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Honoring September 11th: Earle's Take


The September 11 attacks reset plenty of people’s ideological clocks, with Dennis Miller being one of the more prominent folks to reconsider their views.

For me, the attacks showed me a new side of some of the country’s most respected artists. And it wasn’t pretty.


Artists reacted to 9/11 in a number of ways. Some wrote songs promising a holy whup ass (Toby Keith) on the terrorist nation, while others went on to create stirring work about a city struck without warning (Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising”)

Alt-country troubadour Steve Earle opted to write a song from the perspective of the traitorous thug, John Walker Lindh, who joined the Taliban against his own country.

John Walker’s Blues” takes an empathetic view of this American man who, some say, actively took up arms against his fellow Americans.

It’s one thing to write from the perspective of a criminal. Johnny Cash did that with grace and power, and there are lessons to be learned from those songs. But it seemed outrageous to empathize with someone like Lindh, especially when the wounds from the attacks were still so raw, so palpable.

What would convince a singer to take such a stance?

Earle wasn’t the only artist whose post-9/11 comments were either ugly or foul.

Novelist Barbara Kingsolver used the attacks to savage patriotism in an editorial reprinted in papers across the nation.

“The American flag stands for intimidation, censorship, violence, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, and shoving the Constitution through a paper shredder? Who are we calling terrorists here? Outsiders can destroy airplanes and buildings, but it is only we, the people, who have the power to demolish our own ideals.

Other artists picked up similar themes, but it makes my teeth hurt – and my heart ache – to even remember the specifics.

I’ve always embraced and supported the arts, even though my own art career ended as soon as I realized I lacked the chops to truly make a living off my drawing skills.

But seeing respected artists act in such a manner following 9/11 changed my views of the artistic mind – for the worse.

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