Recently I was asked to submit 4-700 words to The Progressive on Adam Levine’s “I hate this country” remark. To see the edited version of those comments you can check their website. For the unedited original simply see below.
What’s Not to Hate?
Jared A. Ball
“When a man is sad over his miserable conditions he does nothing… Sadness doesn’t change anything. It’s only when he gets mad that he changes it.” – Malcolm X
“Complacency is a far more dangerous attitude than outrage.” – Naomi Littlebear
“I don’t hate ‘police brutality.’ I hate the police.” – Frank Wilderson
The only thing at all controversial about Adam Levine saying “I hate this country” is that he only said it out of frustration over two contestants being voted off “The Voice.” The real controversy is that what he said is seen as controversial at all. For all that is wrong with this country and the world what’s not to hate? What is truly hatable is that this was not Levine joining the ranks of artists whose names have been scandalized for their political radicalism. He was not looking to join a tradition which includes Hazel Scott, Paul Robeson and Bob Marley. Levine’s one-liner doesn’t even elevate him to the level of The Dixie Chicks or Kanye West’s Bush-inspired fleeting moment of public lucidity. No, Levine’s “hate” was just an unfortunate waste of an underrated yet justifiable emotion. The righteous hate we should have with this country, the “divine dissatisfaction” once described by Dr. King, was reduced to Levine’s frustration with what he saw as an ignorant television audience. But Levine is ultimately a product of elite corporations that went briefly off script so to assure his sponsors that he had not gone Jerry Maguire, or worse Howard Beale, the Maroon 5 frontman said it was merely a joke and reminded us that his band is in fact, “named after the [U.S.] flag’s famous five maroon stars.” All hail the maroon, white and blue after all.
But for me, and the band of haters I roll with, hate of this unjust world and all that inhibits revolutionary change is a way of life. We come from a generation that witnessed a consolidated media and music industry deploy Sean “Puffy” Combs to lead the backlash against hip-hop’s inherent power of critique with the slogan “don’t hate.” All manner of sins are protected by that phrase and the false equivalence it generates between legitimate criticism and simple jealousy. Radio Raheem made this clear decades ago, love and hate form a necessary emotional dialectic. Preservation of what is loved requires a hatred of what threatens it. We not only proudly proclaim ourselves as Haters but encourage with our motto that we all “Hate Harder!” So if anything we must hate on Adam Levine not for his initial comment (from which he immediately backtracked!) but for his incredibly weak use of such a powerful and truly freedom loving concept.
Levine didn’t say, “I hate this country” because of its love for the production of hate via worsening inequality, persistent war or its support of Zionism. Nor was his ire directed at a national hate-loving ethic of anti-Blackness that produces white musical knock-offs who mimic people condemned to increased incarceration and death at the hands of law enforcement [non]officials literally Every 28 Hours; it even produces a Black president whose only words for Black people can be summarized as, “I’m not your president” and “Assata Shakur is the terrorist.” No, Levine didn’t say “I hate this country” because its public policies, as the late law professor Derrick Bell once described, have the equivalent impact of weekly random executions of hundreds of Black people. And he certainly did not say his band is named after Russell “Maroon” Shoatz as a symbol of their solidarity with this country’s still-held political prisoners.
No, all he did was reduce what is truly hatable about this country to what at minimum has assured he will be honored in eponym during our next Super Funky Soul Power Hour Annual Hate Awards ceremony with the Adam Levine Abuse of Hate Award, which he will likely win.
Dr. Jared A. Ball is the father of two brilliant and adorable daughters, Maisi (7) and Marley (5), and the fortunate husband of Nelisbeth Yariani Ball. After that he is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. and is the producer and host of the “Super Funky Soul Power Hour” (Fridays 11a-12p EST) on Washington, DC’s WPFW 89.3 FM Pacifica Radio. Ball is the author of I MiX What I Like: A MiXtape Manifesto (AK Press, 2011) and co-editor of A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X (Black Classic Press, 2012). He can be found online at IMIXWHATILIKE.ORG.