Try that in a small town


Country singer Jason Aldean caused a ruckus with his song, “Try That in a Small Town.” Those who have heard the song know that Aldean was offering commentary on events such as the riots of the summer of 2020 and other disturbances that hit a number of major cities.

The song lamented the destruction and lawlessness demonstrated, including arson, looting, and taking over portions of cities while police departments were hamstrung by feckless politicians who ordered them to stand down. The message of the song was that such behavior wouldn’t be tolerated in a small town.

Then came the backlash from horrified people who called Aldean a racist, that he was divisive, collective hands were wrung, sensibilities were offended, and Aldean castigated. CMT removed the song from its offerings and the result? Aldean’s song was launched to the Number One slot.

Here’s the thing … America, wherever the majority of people choose to settle, is mostly comprised of small and mid-sized towns. I have spent my life in such towns, and I will confess that Aldean was right … such behavior would NOT be tolerated in those towns.

It is in these very towns where America is still loved, with all her scars and pimples, where most people expect their neighbors to be decent law-abiding citizens, and where the young people are taught to respect their elders, obey the laws, and respect the police.

People in small towns, at least the ones I know, think that the major cities have lost their minds. There were 100 days of violence during the summer of 2020 and insurance payouts caused by the mobs and criminals who burned, robbed, and otherwise sowed the seeds of destruction, ranged from $1 billion to $2 billion dollars. ( And that’s only what insurance companies paid.

Take Newnan, Georgia in the county where I reside. In 2018, word came that a Neo-Nazi group was coming to town to have a rally. Well, the folks in Atlanta Antifa thought it would be a good thing to travel a few miles south and stage their own protest. Sort of an “Anti-fascist vs the Nazis” theme. Sounds like the making of a good old brawl. Maybe even an Old West style confrontation and gunfight.

But Newnan, by Atlanta standards, is a small town. And the citizens and officials said, “Nope. Not gonna happen.” Now, under the U.S. Constitution, both the Nazis and the Antifa crowd have the right to speak freely. And in this part of America, at least, we still believe in the Constitution.

On that fateful day, hundreds of ordinary folk, blacks and whites alike, decided to come out and let it be known that some behaviors weren’t going to be tolerated and to let both groups know that the locals saw them as undesirable and unwanted troublemakers.

These peaceful citizens were supplemented by some 700 law enforcement officers from multiple jurisdictions who made it clear that the Neo-Nazis and the Antifa radicals could have their say but they weren’t going to be able to get close to each other and that violence would be swiftly dealt with. They also made it clear that masks would not be tolerated so both the white supremacists and the Antifa crowd actually had to show their faces.

My dad, who was a small-town guy, would have said something like, “We’re just not going to put up with that sort of foolishness.” And he would have meant it. And so did the people of Newnan and Coweta County. And so do the majority of people who live peaceable lives in America’s small towns.

In the end, all was well. Some people got arrested but the police were firmly in control. The Neo-Nazi presence wasn’t nearly what they boasted it would be and, robbed of their opportunity to mask up and confront the Nazis, the Antifa take was that the police were too rough on them. But then this isn’t Seattle either.

One young woman, a news commentator, in describing country music, said it is “three chords and a truth.” So, to Whoopie Goldberg, the ladies on the View, and others who disparage and revile the common folks in small town America, Jason Aldean spoke the truth. People really don’t want to try that stuff in a small town.

[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King ( Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South ( He may be contacted at]


  1. I love you Bernard Jack! ❤️😊👏 Usually I have to do the research to set Fr Epps and Trey Hoffman straight, and so thank you for your well-reasoned and researched reply!

    Also thanks to Suz, STF, and Balin, for the thoughtful comments and keeping to the high ground. Sam Hose was a black man lynched by a mob in Macon where Aldean is from and says he was hearkening back to in his song. Then he filmed the music video at the site of another notorious lynching. How can we interpret his song as anything but racially charged?

    Because all the good folks mentioned have ably defended the reasonable and charitable position in this debate, I’ll just share my story and do what I do best, get all snarky about it.

    First, I heard Aldean’s dumb song on the radio, I guess back when it first came out and before anyone noticed the music video’s horrifying leanings, and upon hearing the lyrics I thought: “This is the most passive aggressive country song since Country Boy Can Survive, only it’s more offensive!” And I didnt think anything more about it until a few weeks later when my partner asked if I had heard it and said it was getting canceled. I said I was not surprised, as it was so divisive.

    Why, my partner asked, did I say that? It was just about growing up in a small-knit community (which my partner did! Like 10 boys in his HS graduating class!). I had to think then why I said it was divisive, and this is what came to me. The lyrics basically say in so many words, “Try being a minority and advocating for your civil rights in a small town! We don’t allow that. We’re armed and ready to fight about it. Try reforming police so they don’t murder minorities with impunity in a small town. We don’t allow that. We are armed and will fight you about it.”

    It is a horrifying misuse of Fr Epps’ bully pulpit to stoke such flames of aggression toward minorities who are being kept down by the system that benefits him and pretend that it’s all about small-town values or whatever he thinks he is talking about. He should once again be ashamed.

  2. There is a far right, and there is a far left. Rev Epps example of the people of Newnan coming together to say no to these groups is spot on. Any violence from either side must be confronted and punished severely.

