vapidity…

A friend sent me this music video today.

The song is composed and performed by Dennis Madalone, a New Jersey stuntman-cum-singer/songwriter who wants the listener to know that his
“compassion for others inspires him to write lyrics and create melodies…to share his feelings so that it may be a reflective comfort in ‘your’ life.”
The message of this single, entitled “America We Stand As One,” is to “carry on, hold on and stay strong for we all are truly one.” Apparently, Madalone’s “we” doesn’t apply to folks born outside our proud city walls. This here song, American brothers and sisters, is for us and us alone.

And this brings me to the video. Rarely do you have a chance to see so many clichés packed into a three-minute clip...unless you’re watching a spoof. The video opens with our blue-collar man, illustrated by his All-American, torn blue-jeans, strolling alone on the beach. Soon Dennis is joined by some twinkly special effects, otherwise known as angels. And, with these divine companions watching his back, Dennis breaks into full-throated, patriotic song.

The lyrics are thoughtless and mundane, belying the claim that Madalone is “truly an artist with power, passion and originality.” Canned passion, I'll grant him, but power and originality are not at all represented.

He stands defiant, holding, alternately, a small stars-and-stripes hanky or a large United States flag, while singing,
“I had to go, but it’s OK, You see I’m with you in a different way…America….USA, We stand as one…and we must carry on.”
The homepage claims that “this new rock anthem fills you with hope and comforts you with a spiritual message from our Loved Ones." In fact, I presume that the majority of US citizens under forty years of age (and a great deal of those above) are too savvy to accept “A.W.S.A.O.” as anything other than the hackneyed crap it is. Yet still I find myself becoming worried about the percentage of the populous that will respond to Dennis Madalone’s “sincerity” and “moral integrity.”

This worry may be in part due to the results of a Gallup Poll conducted November 7-10, 2004. When asked, “Which best describes your views of the origin of life?,” the responses were as follows:
Man developed with God guiding, 38%

Man developed with no help from God, 13%

God created man in present form, 45%
45 percent? Dear God…I think I'll go pump up the volume on Mandalone's "America" and stick my hand in a fu*king blender.


Mikhail Capone said...

Whoa. Crazy that this is not a spoof.

And to think that so many people in the US laugh at the religious extremism in the middle east.

Thank god I'm an atheist.

Devo said...

Holy cow... literally. America is the new Golden Calf. I was brought up Catholic (though I did eventually get better, now I'm healthily agnostic and inquisitive) so I am very familiar with the stories they drilled into my head. Like the one where Moses moseys up a hill to get a few tablets carved out with some rules, and he comes down to witness his faithful subjects worshipping a golden cow they'd made. Or when Jesus goes to his temple and puts the smack down on the money changers using a religious establishment as a vehicle to their own selfish ends. Now the entire rust belt is so eager to invoke the name of god to defend violence and intolerance of every color (no pun intended). I have no qualm with healthy spirituality, but when it perverts itself to the extent that it did in the two stories I relate as well as in Dennis's ridiculous paean to simony and heresy, then I get a lil' upset.

On a related note, it's frustrating to see how people who are ostensibly truly interested in healing, positivity, truth and goodness get so misguided. Sometimes I worry that my own preoccupation with the above ideals might wander off the morally justifiable path and into neurosis or outright ridiculousness. But I can't stop caring about that stuff, you know? So I guess I just gotta make sure I don't start producing awful videos about illusory unity and thinly-veiled fundamentalism. Wish me luck!!!

Anonymous said...

I love how the water in the video is an American flag. talk about tacky. But seriously, hasn't patriotism gotten a little fanatical over the last few years? Ever SUV I see has a flag, or a ribbon on it, and not even a real flag or ribbon, a magnet stick on kind. Not being an American myself, ( I am in the process of becoming a citizen) its hard to understand where all the intense pro America energy is coming from. People blindly support our action overseas while we have a standing army that occupies a country we invaded for no substantial reason. It gets me so mad that being dangerous is a reason to take someone out, while Kim Jong Il is a wicked crazy bastard and noone seems to give a fuck. But ignonrace is bliss. So fuckheads like this douche will keep making I'm gfay for America videos. As if thats going to make the rest of the free world despise us any less. Fuck.


Devo said...

