Which is worse?
A song named “F___ the Po Po”?
Or a rock star — who once recorded a song “I am the NRA” — promising that, “If Barack Obama becomes the next president in November, again, I will either be dead or in jail by this time next year”?
Last September, as his last song before a sold-out Track 29 audience, singer/songwriter Corey Smith started playing his well-known anthem — “F___ the Po-Po” — about a run-in he had with police in his Georgia hometown.
He never finished. Track 29 officials pulled the plug, turning off the sound in what many saw as direct censorship.
Smith, who days later wrote “Chattanooga” about the night, is coming back to Track 29 this September in a laudable gesture that suggests both sides are approaching the event quite differently this year.
But a few weeks before Smith returns, Track 29 is hosting one of the most outspoken rockers in the U.S.: Motor City Madman Ted Nugent.
Nugent, a six-time board member of the NRA, has been rocking since the 1970s, selling more than 40 million albums worldwide and once performing here in the early 1990s with the Bad Company/Damn Yankees tour.
In recent years, Nugent’s music has been surpassed by his politics. Few are as loud to defend the Second Amendment and conservatism as Nugent. Usually, he does so in tasteless ways.
After “The Dark Knight Rises’’ massacre in Aurora, Colo., Nugent suggested fewer lives would have been lost if the audience had been armed, Tweeting and misspelling: “IF only they would hav had a good gun.”
Three days later, he tweeted the United Nations peacekeepers should “eat (expletive) & die.”
Poet laureate, he ain’t.
In a recent Washington Times guest editorial, Nugent had some strong words in response to the Affordable Care Act.
“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War,” he wrote. “Our Founding Fathers’ concept of limited government is dead.”
And in April, speaking at the NRA convention, Nugent made the “dead or in jail” comment that some viewed as a threat by a heavily armed citizen against a war-time president. (The Secret Service actually investigated.)
If on the night of Nugent’s show — Tuesday, August 21 — he makes such inflammatory statements, should Track 29 pull the plug?
Of course not.
The First Amendment is the First Amendment, and Nugent — and Corey Smith — are free to say what they please, like it or not. Plus, if you scratch past all the outrageous headline-making comments, Nugent actually does some good.
He supports and funds programs that aid and assist veterans and law enforcement officers. He hosts summer camps in his work getting kids involved in the outdoor world and “away from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, gang, crime and the zombie world of videogame disconnect that has been such a negative force on their lives.”
I like that. A lot. So, as a gesture of bipartisanship, and with a nod to a touch of humor in the midst of a rough political season, I’d like to invite Nugent to meet me in the Track 29 parking lot on the day of his show.
For a friendly duel of sorts.
A five arrow contest.
From a distance of 50 yards, the best of five arrows shot into a standard bull’s-eye target.
If I lose, I’ll make a donation to his Kids Kamp.
If he loses, he has to make a similar donation to Joe Smith’s Westside Boxing Club. And that night, on stage, he has to speak — into the microphone, so everyone can hear — eight little words: “President Obama may not be all that bad.”
“He’s such a world-class sportsman, it probably wouldn’t be a fair fight,” said Adam Kinsey, co-owner of Track 29.
Good point. Since I’m as good at bowhunting as Nugent is at spelling, we’ll have to agree on a handicap of sorts.
Maybe Nugent shoots from 100 yards. Blindfolded in one eye. Or his target is a bagel-sized bull’s-eye while mine is more like a small moon.
Once he accepts the challenge, we can work out the rest.
Either way, one thing is certain: The loser can say whatever he wants.
Contact David Cook at email@example.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DCookTFP.
David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...