Op-Ed: Mad About Willie Nelson’s Beto O’Rourke Rally Concert? You Haven’t Been Paying Attention
Willie Nelson recently announced plans to do something he's never done in his lengthy career: On Sept. 29, he'll headline a rally concert for U.S. Senate hopeful Beto O'Rourke, a Democrat from Texas who is currently serving in the House of Representatives and is running for Senate in the 2018 midterm election against incumbent Ted Cruz. And, somehow, people are mad about it.
As the Washington Post reports, social media users are shaming Nelson for supporting "a socialist who has probably lied to you" and "an anti-American fellow." The country icon's one-time fans are swearing off the "hippie guitarist who supports that damn socialist running for Senate."
It's not the fact that Twitter and Facebook are buzzing with calls to boycott Nelson and his music that's surprising; after all, it's 2018, when everyone can find something to rail against on social media. No, what's confusing is that Nelson supporting a liberal politician comes as a shock to anyone.
For decades, Nelson has supported social and political causes including the legalization of marijuana and same-sex marriage, and he recently spoke out against the separation of immigrant families at U.S. borders. He co-founded Farm Aid in the mid-1980s and continues to support family farms in the U.S. Even if you're the "shut up and sing" type who only pays attention to an artist's music, it would be hard to miss Nelson's politics: "Living in the Promiseland," "Jimmy's Road" and "Whatever Happened to Peace on Earth?" are just three of the politically charged tracks from throughout his six-decade career.
Although a press release reports that Nelson's upcoming musical rally for O'Rourke is his first public concert in support of a political candidate, it's hardly his first time taking part in an election-related event. He sang at a 2014 fundraiser for Democrat Wendy Davis, then a candidate for Texas governor; supported future presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders during his 2006 U.S. Senate run; and performed during a rally in Austin for Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern all the way back in 1972.
Nelson is practically the poster child for hippie guitarists; we wouldn't be shocked to, as the cliche goes, look up the phrase in the dictionary and find Nelson's photo. You can agree or disagree with his choice of Senate candidate, but you can't argue that it's inconsistent with the political viewpoints he's been expressing for years.
Nelson has always been forthcoming about his views, which he's expressed with grace and class, and is a role model for younger artists hoping to blend commercial success with activism. One political rally concert shouldn't change 60 years of great music, no matter your political leanings.
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