Heartrending Antiwar Songs

What makes for a heartrending antiwar song? Is it a doleful poetic and folkloric lament, or is it a driving martial beat with piercing raging lyrics of protest? Does it need a woman’s plaintive voice to make your heart ache with pain, or a man’s fierce growl to give you that gut-wrenching sinking feeling? I suppose it all depends on your kind of musical ear, and on your own situation with regard to the hazards of war.

I will offer a sequence of antiwar songs here, which for one reason or another have given me pause. Why do this?: because I like music, and because I think it important that none of us ever forget the proper attitude towards war and the prospect of war: rejection and rebellion. Peace is emotionally and politically turbulent when you are stubbornly antiwar, because war is the grease of imperialist capitalism.

The nuclei for this project are the first two songs listed, which both pull on my heartstrings. High Germany is a Celtic song where a Scottish lass laments the loss of her soldier lad to the First World War. This particular song really gets me because the lyrics are so poignant, and because the singer — my younger daughter — does such a good job of conveying the emotion that was very real 100 years ago in Scotland, and, sadly, remains just as real all over the world today.

High Germany
https://youtu.be/2QybAQVv6jE

Soldier, We Love You is an original composition by Rita Martinson, who performed it so eloquently and memorably in the 1972 movie F.T.A. (officially “Free The Army,” and understood to be “Fuck The Army”). F.T.A. starred Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and a collection of performers and musicians banded together in a touring satirical revue performing at coffeehouses and parks near American army bases, for G.I.’s opposed to the war in Vietnam. Though I was never a soldier (by pure luck) I have been so touched by Rita Martinson’s performance, and I gratefully wish her a happy life and satisfying career, wherever she is.

Soldier, We Love You
https://youtu.be/7iMusPYq83g

As you will see below, I quote some of the commentary on these songs by people I found on the Internet, many of them veterans, who had offered their suggestions.

“The Robert Shaw Chorale sing Shenandoah, a heartrending soldier’s lament from the American Civil War. The very first, and among the very best of antiwar songs ever… We lost a lot of relatives and close family friends in WW1, WW2 and in Vietnam.” — Fred Wilson

Shenandoah – The Robert Shaw Chorale
https://youtu.be/IBH2QrUyz7o

Eva Cassidy was a gift to us from the universe, of pure soulful heart through song. She left us far, far too early. Her rendition of Danny Boy unfolds the sheer tragedy carried by the lyrics with a radiant vocal eloquence (self accompanied on guitar), and most admirably without any showy attention-seeking bombast. The lyrics present a dead soldier’s call for remembrance and love, from his grave, and Eva had the grace and the perception to honor that sentiment.

“As a full blooded Irish man who has heard this song sung hundreds of times by family and friends at weddings, funerals and every other occasion when Irish people gather together to sing, I can honestly say I have never heard it sung better and with more feeling than sung here by Eva.” — Belfastsoul

Eva Cassidy – Danny Boy
https://youtu.be/oSKM0YiU8LU

War rips apart families, and mothers, who are the hub of their family wheels, are heavily burdened with those painful losses. So it is natural for a woman’s voice to express that universal pain, and to this Joan Baez has lent her beautiful artistry and passion.

Joan Baez – Weary Mothers
https://youtu.be/hqQcaWpwCrM

If war is so bad why does it exist? Why does anyone allow themselves to become a soldier, a lethal tool and sacrificial victim in the war-schemes of the Big Money? Who, ultimately, is responsible for inflicting the scourge of war on humanity? Buffy Sainte-Marie plunges to the core of this question, and arrives at the painful truth (Pogo’s realization).

Buffy Sainte-Marie – Universal Soldier
https://youtu.be/VGWsGyNsw00

Many of the antiwar songs here are from the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, “a time I remember oh so well” since I was nearly swallowed up in it. The songs of that time which I list either had a sound or some turn of phrase that imprinted on my mind either because I heard them so many times during those bright days of hopeful youth, and stoned drunk nights of dreams or despair, or because hearing them coincided with moments of incredible euphoria or tension. Basically, this song-listing exercise is neither a scholarly assemblage of the historically significant, nor a production based on logic. It’s about visceral memories and their reverberations in songs.

Barry McGuire and Buffalo Springfield gave us clues, in 1965 and 1967, of what we high school boys in those years were in for. I was not looking forward to facing the draft when I reached 18.

Barry McGuire – Eve Of Destruction
https://youtu.be/qfZVu0alU0I

Buffalo Springfield – For What It’s Worth
https://youtu.be/gp5JCrSXkJY

Country Joe McDonald spelled out rather explicitly why I did not like being 1A during 1969. The Doors punctuated that feeling of dread all too perfectly.

