Country singer Rodney Atkins became embroiled in controversy on Monday when a photograph of him exiting the Nashville location of popular organic/health food chain Trader Joe’s found its way onto country gossip website Nashville Gab. The post, unassumingly titled Who knew Rodney Atkins had a little hippie in him?, began exciting comment within minutes of its publication.
The first comment came from cntryfan93, who wondered: “OMG, what was Rodney Atkins doing at Trader Joe’s? I thought he was a Christian?”
Another poster calling himself atkinsfan101 was quick to leap to the singer’s defense:
“This picture was obviously photoshopped. Rodney Atkins is a proud American and there’s no way that he would set foot in that sort of store. I’ll bet the real picture was of him leaving an REI and some liberal prankster thought it would be funny to make it seem like Atkins hangs out in those dens of sloth and free love known as natural food stores.”
The picture quickly went viral, appearing on many other popular websites before making the leap to print sources the following morning. One of the first newspapers to pick up the story was The Tennessean, which has a long history of super-size french frying controversies of this sort.
As fans wait for an official comment on the matter from Atkins’ representatives, the thought of their favorite singer willingly rubbing elbows with hippies in close proximity to products as distinctly un-American as low-fat soymilk, organic rice crackers, and Tofutti Cuties (a communist parody of the American ice cream sandwich) has already inspired some to outright revolt, fueled by a sense of betrayal of core patriotic values.
One Michigan radio station sponsored an It’s America Smashathon, encouraging listeners to bring their copies of Atkins’ latest album to be destroyed. “If you have any Friends with Tractors, get them out here too and we’ll smash these things up,” said morning drive personality Hank ‘Hairball’ Lambert. Hundreds of people showed up for the event. An oddly convoluted sign held by one demonstrator read: “Traitor Joe’s. Get it? ‘Trader’ and ‘Traitor’ sound almost the same, sort of like a homophone. I’m saying that Rodney Atkins is a traitor. Trust me, it’s clever.”
Another sign depicted Atkins as a Birkenstocked, tie-dyed hippie with a dirty mane of hair doing a raindance with a circle of scraggly friends in a peaceful meadow, a vegan picnic lunch spread out on a hemp blanket off to the side.
Country legend and left-of-that liberal songwriter Kris Kristofferson, who once famously wrote that “Jesus was a Capricorn, he ate organic foods/He believed in love and peace and never wore no shoes,” was quick to weigh in on the matter. No stranger to controversy himself, Kristofferson commented that he thought the photograph – which he had heard about but not yet seen – was being completely blown out of proportion. “Everyone has a right to shop wherever they want,” said Kristofferson. “I don’t think we should persecute Rodney Atkins for shopping at Trader Joe’s. Unless he was holding one of those environmentally-conscious cloth shopping bags, in which case do whatever you want to him. There’s no helping people like that.”