    Bernard Jack’s claim in this section that Antifa is a myth is laughable. Antifa is a violent far-left group:

    “As early as 2016, the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI warned state and local officials that antifa had become increasingly confrontational and were engaging in “domestic terrorist violence.” (The Hill “Antifa activists say violence is necessary” 9/14/17)

    Antifa makes frequent appearances at West Coast riots, including the nightly assaults on the federal building in Portland during the BLM riots (“Heavily armed” protesters wearing riot gear and waving antifa flags descended on Oregon’s Capitol Sunday…” Washington Examiner 3/29/21).

    Antifa is also behind the recent Atlanta “Stop Cop City” protest. (Antifa mob breaks into and torches new cop city site in Atlanta Also Six Antifa Extremists Arrested, Charged with Domestic Terrorism in Fiery Atlanta Riots 1/23/23).

    The people with their hair on fire over a made-up narrative about a country music song look the other way from rap lyrics’ foundation on actual gang violence, misogyny and the N word, which we hear too often blasting from teens’ golf carts on PTC’s paths.

    In the same way, they throw mud at Rev Epps, claiming words and intent that he never said, while denying the reality of leftist violence. Stay on point: we all have a stake in combatting lawlessness from wherever it increasingly comes at us.

  3. Father Epps – It looks like you are doubling down on your glorification for vigilante justice with your second consecutive column rhapsodizing deterrence and vengeance by armed citizens. This is surprising as you are typically more thoughtful in your offerings. It also stands in juxtaposition to your vocation’s typical allegiance to the check-turning teachings of the Christ.

    I hope you’ll soon liberate this bee from your bonnet and return to well-reasoned opinions. You are much better than this.

  4. Rev. Epps—You protest, “Nowhere am I condoning vigilante justice” in an aside to your previous column (Sept. 20)

    Of course you are!

    If not overtly then, surely by championing Aldean’s odious song, you no longer leave any doubt.

    {{{{Copyright laws require omission of lyrics}}}}

    Surely you are not so ensconced in your white patriarchal world that you are unable to understand, in view of history, how racially charged and offensive these lyrics are.

    Taking the law into anyone’s own hands–thus becoming accuser, judge, and executioner–is legally and morally wrong (whether by private citizens or law enforcement officers).

    You would do well to remember, as you repeatedly bring up the riots of 2020, that the catalyst of the violence was the murder of George Floyd by police.

    Please consider carefully the words you choose to quote. I maintain the inflammatory lyrics of that song are unworthy of any follower of Christ; let alone, a priest.

    One of my own favorite priests often offers the following, from St. Clair of Assisi–

    “Live without fear. Your Creator has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you like a Mother. Go in peace to follow the good road. And may God’s blessing be with you always.”

    Perhaps one day you will pen a column about an anthem such as that; rather than one that warns, “Got a gun that my granddad gave me”.

  5. I enjoy reading the Epps column. He is a good writer and an interesting individual. I think that he considers himself a moderate. However, he is clearly very conservative, as can be seen by his column “Try that in a small town.” He implies that the left and the right are equally wrong and violent. Epps must be still living in the 60s or 70s, when that was true.

    Statistics prove his assertion that there is currently equal violence from the left and right is simply untrue. Almost all of the modern politically oriented violence in this nation is coming from the right, per numerous sources. For example-

    “Of the 14 fatal political attacks since the Capitol riot in which the perpetrator or suspect had a clear partisan leaning, 13 were right-wing assailants.” Rev. Epps, only one was on the left. That’s called a fact, not an opinion.

    I have been involved in Georgia politics for decades -with both parties. I have met numerous folks who are in right-wing hate groups. I have never met anyone in Antifa; I doubt it is really an organization. As far as I can tell, its just an informal group of people who turn out to protest fascist right wing rallies. Take a look at the hate map for a quick review of what is here in Georgia.

    If you have not heard Jason Aldean’s country/rock anthem “Try That in a Small Town”, you should. It’s a great tune with catchy lyrics (some of which I disagree with) and an intoxicating melody. But when I listen to it, and read about the responses, I get the feeling that we are reliving the 60s and 70s.

    In his song, Aldean praises small town life and slams urban activists. He says that small towns take care of their own. He also condemns urban violence and rioting, indicating that town folks are armed and willing to fight. The visuals accompanying the song reinforce his message, showing police fighting urban demonstrators. While Aldean does not state that the protesters are antifa types, it is implied. While race is not mentioned in the song or shown in the accompanying video, many have thought that it promotes racial stereotypes in a rather obvious way.

    Aldean states that he has been misunderstood. In a tweet, Aldean states that his tune- “refers to the feeling of a community that I had growing up, where we took care of our neighbors, regardless of differences of background or belief. Because they were our neighbors, and that was above any differences.”

    I will take him at his word; indeed Rev. Epps states much the same thing. But the Aldean song was recorded in front of a Tennessee courthouse with racially dubious past and undoubtedly does exacerbate an already sharp division between urban and rural America.

    For an example of this divide, let’s take Joe Biden’s approval rate, which as we move from more urban to more rural settings, drops in each instance. He scores 59% approval in big cities while less than half that in rural America.

    When we look at other topics, like race, the divide is also clear. For example, 70% of big city residents support affirmative action versus only 44% of rural people.

    Aldean may not have meant his song to be a peon to small town white grievance, but it does appear to be interpreted that way by both his supporters and detractors. And Epps has interpreted it in that way, whether or not he uses the exact words.