I’ve listened to Oliver Anthony’s Rich Men North of Richmond a bunch of times now. If you haven’t heard it yet, you should give it a listen before you read further:
My colleagues Jim Thompson, Bonchie, Brandon Morse, and Jeff Charles have written eloquently on Mr. Anthony’s work. And I confess that I haven’t read a lot of the commentary on this wonderful tune before today, but on this quiet, breezy Great Land Sunday morning I listened to Mr. Anthony’s elegy again, and again, and did some surfing to see what other people were saying.
And I found this.
It almost seems as if, if Oliver Anthony hadn’t come along, someone would have had to invent him. And some progressives suspect he is an invention of behind-the-scenes forces, though there’s little evidence so far that he is not who he says he is: a factory worker turned farmer with a not-obscenely-expensive resonator guitar without a ton of industry connections waiting in the wings.
Of course, progressives suspect that Oliver Anthony is an invention. People always suspect their opponents of the actions they would take themselves.
Oliver Anthony is authentic, and while the left notes that this song of his has gone viral, they don’t understand why, and they never will. Mr. Anthony’s song has become an instant hit because it speaks to the people who work, who produce, who get up and go into a factory, or a car dealership, or a grocery store, or an office, every day because they need that paycheck every two weeks, and who are regularly incensed at the amounts taken from them by government, reflected in every pay statement. This is still, by and large, a country of people that work, and Oliver Anthony has given those people a voice.
And who are those people? If I could explain that to the Left, on behalf of Oliver Anthony’s fans, I would say this to them:
You denounce us as ignorant, as racists, as homophobes or transphobes, or whatever the pejorative of the day is. You look down your noses at people who never went to college, who work in the trades. But you of the left should remember one thing: You need us. We don’t need you.
You deride the people who live out in the woods, on farms, or in small towns in the hinterlands, but we are the people who grow your food. We are the ones who harvest lumber and quarry stone and gravel for concrete, all of the materials that go into building your homes. And remember: You need us. We don’t need you.
You look down your nose at the people who transport you. People like the thousands who work in the plants of Ford, GM, Chrysler, and the other various manufacturers all around the country. The people who refine the gasoline and diesel fuel that move the vehicles, the people who fix your car when it breaks down, the driver of the wrecker who comes out to help you because you lack the skills to do something as elementary as changing a tire – a skill I learned at about ten years of age. And remember: You need us. We don’t need you.
And what about the people who keep you warm? I’m talking about the thousands that work on the Alaskan oil fields, in the shale formations in the Dakotas, and on drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico. The people who build the pipelines, who move heavy equipment from site to site, who work in the refineries, and who move heating oil and natural gas from those refineries to their final point of use – not to mention the scientists and engineers who design and build the equipment and discover new sources of valuable fuels. You not only look down on these people but demonize them for their contributions to some nebulously defined “climate change,” even as the United States is leading the world in reducing carbon emissions not because of climate worries but because of cleaner fuels and vastly increased efficiencies, brought to you by those workers, scientists and engineers. And remember: You need us. We don’t need you.
We are people like my father, who farmed most of his life, or like my brother, who taught himself to be a master woodworker and then spent thirty years designing and building custom speakers. We are people like my neighbor across the road who works at the Polaris dealership, my other neighbor who builds beautiful hand-made wood furniture, like my friend up the next side road who repaired our roof last year, like the cooks and wait staff at our favorite lunch spot up the highway. There are millions of us, all over the country, in every suburb, in every small town, on every gravel road, up every “holler” and atop every ridge, from Alaska to Florida, from Maine to California. We are the ones who produce. We are the ones who provide goods and services that you, the urban left, cannot get along without.
You, you of the left, should always keep that one thing in mind, and think long and hard about its implications:
You need us.
We don’t need you.
And we are and always will be for people like Oliver Anthony. He speaks to us, and more importantly, he speaks for us. May he continue to do so, for many more years.