Country Joe McDonald – I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag
https://youtu.be/3W7-ngmO_p8

The Doors – The Unknown Soldier
https://youtu.be/6LSCoBk8hgU

“I remember the nightly ‘kill’ numbers on the news.” – Andre R. Newcomb. The evening television news broadcasts would give the awful weekly totals of U.S. soldiers killed. Totals of enemy dead issued by the U.S. military were complete fabrications, but the unknown quantities of Vietnamese dead were definitely very very high; America had the most superior firepower. Three Five Zero Zero, a song from the musical, Hair, takes off from its initial reference to a body count. Have you heard as scathing an antiwar song in recent years? And it no, why do you think that is?

Hair – Three Five Zero Zero
https://youtu.be/FAdq3Z-9bsg

As we know from President “Bone Spurs” Trump, Dick “Too Busy Four Deferments” Cheney, George “AWOL” W. Bush, and others of our immune ‘privilatti’ class who breezed past the Vietnam War, “getting out of the draft” in a culture dedicated to materialism and the instinctive worship of power is more easily arranged the more elevated your association to the economic and political hierarchy. Creedence Clearwater Revival give a spirited expression of this class-war truth.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – Fortunate Son
https://youtu.be/ec0XKhAHR5I

For the callow petit bourgeois youth of the time, like me, who felt a continuous sinking feeling of “circling the drain” before ever really stepping into adulthood and savoring the sweet fruits of life, there arose an intense desire to find somebody to love and be loved by, at least for a while before “the end.”

Jefferson Airplane – Somebody to Love
https://youtu.be/5Jj3wZVc7nw

Phil Ochs was a songwriter and political activist of sharp wit, sardonic humor and earnest humanism, whose songs were graced by insightful lyrics of literate elegance. He wrote hundreds of songs in the 1960s and 1970s. In 1976 at the age of 35 he succumbed to his own demons, and left us. Phil Ochs was a man of very keen perception, and immersed in the bubbling cauldron of intense antiwar activism during the Vietnam War, I think his psyche was eventually overwhelmed by that searing experience. I think the reason more of us “ordinary people” — those with reasonably decent moral character — don’t go completely mad over the poisonous nature of American politics and national character is because we are shielded by duller wits from perceiving the full reality of the kind of society we live in. There are hazards to being a seer.

Phil Ochs – Draft Dodger Rag
https://youtu.be/tFFOUkipI4U

“Funny thing is I’m in the Army and I don’t know anyone in my unit over 30 years old who doesn’t know all the words to this song [I Ain’t Marching Anymore]” – ‘Joe Blow’

Phil Ochs – I Ain’t Marching Anymore
https://youtu.be/gv1KEF8Uw2k

Phil Ochs – The War Is Over
https://youtu.be/ZOs9xYUjY4I

The Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on 4 April 1968, and many large, deadly and terribly destructive urban riots broke out and continued for weeks. Federal troops were called out, and the television images of them patrolling the streets of burning cities was a hellacious realization of “bringing the war home.” Up to 1968 half of the American casualties in the war were made up of ethnic minorities, mainly Blacks and Latinos, despite their much lower proportions of the national population. This was a rather ugly manifestation of America’s formative — and apparently forever — race and class war. Edwin Starr gave voice to the deep resentments by Blacks over their exploitation as cannon fodder, in his song War.

Edwin Starr – War
https://youtu.be/dQHUAJTZqF0

On 4 May 1970 the Ohio National Guard, called out to Kent State University during a mass protest by unarmed college students against the bombing and invasion of neutral Cambodia by United States military forces, fired approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds at the demonstrators, killing four students and wounding nine others, one of whom suffered permanent paralysis.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – Ohio (1970, Kent State University)
https://youtu.be/68g76j9VBvM

The Vietnam War ended with the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. The Vietnamese would then continue to sort out their politics without the overt highly destructive interference of the United States (the covert interference would continue). What did any of all this mean to a young American war widow? Was it worth her pain and sacrifices? Of course not, but this was always a knowable truth. So where was justice?

Steve Goodman – Penny Evans
https://youtu.be/K0I59AN_z2k

It is important to realize that the most significant reason the American government withdrew from its Vietnam War effort was because of the widespread and persistent rebellion against it by active duty military personnel, and the ferocious activism of the antiwar veterans who had returned from that war. The civilian antiwar activism and public demonstrations helped to increase a public consciousness in sympathy with the military rebellions, most ad hoc and personal. Rank-and-file soldiers who had come face-to-face with the realities of that war, and who took their Soldier’s Oath seriously, realized that their duty to protect and defend the United States was actually at odds with the dictates from their military chains of command and from their country’s political leadership. Their duty was to the people of the United States, not to one of its transitory government administrations whose policies were clearly not in the interests of the American people, even though there were special interests who profited from them.

