The Joads and the New Machine 

I saw this tweet.

Of course I liked it and retweeted out immediately as it is in direct opposition of Woody Guthrie’s guitar:

and Pete Seeger’s banjo – “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”

And later I saw this story in InsideHigherEd regarding the removal of a Leonard Peltier statue at (un)American University. I’d like to say I am always amazed at how quickly colleges and universities cave into pressure to take down works of art, but I’m not. Not ever. The balancing act of keeping stakeholders (donors, legislators, students, faculty, and staff – in that order). It’s a shame though, since art should often challenge us, as well as comfort us. Art is not just decoration.

When Garrison Keillor was feuding with Minnesota Governor, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, I remember him making the comment that artists and satirists always have the last word. Art does live on. It leaves traces that are readily found within every culture. The art of satire can be bitingly painful for the target. Which is why authoritarian types try to shut it down. The criticism offends their sensibilities. Mainly though, it offends their sense of power. It’s hard to feel omnipotent if people aren’t afraid to make fun of you.

This is why funding for the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts is at risk. The budgetary impact is miniscule, but conservatives have been after these programs for years. Sometimes art can be offensive – both because it violates your senses or it makes you break through habits/barriers of thought. It’s ultimate sin is when it does both. Or when it mocks, satirizes, and parodies.

Art has the ability to unify, to create community. Some art forms are shared experiences, such as theater. Concerts and music shows are the same. Wherever a group of people come together for entertainment and art. Music is special, though, in it’s simple ability to create community.

Rise Up Singing is a song book used in community singalongs. It contains hundreds of folk songs, popular songs, children’s songs, protest songs, and work songs. All of which are easy to sing. More importantly, these songs are easy to sing together to build community. And despite the marvelous work that people like Laura Gogia (@GoogleGuacamole) are doing in #ConnectedLearning, there is still little as powerful as people in the same physical space, with voices raised in song, if you listen, you can hear the people sing. Perhaps Laura and her friends could make a #ConnectedSingaLong?

Remember the scene in “Casablanca”   where Victor Laszlo leads the patrons of the cafe in La Marseilles? The power of shutting down one song with another. Of course, such resistance is frowned upon. And yes, resistance can have its price. So does compliance. I don’t want to live in a world where compliance is celebrated over freedom. I guess those who want could all get together and be Comfortably Numb.

As for me, I’ll take my hoarse and coughy voice and sing. Starting with Your Flag Decal Won’t Get You Into Heaven and ending with The Ghost of Tom Joad with about a thousand songs in between. With all due respect, singing and singing loud is not going to end the war, at least not by itself. But it’s a start. Any form of resistance is a start. Not rolling over, refusing to normalize the abnormal, these are the beginnings of resistance.

Ya’ wanna sing with me?

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the songs of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

–Les Miserables, “Do you Hear The People Sing?”

But wait. This is not the right song. “Do you hear the people sing?” is right, but “singing the songs of angry men” is definitely not right. It’s the angry men that got elected, by many angry men that feel they got left behind. So, we need new voices, new songs.

A different gender.

A little bit obvious would be “Let It Go” from Frozen.

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door
I don’t care
what they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on.
The cold never bothered me anyway
But my muse suggested something different. I’m not sure how it works as a marching song, but I suspect some talented people can figure it out. Let’s get Beyonce to lead us in Formation.
It’s a new world. A new style of protest and new voices are needed.

Be nice. It won't hurt either of us.

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