Eminem on Bush
I don’t know what Marshall Mathers’s politics are. But I do know that they could be of consequence for the youth vote, and his loud pleas for everyone to vote may also have an impact at the margins (this election is about the margins).
That he is issuing a song, Mosh, which directly attacks Bush on the Iraq war may be a sign of the times:
Rebel with a rebel yell, raise hell/
We gonna let him know/
Stomp, push, shove, mush, fuck Bush!/
Until they bring our troops home . . .
Let the president answer on higher anarchy/
Strap him with an AK-47, let him go fight his own war/
Let him impress daddy that way . . . No more blood for oil.”
In a forthcoming Rolling Stone interview, Mathers says:
“[Bush] has been painted to be this hero, and he’s got our troops over there dying for no reason . . . I think he started a mess . . . He jumped the gun, and he fucked up so bad he doesn’t know what to do right now . . . We got young people over there dyin’, kids in their teens, early twenties that should have futures ahead of them. And for what? It seems like a Vietnam 2. Bin Laden attacked us, and we attacked Saddam. Explain why that is. Give us some answers.”
The themes of the lyrics above and the interview are interesting. Mathers obviously had a difficult time in his relations with his parents. His mother was only 15 when she had him St. Joseph, Missouri, and his father was absent. At one point his mother was suing him over his constant insults to and cursing of her. He once told her “You only loved me until I was 8 years old.”
So it is interesting that he reads Bush as merely attempting to please a somewhat distant and perhaps often absent father. And he critiques Bush’s attempt to impress the old man insofar as W. used other young men’s lives up in the process, instead of strapping on an AK-47 himself. Eminem knows about packing heat, and was accused of pistol-whipping a rival from the rap group Insane Clown Posse. (Actually, this would be a good epithet for Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Feith, Cheney and Bush).
The other interesting thing about the lyrics above is their invocation of the icon of lower middle class white identity, the “rebel yell.” The appeal of the Confederate South for most of them lies not in its horrible race politics or slavery, but in a resistance to the intrusion of the Federal government into their lives.
Eminem cannily turns the Republicans’ Southern Strategy against them, calling for a revolt against Bush policies by the guys Howard Dean referred to as having Confederate flags on their pickup trucks. (Although most listen to Country, some of the youngsters are Eminem fans.) Bush now becomes a symbol of grasping, stupid Federal interference, and Iraq is reconceived as a carpetbagging operation. “Until they bring our troops home” is a lyric that makes a moral claim. Bush & Co. have kidnapped US young persons in uniform and are holding them prisoner in an Iraqi cauldron for no good reason. The soldiers are not just soldiers but teenagers, Eminem’s constituency.
The song is important as a development in popular culture. But I am arguing that it may also be important in class terms. If any significant number of lower middle class white youth are thinking like this, it could make a difference in some races.