Y'know, I think one of the reasons that rampant "Patriotism" abounds in our country is our relative isolation from the rest of the world. Europe is all squished together, and in order for a German to go to the beach, he's gotta pretty much travel to another country! For us, we just gotta go to New Jersey (yeah, pretty much another country in itself, I know, but I'm on a roll here). It's much easier to make everyone else "the other" when everyone else is thousands of miles away. Canada... well, they're pretty much just America Junior anyway (only with a closer approximation of social justice, a more liberal understanding of human rights, universal health care, less religious fanaticism, fewer cannibal murderers, a less psychotic and violent national leader, a more gracious presence in the world's theater and the Scallop Capital of the World, Digby, Nova Scotia)... But I digress.

Samuel Johnson once said that Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel. It's a very interesting quote, really. And what's even more interesting is the really subtle differences between patriotism and nationalism, and how hard it is to halt the slide from the former to the latter. When I studies in Ireland, I approached the issue of patriotism versus Nationalism, and my findings were most intriguing at the time. Now, they're downright frightening. Perhaps I should post about that stuff...

Hungry Hyaena said...

Yes, the video is terrificly fun, in a vomitous sort of way.

Devo, you should definitely expand on your studies in Ireland. The slippery slope separating patriotism and nationalism is being made very clear on our shores and a thoughtful exploration of the phenomena is welcome.

Your description of Canada is fantastic, by the way!

Recon, you know you really love the magnetic stickers. Don't front.

Devo said...

You know what? After looking at this post again, I think I may fall into the "man developed with God guiding" category, yet in a radically different way than most traditional sheep in the country. However, my version of "man developed with God guiding" is so much more nuanced and complex than any five word phrase can capture. In fact, the very word "guiding" is rather... well... MISguiding. The bottom line is that I am not complacent in my beliefs, and while they are often nebulous and constantly growing, they ARE there. Nor am I comfortable with the idea that the universe is blindly tossing out variations on a theme and whatever comes out just competes until it either takes over or gets wiped out. That's not to say that I think there's a great, bearded G-D sitting on a cloud at about 30,000 feet either. I guess one of the foundations of my belief system is that no theory, person or group can be either one hundred percent right or wrong about anything. Everyone's got SOMETHING to contribute SOMEWHERE. The tough part is filtering out who's got a good point where. I don't think the Fundamentalist crazies, for example, have much constructive to say about the role of adenosie triphosphate in the Krebs Cycle... but I also think that immensely complex issues like consciousness and evolution need far more input from far more numerous sources than is currently encouraged in the scientific community at large.

Bottom line is, I wrote this comment after I'd already expended my available brain-cell quota on my other comment, above.... So while I think I understand what I'm trying to say inside of my head, translating that into the written word is a bit too tough at the moment. Perhaps a post on my very own blog at some point in the future will more adequately communicate what I'm tryin' to say...

Hungry Hyaena said...

Devo, it sounds to me like you're enjoying imponderables. That is the most important part of the experience, in my opinion. If an individual doesn't take that step, then how can they appreciate the adventure itself?

Though I do find the notion of a universe "blindly tossing out variations on a theme" very attractive - and probably the closest approximation to a good "explanation" we have - it is certainly incomplete. Humans themselves have evolved to be a certain kind of beast with a certain kind of brain; we can no more understand the universe and the origins of life than can an ant colony, Google or a rock aggregate. Our "need" for cause-and-effect is such a case in point. We demand to know how variable x caused variable y and so on. History, after all, is a linear story.

The universe, many theoretical physicists suggest, doesn't work in this way. What caused the Big Bang, then, may be a wrong-headed question. Then again, it might not be - some physicists argue that two (or more) great "planes" crashed into one another, but then, only human, I have to ask where these planes originated. We will always work our way back to a locked door, one which we can not attribute to some other phenomena. More and more evidence suggests that the universe - though NOT individual solar systems - has no beginning or end.

In the words of Issac Brock, frontman of the band Modest Mouse:
"The universe is shaped exactly like the earth,
if you go straight long enough you end up where you were."

Devo said...

Heh, the thought of Google trying to contemplate the origin of the universe is for some reason one of the most hilaroius thoughts I've had today. Perhaps it's because of the terrible power I see Google slowly amassing. I see Google one day manifesting itself physically in the form of South Park's Moses. A giant, spinning, orange singularity of infinite energy and consciousness. Godgle, if you will.

Anyway, I certainly do invest myself in imponderables, and I agree that they're some of the most important things we have going for us as humans... and as I said in a comment to the above post, I think that our understanding (or lack thereof?) of the universe is at the same time very similar and polar opposite... And in that very dichotomy, I see great discovery.

Modest Mouse, by the way, awesome. I am not yet very familiar with most of their work, but I know they tickle my brain fibers. And that's fun.