Country music can't seem to make up its mind about the vaccine

Jason Aldean publicly rails against vaccine mandates, but his venue requires proof of vaccination. What gives?

BROOKLYN, MICHIGAN - JULY 18: Jason Aldean performs during Faster Horses Festival at Michigan Intern...
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In what will likely become a trend, Governor Gavin Newsom has made California the first state to announce that vaccines will be mandated for kids to attend public or private school in person. The mandate is contingent upon FDA approval for each respective age group—which has not been granted yet — and will be required the following semester. Which will likely mean we will see enforcement in the fall of next year for grades 7-12, and even later than that for elementary aged children. In what is also a trend, bro country artists are speaking out against the mandate, most notably, Jason Aldean.

Aldean is a star in country music, a genre known for conservative values and fanbases, and he posted to his Instagram to allege that Newsom’s mandate was taking away his decision as “a free American” on whether or not to vaccinate his children. It is worth noting that Aldean lives in a mansion in Tennessee — a state that will be one of the last to issue this mandate, if at all, considering the rest of its voting trends on pandemic-related topics. His commentary followed the typical mindset of conservative backlash posts, wherein one politician is held accountable for a decision that likely many experts and politicians weighed in on, as though a pandemic mandate by the Governor of one state is tyrannical. He then follows with the now unfortunately normalized rhetoric inciting others to be “outraged” and “start standing up and speaking out NOW.” It might be fall, but lest we forget that the year began with a fucking insurrection, stoked in large part by this same type of drivel. And sure, this isn’t typically anything new at this point in our Covid timeline, but it shouldn’t go unnoticed. This continued, red-faced blustering from influential far right characters continues to fuel this pandemic.

Aldean ended his rant with “This is not how America and being free works!” But in fact, it in large part is how America and being free works. Vaccines have granted us freedom from so many diseases and viruses. They’ve eradicated ills that used to plague society like polio, the measles and the mumps. Also adding the Covid vaccine, once FDA approved, to the California mandate would make it one of ten other required vaccines, with the latter group having been required for decades. There will also be parameters written into the mandate that allow for religious or personal exemptions, that are awaiting public comment before being officially added — a lenience that sounds like a far cry from infringing on freedom of choice.

The problem is not that requiring the Covid vaccine infringes upon freedom, it is that the Covid vaccine itself has been politicized. To these sorts of thinkers (Jason Aldean and his wife recently put their small children in “Hidin’ from Biden” t-shirts on her Instagram), the vaccine is a symbol of their protest against changing political tides, not ending a fight on bodily autonomy. And if that is what bothers these bro country musicians so much, then perhaps they should be as vociferous about the Texas abortion ban — legislation that actually does infringe on bodily autonomy and freedom, and does not allow for any religious or personal exemption. If your children shouldn’t have government mandates on their bodies, neither should women. So by his own logic, should we call Jason Aldean pro-choice?

Ironically, it would appear that at his own venue, Aldean is pro vaccine and pro mask. As Aldean’s comments about Newsome have circulated, so did a certain press release advertising a performance by Aldean at his own venue today—a performance that required not just proof of full vaccination, but also masks.

It’s worth noting that Jason Aldean’s bar and venue, named after himself, is part of an influx of bars popping up, operated by and named after radio country stars on Nashville’s lower Broadway strip. It’s an infamous area of town that was once known and beloved as the epicenter of the neon-lit, rowdy honkytonks sung about in old country songs. Today though, the area has become a battleground for Nashville’s soul. As the city has been drastically made over by developers, the strip that locals used to frequent to hear authentic country music has become an upsetting tourist theme park where “transportainment” vehicles jostle loud, drunk people around all day and night, and large, problematic bachelorette parties prowl the street like loose hyenas. Jason Aldean’s multi-level carnival is a favorite to these new types of patrons — people whom he apparently thinks should be vaccinated to enter his own establishment. It would seem as though he’d like to pick and choose the talking points of the bro country ethos he’s embedded within, but he certainly doesn’t mind putting his stamp on the political discourse around vaccines, contributing to the chaos of Nashville’s party scene, or insisting on hypocritical requirements for his own shows within it.