The bulk of my professional life was spent in radio. In addition to being an AM morning drive host, I also took care of operations for the station’s country music problem. That meant that, on occasion, I had to subject myself to the dreaded board shift.
I never looked forward to a jock shift. For one, I am no fan of country music. (If you are, I don’t care. Get over it.) Second, the shift was usually for a remote broadcast, so just enough of my attention was required that I couldn’t get any other work done, but it did not demand enough of my time to keep me engrossed.
During those shifts, and occasionally due to the proximity of the product, the sounds and image of one Taylor Swift would invade my bubble. I am not a Taylor Swift fan, which I happen to believe is perfectly normal and healthy for a man in his 50s. But now and then, pop culture finds you, no matter how vigorously you may try to avoid it. And try, I do.
Why bring this little autobiographical detail up? It seems that Miss Swift and one Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) have apparently reignited a feud. Why a sitting senator should spend more than 15 seconds concerned with the opinion of a pop idol is best addressed elsewhere. But apparently, the pair have a bit of history. It would seem Ms. Swift has taken umbrage with Blackburn’s voting record, particularly in the LGBTQ arena, and has issues with the fact that Blackburn voted for a Republican version of a bill to renew the Violence Against Women Act, as opposed to the Democratic version. Of course, that is nothing new. Democrats want people to vote with them on everything: be it taxes, immigration, or the local high school homecoming king/queen/thing/marsupial. (Hey, just trying to be inclusive, here.)
Apparently, the row was reignited after Blackburn warned Swift and other artists that under socialism, their freedom of expression could be curtailed right alongside everyone else’s. While I do not particularly care about anyone’s sexual orientation, Blackburn’s comment on socialism is an altogether reasonable assertion, steeped in historical precedent. The alarming part of the whole story is that now Swift’s fans are talking about her running for Senate in opposition to Blackburn.
There is a fundamental problem with this. A senator should, at the very least, understand the needs of his or her constituents. Celebrities live lives so disconnected from reality that such a thing is virtually impossible for them.
Submitted for your consideration, one Bruce Springsteen. In my youth, I was a dedicated fan of the Boss. Think Greetings from Asbury Park, N.J. through Nebraska. As a kid who grew up in a blue-collar section of town in a family whose cars often did not run and had to take a job as a busboy because his old man couldn’t hold a job for more than two years, Springsteen sang about people and situations I knew and understood. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t broke, but we were one bad situation away from broke, and because of that, Springsteen registered with me.
Then came Born in The USA and he got rich and famous. He became a superstar and bought a house in a trendy section of New Jersey. Then he started telling the people he used to sing about that they were dolts and could pretty much go to hell.
It made sense a few years later when I was on the road and happened to scroll through the Springsteen channel on Sirius-XM. I’d stop on it once in a while to hear his old stuff. The host was doing an interview with one of the keyboard players in the E-Street Band, either the pianist or the organist, I honestly can’t remember which one. The discussion turned to money and the band member commented that Springsteen honestly did not understand the business end of the music industry—he wrote and recorded songs, went on tour, and people cut him checks. That was the extent of his knowledge base when it came to the money. And that was from one of his bandmates.
And therein lies the problem. Springsteen, Swift or (insert celebrity here) may have a right to an opinion. But they have no business telling you how to live your life. As the above anecdote illustrates, they have no idea what real life entails. Their needs are met, they are surrounded by people who are dedicated to satisfying their every whim and telling them how brilliant they are. They do their thing and people cut them checks. They don’t have to worry about a budget. They never have to choose between eating or keeping the power on. They never get red envelopes from their mortgage companies. They have never had to live out of their cars or tried to figure out how to pay for their kid’s diabetes medication when an incoming administration lifts a cap on drug prices. They never heard a car engine give a death rattle when they were late for work. And if they ever did experience those things, they have long since forgotten about them. Fame and fortune have a way of doing that to a person.
Instead, they become the equivalent of that guy standing over a carpenter, giving him advise on how to frame a door, or over the mechanic pulling a transmission or a plumber threading a pipe. They have no idea what they are talking about, but can talk about it for hours on end because no one in their circle of sycophants has ever told them to shut the hell up.
In a way, you can’t blame them. In their world, you are a bigot, racist, _____-phobe because you are not them. Their lived experience just happens to be different from… well, actual reality. But until their experience includes something of your experience, you really don’t have to listen to a thing they say. Or sing.