Toby Keith’s latest 4th of July song, “Happy Birthday America,” “will bring a tear to every patriot’s eye,” writes The Daily Mail. It brought a tear to mine, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it brought a tear or two to yours, too.
By its title, one would expect a booming July 4th anthem, perfect to play at the BBQ or on the boat. It isn’t. “Seems like everybody’s pissin’ on the red, white and blue,” sings Keith.“Happy birthday America whatever’s left of you.”
The song is hard to hear when we are supposed to be celebrating independence and everything that makes America exceptional, but “Happy Birthday America” is truer to the United States in 2021 than any other song on your 4th of July playlist.
You were the darlin’ when you saved the world
WW I and II
France would just be part of Germany now
If it hadn’t been for you
Now your children wanna turn you in
To something other than yourself
They burn your flag in their city streets
More than anybody else
Indeed, 2020 was defined by Marxist race riots, the destruction of historical monuments, and a mass rejection of our once-beloved founding fathers. In the aftermath, no part of American life seems to be spared from the “Black Lives Matter”-inspired notion of collective American shame. You’ll find it in schools, the workplace, and the same military that “saved the world WW I and II.”
Right now at our Olympics, athletes who are supposed to represent America are instead humiliating us on a national stage before our allies and enemies alike. One athlete turned away from the flag on the podium during the “Star Spangled Banner.” Another said he only wants to compete in order to “burn a US flag on the podium.”
All the broken-down cities
By the left’s design
And the right can’t seem to get it right
Most of the time
Keith is spot on about this one, too. Unnecessary and anti-science COVID-19 lockdowns have brought America’s most beautiful and historic cities to their knees. Not only have cities been economically broken-down, but Democrat-endorsed BLM rioting literally torched the United States in 2020.
Last year, I did live reporting from Kenosha, Wisconsin after the Jacob Blake shooting. When I was there during the second night for rioting, I remember thinking how I never thought that in my home state, a place I lived my whole life and is 97 percent rural, could ever devolve into, as I said at the time, “something I had only seen in photos of war-torn countries.”
I returned for several days to talk to business owners and residents in the daylight and survey the destruction from the nights before. It was crushing.
Who they gonna count on
When you’re not there to take their call?
Will the world keep right on spinnin’
Without the greatest of them all?
Without the helping hand of God
Your days are numbered, my old friend
We’re sure gonna miss you, girl
You were the best that’s ever been
Keith told Fox News that he wrote “Happy Birthday America” last summer. “It had been a screwed up 18 months,” Keith said. “I live in the heartland, and it just feels like everybody you talk to has the same worries.”
“It just feels like the politicians aren’t getting the job done on either side and it just feels like the democracy is in danger,” he said. Keith has never identified with a political party. He was raised a Democrat in Oklahoma but became an independent in 2008. “I was a Democrat my whole life,” Keith told the Chicago Tribune at the time. “They kind of disowned me when I started supporting the troops, then I went and registered independent.”
That’s what makes “Happy Birthday America” so striking. Toby Keith, the man who wrote some of America’s greatest patriotic anthems, isn’t even wondering if America’s best days are behind her; he already knows. “Your days are numbered, my old friend. We’re sure gonna miss you, girl.”
Going back 20 years, “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue,” one of Keith’s biggest hits written in late 2001, captured the patriotic American spirit that brought the country together in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Now this nation that I love has fallen under attack
A mighty sucker punch came flyin’ in from somewhere in the back
Soon as we could see clearly
Through our big black eye
Man, we lit up your world
Like the fourth of July
Hey Uncle Sam, put your name at the top of his list
And the Statue of Liberty started shakin’ her fist
And the eagle will fly man, it’s gonna be hell
When you hear mother freedom start ringin’ her bell
And it feels like the whole wide world is raining down on you
Brought to you courtesy of the red white and blue
I cannot remember the Twin Towers falling down. When Alan Jackson sings “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning,” I couldn’t tell you. I was only a year old. I don’t remember the horror of watching the towers crash live on TV. The anxiety never sunk in that my homeland is under attack. I also don’t remember the American flags that showed up overnight in front of homes and businesses and flew from cars and boats.
As Marine veteran and medal of honor recipient Dakota Meyer said on Joe Rogan’s podcast: “I would never wish for another 9/11, but I would give anything for a 9/12… people were proud of America.”
Growing up, I often regarded the zeitgeist captured in “Courtesy of the Red, White, and Blue” as not an ideal or a legacy. It is America, or so I thought. As I’ve grown older, though, things have changed, and not just for me, but for Keith and the rest of Americans.
I don’t remember the unique unity experienced in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. I do, however, remember being taught Thanksgiving is racist in elementary school. In high school, I remember being handed Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History” and hearing the same America-hating narrative repeated back to me as a history major in college.
Outside of school, one of the most formative experiences of my life has been my trip to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where I watched an otherwise sleepy Wisconsin city burn at the hands of radical leftists and their lies.
When I watch Fourth of July TikToks, all I see is boiling hatred for our country. The flag isn’t a symbol of national unity anymore, it’s a symbol of racism and oppression.
“All these Fourth of July decorations doesn’t sit well with me,” says one Tik Tok-er. “We’re at a point where the American flag on any piece of anything… screams racist to me. It screams colonizer… fourth of July is officially cancelled… f-ck the fireworks.”
“Due to America being a hot steaming pile of garbage,” says another user, “I will not be celebrating Fourth of July or Thanksgiving now or ever.”
This constant animosity toward our country, assassination of authentic history, and assault on America’s legacy is overwhelming. It beats you down — even the best of us, like Toby Keith.
When I ignore the critical race theory and whatever Ibram X. Kendi is tweeting about, though, I still see a shining city upon a hill. I can see the America that can trace its roots to rugged pilgrims seeking religious freedom in 1620, not 1619. The one founded on principles that established authentic equality during the Civil War, suffragist movement, and civil rights movement.
We are two-time World War champs and we triumphed over communism during the Cold War. Our founders weren’t avid racists, but enlightened men who sacrificed their reputations, livelihoods, and lives, which allows us to, as Keith sings, “wake up in freedom.” “Freedom, tested by blood, and watered with tears.”
Maybe Keith is right, and America’s days are numbered. Maybe everything that’s good about America is its history that is now being sacrificed for a left-wing narrative cementing an unavoidable downfall.
But I like to think that if there are still people willing to bravely fight abroad and at home defend America’s legacy — not just in Congress, but in the classroom, on the school board, and at the local city council meeting — then there is still hope. Maybe me saying this despite being too young to have experienced the America Keith is famous for singing about is another sign of hope, or maybe it’s just youthful naivete.