The British Soldier is a “song about the troubles in Northern Ireland. It was written and performed by folk singer Harvey Andrews, and banned when it was released. It is based on an actual event which occurred in the early ’70s.” — SuperNutty23. “Remember Sgt Michael Willets GC of 3rd Battalion the Parachute Regiment whose sacrifice inspired this song.” — Archie Carter

Harvey Andrews – The British Soldier (1972)
https://youtu.be/8NpaT5LDFgM

Eric Bogle wrote and performed the song My Youngest Son Came Home Today. “When I played this during an interview on Cairns FM89.1, Eric asked me if I had heard Mary Black sing the song. When I said I hadn’t he said her version was far better, as a woman can put more emotion into a song.” — Johnson28316

Mary Black – My Youngest Son Came Home Today
https://youtu.be/1H6-OrLpiPk

99 Luftballons is a German protest song against nuclear war, written in 1983. “The premise was that 99 balloons crossing over the Berlin Wall would be mistaken by radar as an attack, causing jets to scramble, starting a war that would leave both sides in ruins. The singer, walking through the ruins, finds one balloon, is reminded of her lover and lets it slowly fly away.” – TheJenr8tr

This song, band and performance are from before the Berlin Wall fell (9 November 1989), when tactical nuclear-tipped U.S. missiles stationed in Western Europe, and similar Soviet Russian missiles poised in Eastern Europe, had Germany between them under the potential arcs of their flight paths, and also very obviously in the crosshairs of their targeting in the event of a boiling over of the Cold War.

An English translation of the German lyrics of 99 Luftballons is given immediately below; it was made by my wonderful daughter-in-law, Sabrina García, from the Black Forest.

Nena ‎- 99 Luftballons
https://youtu.be/La4Dcd1aUcE

99 Luftballons
(translation by Sabrina García)

Do you have some time for me?
Then I’ll sing a song for you
About 99 air balloons
On their way to the horizon
Do you perhaps think of me just now?
Then I’ll sing a song for you
About 99 air balloons
And how one thing comes from another

99 air balloons
On their way to the horizon
Mistaken for UFOs from space
Therefore a general sent
A squadron after them
To raise the alarm if they had to
Yet there on the horizon were
Just 99 air balloons

99 fighter pilots
Each one was a great warrior
Regarding themselves as Captain Kirk
There were great fireworks
The neighbors didn’t understand anything
And thought they were under attack
Yet there on the horizon they fired
At 99 air balloons

99 War Minister
Matches and gasoline cans
Regarding themselves as smart people
Already smelling a big fat prey
Crying “War!” and wanting power
Man, who would have thought
That it would ever get this far?
Because of 99 air balloons
Because of 99 air balloons
99 air balloons

99 years of war
Left no room for winners
There are no more War Minister
And no fighter pilots either
Today I’m doing my rounds
I see the world in ruins
I’ve found a balloon
I think of you and let it fly….

A classic antiwar song is Where Have All The Flowers Gone?, by Pete Seeger. Marlene Dietrich, who was deeply and very visibly committed to antifascist activity during World War II, included Seeger’s song in her one-woman musical show, which toured the world. Burt Bacharach had arranged many songs of interest to Marlene, to accommodate the limited vocal range of her contralto voice. This enabled Marlene to continue as a singer during her later years, and she was quite open about gratefully giving Bacharach credit for this.

“Marlene Dietrich performed a German language version of Where Have All the Flowers Gone? during her 1960s tour of Israel. She sang in German only after receiving the consent of the audience, thus breaking the unofficial taboo against the use of that language in Israel. Many in the audience were German expatriate Holocaust survivors.” — Hollie Willetts

Marlene Dietrich – Sag Mir Wo Die Blumen Sind – with English Subtitles
https://youtu.be/YIoF-Q6yGpk

Well, the political management class of the United States managed to survive the “Vietnam Syndrome” years of popular distaste for war and opposition to foreign adventures that might require the use of military forces, mainly from 1975 to 1979, during the Gerald Ford and Jimmy Carter administrations. But Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981, was able to convince Jimmy Carter to initiate the first action of what would become our current Forever War in Central Asia: the covert arming of the mujahideen in Afghanistan after the Soviet invasion there in January 1980. And so Osama Bin Laden got his start.

As the US and allied wars of the 1980s and 1990s metastasized into our Forever Wars, new antiwar songs sprouted from the dragon’s teeth of pain and death sown in the wake of those wars.

Dire Straits – Brothers in Arms (1985)
https://youtu.be/Dqok5m4lqeE

Scorpions – Wind Of Change (1990)
https://youtu.be/n4RjJKxsamQ

“The video of ‘Smile Empty Soul – This Is War’ hits me very hard. I am a combat veteran who now advocates for peace. I took part in the bloodiest battle of the Iraq War, Fallujah 2004. My heart broke in that place, though it took me years to realize it.” — Lucas B.

