When I wrote yesterday’s post about Oliver Anthony’s popular anthem, I didn’t know much at all about him. I was simply reacting to the lyrics of “Rich Men North of Richmond.” Consequently, my post, based solely on my first reactions to his popular song, may not have been as accurate as it could have been. I have since learned more about Oliver Anthony, whose real name is Christopher Anthony Lunsford.
According to Wikipedia— admittedly not always the best source for information– Oliver Anthony is between 29 and 31 years old. He comes from Farmville, Virginia, which is a town I know well. I went to college in Farmville, home of Longwood University (Longwood College when I went there). Anthony might have been born when I was still a college student in his hometown, a place where there is poverty and lots and lots of funeral homes. In all seriousness… I remember there were quite a few nursing homes and funeral homes in Farmville, when I lived there. Maybe that’s changed, though. Longwood has certainly changed a lot since my college days.
I read that Mr. Anthony dropped out of high school and later got a General Equivalency Diploma. He worked a lot of industrial jobs in Virginia and North Carolina. Farmville isn’t too far from the North Carolina border. Evidently, while working at a paper mill in North Carolina, Anthony suffered an accident that fractured his skull and left him unable to work for six months. He’s suffered from mental health issues and alcoholism. Much to my surprise, he claims to be “non-partisan”, saying “I sit pretty dead center down the aisle on politics and always have.”
If it’s true that Oliver Anthony is non-partisan, how is it that he’s become such a darling of the conservative, “anti-woke” crowd? I noticed a few of his other videos on YouTube. He’s written and sung a lot of songs that are about the plight of the working man. Indeed, he recorded most of his songs on a cellphone, singing near his off the grid camper. In the wake of his supposedly stunning debut, he’s made history, having become the first songwriter to debut at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with no prior chart history.
Record companies are reportedly clamoring to sign Oliver Anthony. He’s “brushed off” $8 million contracts, claiming he doesn’t want to be in the spotlight, nor does he want the trappings that usually come from success in the music business. If that’s true, I commend him. Just like light bulbs, people who burn really brightly tend to burn out quickly. I think it’s good if Anthony is grounded enough to realize that losing what’s led to his relatability would be a mistake.
I also think that jumping into sudden wealth can quickly lead to disaster. Many people get caught up in the idea of living in mansions and driving fancy cars, but they forget about the associated negative things like taxes, fairweather friends, unscrupulous business associates, gold diggers, and criminals who suddenly take notice, and unhealthy interest.
I don’t have any personal experience with this phenomenon myself, but I have read and heard a lot of stories about overnight sensations who become the hottest thing in town without proper support from honest people. Next thing you know, they’re hooked on drugs and/or alcohol, suffering from severe mental health problems, and have fallen among the down and out. Mr. Anthony has already admitted that he has issues with alcohol and his mental health. Like a lot of people with mental health issues, he’s shown extraordinary talent that speaks to a lot of people. I would hope there are people near him who are looking out for his well being.
Now… about that song. Personally, I am still not a big fan of it. I mostly explained why yesterday. It reduces a lot of very complex and serious issues into a three minute song that, I think, blames some of the wrong people. I especially don’t like that Mr. Anthony, while trying to represent the working people of America, throws poor people under the bus, especially as he alludes to personal responsibility. I think those particular lyrics, reposted below, are hypocritical and ignorant.
I wish politicians would look out for miners
And not just minors on an island somewhere
Lord, we got folks in the street, ain’t got nothin’ to eat
And the obese milkin’ welfare
Well, God, if you’re 5-foot-3 and you’re 300 pounds
Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds
Young men are puttin’ themselves six feet in the ground
‘Cause all this damn country does is keep on kickin’ them down
I get being a “salt of the earth” person, and I might even agree, on the surface, that taxes shouldn’t pay for junk food. However, as I mentioned in yesterday’s rant, what seems simple to so many people, isn’t actually simple at all. A poor, obese person using a SNAP card and eating fudge rounds is likely facing a lot of problems. Many of the problems they face are not so different than the ones Mr. Anthony has faced, and tried to drown with alcohol. Moreover, someone who weighs 300 pounds at 5’3″ probably has a legitimate eating disorder.
A lot of people scoff at the whole idea of eating disorders… especially folks who come from a lower middle class background (or poorer). Many people have also only heard of the most famous eating disorders, anorexia nervosa and bulimia. Those are the ones that get the books, TV specials, and movies, especially when someone famous suffers or dies after having been afflicted with them.
But there are many other eating disorders out there, and they are comorbid with a host of physical, emotional, and mental health problems. They aren’t fun to have, and they can have devastating effects on people’s lives and livelihoods. The deleterious effects of eating disorders don’t just negatively affect the person suffering from them, either. Their family members, loved ones, and friends also suffer, as does society as a whole.
