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James McMurtry “We Can’t Make It Here”

Published in Blog Archive, Culture Bully. Tags: .

I’m a fairly laid back person. I throw shitfits every now and then like most people do, but like most people, the vast majority of my pissiness is superficial and is forgotten almost immediately. It takes a lot to honestly get me riled up, so when I do become angry — honestly angry — it’s got to be for a good reason. And as true now as it was the first time I heard it: listening James McMurtry’s “We Can’t Make It Here” makes me angry.

I was first introduced to the musician by a roommate in college. To lend a bit of context to this, it should be noted that this particular roommate’s favorite musician of all time is Garth Brooks. (He and I don’t particularly see eye to eye on that one.) One day he came into my room and told me I had to listen to this CD he just bought, that being McMurtry’s Childish Things. Having gone through this before, I had done the “suuuuuuure, I’ll listen to it” routine, fired the disc up, and shut it back down as soon as he left the room. But he pushed this one on me, and in particular this very song. It was 2005, he a College Republican and I a politically confused Canadian, but we both sat there, listening, with frogs growing in each of our throats and tears swelling up in our eyes.

“Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin, or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in? Should I hate ‘em for having our jobs today? No I hate the man that sent the jobs away.”

James McMurtry is a country musician from Texas, he doesn’t take shit from the industry (ie: his 2008 independent release Just Us Kids was his first album to chart on the Billboard 200 since 1989), and he seems to be set in his ways. But he’s also a badass, he knows when to call a spade a spade, and is not afraid to do so. With this song he does just that. Saying that “We Can’t Make It Here” touches on the war, the effect the failing economy, and white collar crimes would simply be scratching at its surface. I can’t think of a more moving social critique that I’ve heard in a song. Ever.

In revisiting it now the song has lost little of its emotional charge. Even when taking into consideration that we now have a different administration, a “Yes We Can” attitude, and a President in office who the majority actually voted for, I think McMurtry’s words are as vital now as they were four years ago. Sometimes that painful reminder is a good thing, even if it does leave you feeling mad as hell.