Midnight Oil

[Powderworks] Music and patriotism

The May Home nearhoofmay@earthlink.net
Wed, 14 Aug 2002 11:06:12 -0700

I'm from the US and one of the things that's always interested me about
Midnight Oil is its up-front presentation of itself as an 'Australian band'.
In some of the interviews on the discs and tapes that I've seen, Rob or
someone talks about making Australian music, loving Australia, what a great
country it is, etc.  I've heard plenty of critical comments about Pauline or
other people/situations in Australia, but always this great love for the

I've tried to think before about American musicians/bands that have a
similar connection with the US and for some reason I have trouble.  Bruce
Springsteen comes to mind, not just for "Born in the USA" (one of the few
Springsteen songs I really don't like) but for a lot of his other music that
takes blue collar life and issues in the US seriously.  And we have lots of
overtly 'patriotic' country music (but that's another beast all together).

I've never been a particularly patriotic gal.  Being a member of one of the
historic peace churches in this country, I've been raised to be very
uncomfortable with a lot of what I think it means to be a citizen of a
country that does much of what my country does in the world.  When I've
traveled abroad, I have occasionally had very disturbing experiences when
people found out I was American.  At Taize one time, a whole room of folks
made this little 'oh' noise when I introduced myself and my nationality and
I thought, "ok...what the hell was THAT!  Was that the hatred for Americans?
Or the occasional and odd awe?  Or both. Or did they all eat something

So, my sense of my relationship with my own country is very conflicted.
About the only thing I feel free to love with abandon is the land.  When the
whole flag waving stuff started after September 11th, I felt pretty much
sick and disconnected.  I hate the way my country is approaching this whole
thing for so many reasons and I hate the new intolerance here that's like,
"if you don't want to wave your flag, if you don't want to talk about how
great America is, then move to Canada or something."  Could there be a more
historically ignorant approach to life in America?

All this is to say that I have never seen a strong love of country as a
particularly positive thing (please, excitable Americans, don't flame me
here).  And I wonder what an American band that was as much about being
American as Midnight Oil is about being Australian (or even U2 used to be
about being Irish) would look like to me and to others out there in the
world.  I've watched Midnight Oil, who I respect very much, be about this
very strong love of their country.  And I wonder what that looks like in
Australia.  What it means to be 'patriotic' in Australia (and in other
countries) and to have a relationship with your country.  How culturally
acceptable is it?  What does it look like?  I also really wonder what bands
or musicians appear to be very 'American' (purposefully American, not just
carriers or proponents of American culture) to you folks out there in the
rest of the world. 

I've always thought it somewhat ironic that I'm this person who is
profoundly uncomfortable with patriotism who's real musical passion is this
band that is actually very patriotic about their own country.  LOL.  Would
you all think of or describe the Oils that way (particularly you Aussies)?

Peace --
Phoenix, Arizona -- USA