Today is Land Day in Israel/Palestine, a memorial day commemorating the March 30, 1976 deaths of six Palestinian-Israelis, killed while protesting Israel’s practice of expropriating Palestinian-Israeli land.
Since then, Palestinians both inside and outside of Israel-proper have marked March 30 as a day on which to protest not just issues concerning land within Israel’s internationally-recognized borders, but also Israel’s generally discriminatory practices toward its Palestinian citizens, and the occupation/settlements.
So far (1:45 pm, CST) one protester, Mahmoud Zaqout, has been killed in Gaza, but at least one other person has been critically injured by Israeli fire, so it’s likely that the number of dead will rise by at least one. Many others have been injured and/or detained.
Such a day seems a particularly good day to run Billy Bragg’s “The World Turned Upside Down,” about a 17th century land protest.
If we are honest with ourselves, Americans will admit that we face a range of racisms that frankly boggles the mind. I suppose it’s not “Americans,” per se, I suppose it’s humans — but Americans are the humans among whom I live, among whom I raise my babies. It’s our racism with which I must grapple.
Asian Americans are our “model minority” today, stigmatized and locked into behavior and qualities that we claim to value, even as we reduce human beings in all their complexities to a check list of traits and expectations.
But in the 1940s things looked quite different. Japanese Americans — and often others, lumped together based on physical appearance — were such a threat that people felt the need to tear them from their homes and lock them away.
I don’t like to write about anti-Asian bigotry as if it began and ended with the internment of Japanese Americans, but those camps remain one of the greatest stains on our collective soul, a stain that I believe we are all too ready to forget.
Billy Bragg sings a song about those camps, something that you would think an Englishman would be unable to access, and sings it from the soul of someone else, almost, sings it from the dirt in which young men lay dead, in a war that engulfed a generation, even as some left mothers, fathers, wives and children back in internment camps in order to fight for the country that had put them there.
Again: No good reason, beyond my sheer love of the song. Sometimes Billy is an angry prophet – sometimes he’s just a man in love.
It’s bad timing and me
We find a lot of things out this way
And there’s you
A little black cloud in a dress
To take the precious things we have apart
To see how they work
Must be resisted for they never fit together again
If this is rain let it fall on me and drown me
If these are tears let them fall
Hearing these words, I remember this feeling so sharply it hurts all over again (clip after the jump).
If you ever read my more rambly posts, you probably know that I’m a great admirer of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s work, and am very active in the community that has grown up among his readers — and though lately I don’t have as much time to hang out there as I have done in the past, I’m still taking it all in.
Yesterday, for instance, Ta-Nehisi wrote not once but twice about the essential cruelty of America’s right-wing. In the first post, he wrote:
[An] embrace of cruelty is arguably the dominant feature of the present conservative movement. It has been repeatedly expressed in alleged “humor.” The assertion of a right of judgement over the First Lady’s physical person, for instance. Or watermelon patches on the front lawn. Or Obama waffles. There is little distance from that kind of cruelty to aspirin between one’s legs and from aspirin between one’s legs to transvaginal probes.
In the second, he discussed Rush Limbaugh’s execrable treatment of a law student who had wanted to testify before the House of Representatives on the issue of insurance coverage for birth control, writing:
Back in the 1990s, Woody Guthrie’s daughter Nora got in touch with our man Billy, and asked him to write music for a whole treasure-trove of lyrics that Guthrie himself had never had a chance to set to music.
Which is to say: The torch was passed.
Bragg recorded these songs with Chicago-based band Wilco in the Mermaid Avenue project, and they’re probably the best known of his work in the US — but as they’re not “his” songs, I don’t really much associate them with him. Which is madness, really, and I’m sure he’d tell me so.
Be that as it may, there is one song that emerged from those recordings that I particularly love: “Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key.” The other day I commenced to look for a video — only to stumble upon the following, a truly random and delightful slice of Canadian pop culture: Billy Bragg performing on the (apparently) defunct kids show “Peggy’s Cove” (or, possibly, “The Peggy Show.” I’ll have to ask one of my Canadians to clarify this matter for me).
Did I say “performing”? I meant: Singing to a dancing lobster (ok, it’s really more of a rhythmic swaying that the lobster does, rather than a dance — he’s a puppet, after all), who eventually offers to row our Billy back to England. The visual quality isn’t quite HD, but the clip (after the jump) is really quite outstanding, nonetheless.
My father, Ted Hauser, and me.
It was my father’s 82nd birthday on Wednesday, but he wasn’t here to celebrate: He died of cancer when he was 35 and I was 10 months old.
As a child, I think I believed that grown ups stop missing people who died long ago. I think it seemed a little odd to me when a grandmother would start talking about her own grandmother with sorrow.
I’ve realized, of course, that loss never really ends. We live differently with it over time, but it’s always there. I am always, and will always be, a little girl wanting to hold her dad’s hand.
82 years ago, in the very hospital and on the very floor on which my daughter was born (coincidentally on the anniversary of his death), my father was born, a tiny, wrinkled thing, a baby — a promise. Not anyone’s dead dad yet, not anyone’s dead husband. Just a promise. I wish he could have lived more of that promise out before he was taken from us.
I grew up in a company town
And I worked real hard ’til that company closed down
They gave my job to another man
On half my wages in some foreign land
And when I asked how could this be
Any good for our economy?
I was told nobody cares
So long as they make money when they sell their shares
Can you hear us? Are you listening?
No power without accountability!
Later on (video after the jump) Billy says “I guess its true, nobody cares/’Til those petrol bombs come spinning through the air” and I’m not sure I agree with that, but when he says “The ballot box is no guarantee that we achieve democracy/Our leaders claim their victory when only half the people have spoken” what I hear is: Get.Out.The.Vote.
This week, my neighboring state of Indiana became a “Right to Work” state — which sounds oddly like it’s now a better place to work, rather than part of a larger, nation-wide effort to gut unions and strip away the rights that the labor movement has battled for decades to establish (and from which we all benefit, whether or not we are union members – as but one example: Planning to enjoy a two-day weekend this week? Thank a union).
Are unions perfect vessels of workers’ better angels? No. Nothing humanity does is. But I figure unions are an awful lot like democracy: A terrible mess that is immeasurably better than anything else on offer.
Posted in Election 2012? Oy vey!, Emily L. Hauser, Political Shenanigans, Ratfvckery, What the Crap!?
Tagged BILLY BRAGG, INDIANA, Michigan, Ohio, ORGANIZED LABOR, POWER IN A UNION, RIGHT TO WORK, Wisconsin
Billy pretty much re-writes this one on an as-needed basis — this is the 2011 version (video after the jump), performed this past November at Keele University in the UK. Verily, he is the wisest of men!
Things have not been this bad
since the days of Margaret Thatcher
So stay calm, carry on
and watch X Factor
The World Wide Web is wonderful
if you’ve got something to sell
but opinions often summon up
a focus group from hell.
It’s best not to get distracted
and stay focused on your goals
and take my advice, don’t feed the trolls
(their mum’ll bring them, you know, milk and biscuits before they have to go to bed).
And some of you wonder why I love this man so much. How could I not?