New nation called ‘Merica’ emerges, but is it a joke or serious?
A burly bearded dude rolls into a neighborhood park wearing a black tank top with a Stars and Stripes map of the United States and the declaration, “Back To Back World War Champs.”
The intent is patriotic. But let’s agree that veterans in several other countries would politely disagree.
But it’s the word in big bold letters at the top of his shirt that grabs attention: “‘Merica.”
At a Kid Rock concert a few days ago, there were similar sentiments. One shirt showed an eagle grasping a shotgun and the words: “United States of ‘Merica.” Another shirt with a big bald eagle simply declared, “‘Merica.
Is our nation so divided that a separatist country is emerging?
Or have we gotten so PC that we no longer recognize that language is organic, that the meaning of words — at least some — can change?
Ronnie Salcido is a 51-year-old Costa Mesa resident who attended the late-night Kid Rock concert and then got up for work at, ugh, 5 a.m.
In perhaps one respect, he is not typical in the sea of white faces at the concert. But that doesn’t — or shouldn’t — matter.
Salcido is the kind of American who gives up NFL football because some players don’t stand during the national anthem. “I’m totally red, white and blue,” he says. “I stand for what the flag stands for and I go Trump.”
I ask if he has a problem with the name of the Kid Rock concert, “Red Blooded Rock ‘n Roll Redneck Extravaganza.”
Salcido says he doesn’t take the name seriously and suggests neither should anyone else. He may have a point.
Although some dictionaries and Wikipedia warn that “redneck” is a derogatory term usually used to describe “crass and unsophisticated” rural whites, Kid Rock proudly sings a song called “Redneck Paradise.”
“It’s a hole in the wall kinda small but the people are real nice / And folks in here they’s free and clear /To drink beer and dance all night.”
Still, the term “redneck” arguably has baggage, not the least of which is that it is connected to Confederate flags and, accordingly, racism. Robert Richie, as Kid Rock is called on his birth certificate, lost his sponsorship with Chevrolet after being criticized for displaying Confederate flags.
As someone with a son who is half African American and who is known for closely working with African Americans since his early days in hip-hop, Kid Rock has finally dropped the symbol.
“It’s not a racist thing,” Salcido offers of the words ‘Merica and redneck. “You’ve got the media, they’re going to stretch things out. But you can’t judge a book by its cover.
“Don’t be accusing somebody of something that they’re not.”
Who won WWII?
The far right and the far left tend to see things in black and white, as in there is right and there is wrong. But modern America is far more complex, with a spectrum of thought as diverse as a rainbow.
Deciding what’s amusing and what’s offensive is tricky in a world of Twitter, Instagram and comedians who test the razor’s edge with what’s funny and what’s just mean.
Is it OK for Roseanne Barr to rant, “Muslim brotherhood and Planet of the Apes had a baby”? Uh, no.
So what about a Kid Rock shirt with an election map of the last presidential election? Red states in President Donald Trump’s favor are labeled “United States of America.” Those in blue are labeled, well, something less tasteful.
Now, what about a T-shirt worn in public that claims America is both the World War I and the World War II champ?
Consider that the U.S. suffered 407,000 military deaths in World War II. Britain, with a fraction of America’s population, saw 383,700 deaths. Another member of the Axis, the Soviet Union, lost more than 8 million people.
Some may argue the shirt’s just for laughs. But if so, why am I offended?
‘Merica the great?
As the term ‘Merica takes root, let’s be clear what we’re talking about.
Merica is a genus of sea snails and that is not at issue.
What’s at issue are such slogans as: ‘Merica, established 1776, Undefeated 2-Time World War Champs.”
“Our country, our family, our way of life defended by the best,” the manufacturers of these T-shirts proclaim. “We will never forget their sacrifice. America all day, every day.”
The company adds it “can proudly say that all of our products are printed in the USA (not China).” But the same company doesn’t mention where those shirts are actually made.
Fortunately, people who wear the shirts are far more lighthearted.
Anthony Vizzini writes, “Since buying this shirt, I have been invited to sing national anthems at baseball games. People have stopped treading on me. Women address me as Mr. Theodore Abraham Washington. I can drink 16 oz of Budweiser out of a 12 oz can.”
After buying a ‘Merica bumper sticker, Anthony Mejia of San Diego offers of his purchase, “It’s ‘Merica, how could it not be perfect!”
Rock ‘n roll connections
According to etymology, pronouncing America as ‘Merica started in the 1800s. The rise of “‘Merica” as slang, however, rose about four years ago and is called “humorous” in the Urban Dictionary.
“People often say it when they see Americans doing things only Americans can do, such as: trimming a hedge with a chainsaw, eating quadruple burgers with extra lard, and driving tractors in the middle of a freeway.”
Dave Branson, a 49-year-old Huntington Beach resident, chuckles at the lingo and sees no threat. At the Kid Rock concert he wears a T-shirt proclaiming, “Trump 2016, Finally Someone With …” (since this is a family newspaper, I’ll let you fill in the last word).
Branson offers the concert is just about having fun. He says, sure, there are plenty of people at the venue he describes as “good ol’ boys,” but it’s never about racism. “It’s all about support for our country, America first.”
Lori Markell, a Lake Forest resident, says Kid Rock is an amazing artist and performer and she offers a humorous plan to connect the U.S.A.
“It should be mandatory before entering America,” Markell says, “to go to a baseball game and a Kid Rock concert.”