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West’s actions will not take away from popularity

Credit: Molly Cook/Art Staff Credit: Molly Cook/Art Staff
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You should know that you have messed up when the President of the United States calls you a “jackass.” America quickly condemned Kanye West’s actions from the moment he grabbed the microphone from a trembling 19-year-old pop-country singer, Taylor Swift. While many people in the media have extensively discussed West’s actions, President Obama stated the events most eloquently: he was a jackass. He messed up.

With that distinction out of the way, what do we do now? Do we just forgive him, or do we decide to boycott his music? West deserves neither to be crucified nor defended. The importance lies within realizing what we as Americans value.

This was not West’s first dabble in immaturity. I still remember when he uttered, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people.” America didn’t prevent his rise to the top then, and it won’t now. He is entrenched in our culture. His music has the ability to move us; his lyrics to reach our spiritual selves. He will be considered a “jackass,” but the American people will put his food on the table without problem.

The recent release of 808s and Heartbreak revealed the more melancholy aspect of West’s personality. In the past, he perceived himself as a slandered saint while ranting about various offenses, but this newest outburst has had a different effect on him. Merely a day after the MTV awards, West was one instant away from bursting out in tears during an interview with Jay Leno in front of a national audience.

Despite his repentance, he clearly deserves rebuke for his actions. Countless YouTube comments — often noted as the paragon of intellectual human discourse — advocate knee-jerk reactions. There were calls for boycotts, and people slammed his credibility as an artist. A complete knee-jerk reaction leads down a perilous path. He didn’t commit a crime. He simply violated an unspoken set of traditional “American Values.”

Should we boycott Serena Williams for her actions in the U.S. Open? Must we revoke Michael Vick’s license? If we disassociate America with West, then we should also revoke McEnroe’s membership to the Tennis Hall Of Fame.

I don’t mean to defend West; rather, I would like to note that art’s worth is not dependent upon the artist’s public persona, much like a great novel isn’t dependent upon the personality of the author. Swift is the unfortunate victim of a depraved violation of traditional American values, but America will forgive Kanye West. People will buy his albums, DJs will play his music in clubs, and people will go to his concerts (he just announced a world tour with Lady GaGa).

West’s rap in Jay-Z’s new single, “Run This Town,” interestingly runs surprisingly parallel to this cultural event. During West’s performance of the song on Jay Leno, he awkwardly squeaks out the first two lines, “it’s crazy how you can go from Joe Blow/To everybody on your dick, no homo.” He regains some swagger and realizes the consequences of fame, asking for “please no photos.” Fame isn’t simply being on top of the world. It comes with responsibilities to follow unspoken American values.

The pivotal line is then interjected: “This is the life that everybody ask for.” West has lived through the most extreme highs and lows that America can offer. His musical ability places him within a select group of extremely iconic people within America’s history, and his public persona has continually been defined by his inability to adapt to traditional American values.
West is both a jackass and an extremely talented person — no one would deny him either of these descriptions. In the eventuality of West’s return to the top of the charts, American history will repeat itself. We are a group of people made up of various dishonorable qualities. We all do wrong sometimes. American society attempts to perpetuate its traditional values. Those that violate them are rebuked, but with time are forgiven and allowed to rejoin the community.