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Jason Aldean's Tough Small Town Doesn't Take Care of Its Major Problems

Jason Aldean certainly threw some wood on the fire that feeds the American culture wars with his song Try That in a Small Town. (See complete lyrics below.)
 

 
Aldean's morally pure, no-nonsense view of the small town reminds us of the Neo-Confederate portrayal of Antebellum South as moonlight and magnolias, when it was, in fact, "an Antidemocratic, Centralized State, a state devoted to white supremacy," not "a libertarian symbol of small government and resistance to federal tyranny."
 
In this southern tradition, Aldean draws a sharp contrast between big cities, which are bad, and small towns, which are good. Aldean sings, "Well, that shit might fly in the city, good luck/Try that in a small town/See how far ya make it down the road." 
 
Aldean cites specific examples of criminal behavior in big cities that small town vigilantism would handle immediately:
 
  • Sucker punching a random person
  • Carjacking an old lady
  • Robbing a liquor store at gunpoint
  • Cussing out and spitting on a cop at a protest
  • Infringing on your right to have granddad's legacy gun
This is stuff that no one anywhere, big city or small, wants to see, let alone normalize.
 
Yet, Aldean see the small town as an idyllic place where upstanding citizens pull together to protect each other. As Aldean guarantees, "Around here, we take care of our own/You cross that line, it won't take long/For you to find out."
 
Vigilantism, though, is not going to cut it in governing a small town.
 
Although small town America has a "reliance on informal social control" where Aunt Jenny lets you know someone has been in your backyard while you were gone, there are huge social problems that need more than a small town attitude to fix. 
 
Small town America is, to be honest, economically, educationally and socially faced with major problems, large parts of which involve criminal behavior.
 
There are a number of factors working against citizen health and safety in small towns: easy availability to alcohol and drugs, poverty, low educational attainment, unemployment, lack of mental health services, and a good deal of social isolation.
 
All of these factors point to a greater probability of high-risk behaviors.
 
For example, as Stacy Mosel clarifies:
  • Overdose rates in rural counties increased from 4.0 to 19.6 per 100,000 people between 1999 and 2019.
  • Per capita, the opioid overdose rate in rural communities is 45% higher than in cities.
  • Around 33% of people aged 12-20 living in rural areas abuse alcohol, compared to 28.5% of those living in big cities.
  • 5% of people aged 12 and older in rural areas misuse opioids, compared to 3.2% in big cities.
 
And, too, just as in big cities, there is small town racism. Plus, violence against Native Americans.
 
There is a beauty in small town America, for sure. The American countryside is both varied and beautiful, often stunning. People in small towns tend to know each other. This makes life, if you are part of the in-group, socially comfortable and emotionally reassuring.  And, 19th century architecture and town squares are enchanting.
 
But, there is a beauty to city life, too: wonderful architecture, tremendous cultural opportunities, strong medicine, a variety of educational choices, many different career options and, simply put, a variety of life.
 
Yet, the question remains: if Aldean's small town handles its own problems quickly, why are there so many and such large ones?
 
Marc Cirigliano
 
 
Lyrics to Try That In A Small Town by Jason Aldean
 
Sucker punch somebody on a sidewalk
Carjack an old lady at a red light
Pull a gun on the owner of a liquor store
Ya think it's cool, well, act a fool if ya like

Cuss out a cop, spit in his face
Stomp on the flag and light it up
Yeah, ya think you're tough

Well, try that in a small town
See how far ya make it down the road
Around here, we take care of our own
You cross that line, it won't take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don't
Try that in a small town

Got a gun that my granddad gave me
They say one day they're gonna round up
Well, that shit might fly in the city, good luck

Try that in a small town
See how far ya make it down the road
Around here, we take care of our own
You cross that line, it won't take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don't
Try that in a small town

Full of good ol' boys, raised up right
If you're looking for a fight
Try that in a small town
Try that in a small town

Try that in a small town
See how far ya make it down the road
Around here, we take care of our own
You cross that line, it won't take long
For you to find out, I recommend you don't
Try that in a small town

Try that in a small town
Ooh-ooh
Try that in a small town

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