It seems like common sense for someone who is very obese to just quit eating so much and start exercising more. I also know that plenty of people, lucky enough not to be bothered by eating disorders, will add that fat people shouldn’t be eating junk food. And, you know, people with obesity really shouldn’t eat junk food… nor should anyone else, really, be eating junk food. But it’s so easy to think or say what people should or shouldn’t be doing, especially when you know nothing about them, their lives, or the issues they’re facing.
People develop eating disorders for different reasons. Sometimes it’s genetic. Sometimes, it happens because of trauma. Sometimes a person uses overeating, purging, or starvation as a means of coping with stress or even pain. Sugar rushes temporarily make people feel good. So do endorphin and adrenaline rushes. Fat consumption can be very comforting to some people, not to mention flavorful. Food that tastes good makes people feel better… for a short while, anyway.
When I was a lot younger, I used to skip meals a lot in an attempt to lose weight and, if I’m honest, get attention from others. Doing that usually made me really bitchy (more so than usual, that is), but sometimes I’d get an endorphin rush not unlike the ones I’d get after cutting myself or maybe hitting my head (or another body part). That rush can feel really good, especially to someone who is in some kind of pain or distress. I hasten to add here, I didn’t deliberately cut myself to get endorphin rushes. I’m merely mentioning that rush I’ve experienced after accidentally hurting myself somehow.
Deliberate cutting is an associated behavior for some people with mental health issues seeking stress or pain relief in unconventional ways. Sometimes people cut themselves on purpose as a means of distracting themselves from another kind of pain, such as replacing physical pain and bleeding with psychological pain. And the bonus is that rush of endorphins that sometimes happens when a person is hurting physically.
As a side note… I just started entering search terms on Google and it somehow knew I was going to ask about eating disorders. I typed “Why do people develop”, and it immediately suggested “eating disorders” as the top result. Obviously, I’m not the only person who wonders about it.
The truth is, there’s no one definitive reason why a person might develop problematic eating patterns. But, impoverished people often have had a lot of trauma in their lives, and food is a cheap and readily available way to soothe bad feelings. What makes a food addiction especially problematic is that people have to eat to survive, and food (especially junk food) tends to be ubiquitous. And as I mentioned yesterday, it isn’t always easy for everyone to simply eat good, nutritious food.
I imagine that Mr. Anthony, who reportedly has himself been living off the grid, would know that firsthand, just as he apparently knows about being an alcoholic. I’ll bet Oliver Anthony doesn’t like it when people point at him and claim he’s the source of a complicated societal problem. And I’ll bet the poor people who eat fudge rounds don’t like that, either. It’s not a crime to be poor, and lobbing abuse and hate toward people unfortunate enough to need welfare assistance is neither productive, nor fair. Moreover, if a person is going to sermonize about personal responsibility, they really ought to start by taking a good hard look at themselves and their personal responsibility for their own situations before pointing fingers at other people.
No matter what, though… individual welfare recipients are not directly responsible for keeping the working poor in poverty. It’s probably more likely that Anthony’s song title has the true culprit within it. That is– wealthy people who make many times what the workers make, and are more interested in keeping investors and shareholders happy are probably the ones keeping down the working folks who are just scraping by in life. Add in the fact that basic necessities like health insurance cost so much– again, because healthcare is a business, rather than a human right.
A few days ago, I mentioned my college friend who was doing well enough to recently take a vacation in Hawaii. Just after she came home from that trip, she was in a catastrophic car accident. She may never fully recover from that accident, and there’s now a crowdfunding effort to help her family accommodate her needs when she’s discharged from the rehab hospital where she’s spent the summer.
While I don’t mind helping my friends, and I did help my friend’s cause, she’s in this situation because she was in an accident. Why should she depend on the kindness of family and friends to get the care she obviously needs? Especially when there are American people who have made so much money that they’ll never be able to spend it all in their lifetime, yet they’re constantly trying to find ways to avoid paying taxes. And you know as well as I do that the vast majority of those super rich people didn’t get rich without a lot of help from the much less wealthy.
Anyway… I’d like to see Oliver Anthony dig a little deeper into the issue. And if he really is non-partisan, I’d like to see his lyrics focus less on shitting on people who are already down, regardless of their body size. We all have problems. Everybody has a story. While a lot of people can relate to “Rich Men North of Richmond” and think it’s perfectly fine that Anthony specifically calls out fat people on welfare, personally, I’m not very impressed by it. It seems like a really cheap shot to me. Maybe some more reflection and empathy are in order.
Just my opinion, folks… perhaps I should write a song about it, too.