Smile Empty Soul – This Is War
https://youtu.be/-PFk4SXpb-8

And so it goes. There will certainly be antiwar songs from other times, from many cultures and in other languages, which I would not know about. I am sure that the fundamental sentiments of all such songs are universal, because they spring from the deepest and most fundamental aspirations and disappointments of the human experience.

The antiwar songs of the pop music supernovas Bob Dylan (Blowin’ in the Wind, Masters of War, The Times They Are A-Changin’) and John Lennon (Give Peace a Chance, Imagine, Happy Christmas, I Don’t Want To Be A Soldier) are so well known that I feel no need to say more about them.

Every instance of war is a failure of political leadership. Good antiwar songs can help us all see this, and motivate us to find better leaders, to devise better politics, and to reawaken feelings in our hearts of genuine human connection to everyone.

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What Does It Mean To Be American?

I pledge allegiance to the flag
Of the altered states in America
And to the republic-of-dreams for which it stands,
One nation under the gods, the goddesses,
The spirits of the ancestors,
And the great unknowable void,
With liberty to imagine justice
For all.

“Are you an American?” I’ve been asked since I can remember and to this day. I’m never sure, let’s just say I’m trying.

Being born here is not enough. I know, I was, and still most Americans think I’m a foreigner. I was born in the upper West Side — Spanish Harlem — in the time of Machito. I have a black moustache (well, had) and a permanent tan “to die for” — if your skin is plucked-chicken white and you can afford the “color.” I’ve been taken for every kind of Latino (I’m Cuban-Puerto Rican), for Egyptian, Persian, Turkish, and even black.

“My story is much too sad to be told…,” Ella Fitzgerald doing Cole Porter’s “I Get A Kick Out Of You,” that’s me.

Today, there is much feverish fantasy about patriotism, and many assume a real American is the usual stereotype of the beer-bellied, baseball-cap knuckle-headed, pasty-faced palooka who drives a pickup; loves the 3 B’s: baseball, basketball and football; eats steak without vegetables; and is entwined with a tight-ass cowgirl or bimbo-fluffy suburban SUV mama, who’s got the mall floor plan imprinted in her cerebral cortex, and has mapped out decades of smothering protective love over the lives of her young: Jennifer and Jonathan, or Kiley and Toby, and is as far away from Lou Reed’s “a girlfriend named Samantha” in “Street Hassle” as it is possible for human genetics to produce. And still, such people can be real — it is not automatic — as can many a “Samantha” and her inner-urban boyfriend, perhaps the quintessential Anglo-American, the one that makes a suburban lovesick New Jersey Jewish rock-and-roll composer boy realize how much he aches to be the ultimate Anglo — “I Wanna Be Black.”

“…you have drank — of the fountains — of innocence…there’s a dream — where the contents — are visible…where the poetic — champions compose…,” Van Morrison doing “Queen Of The Slipstream,” that’s me.

Real Americans have vision not to be confused with greed, motivation and drive not to be confused with ambition, and innocence not to be confused with stupidity.

“It’s knowing that your door is always open – and your path is free to walk…” Elvis doing “Gentle On My Mind,” that’s me. “True love — travels on a gravel road…” that’s me channeled by Elvis, along with so many others.

There are many American-born fakes. The loud ones self-identify with variations on the mantra “America is Number One!” Real Americans don’t care about being a number, they care about being. Is George W. Bush a real American? Nah, he’s a fake. There’s lots like that, cheap crap passed off to a dumb-ass public who’ll pay good money for something big, loud and empty. Dubya is a real fake, of which we have lots, since big fat useless empty is a big part of fake America, which everybody knows of course, but which we still feel necessary to be embarrassed about when we think. Not embarrassed enough to stop producing them, there’s just too much money to be made pushing out fake stuff, and money is GOD, money is Jack Number One in Jack-Off Nation. That’s why Rupert Murdoch (another fake) is here. And the multi-million head penis of Jack One are the guns of Jack-Off Nation, stroked compulsively in an auto-erotic neurosis to discharge our fantasies of power. Guns of the Pentagon world-jacking, guns of the street punks car-jacking, guns on the lobotomy-umbilical TV net volition-jacking, guns in the playgrounds in grammar schools child-jacking. I’m dying, I want to vacuum every dollar out of every pocket and portfolio in the country (and those “offshore”) and light a bonfire that can be seen from space: smoke-signals to the Tralfamadorians, “Send help!”

But wait…

“Our life — together — is so precious — together — we have grown — we have growww-ow-ow-own…and our love — is still special — let’s take a chance and fly away — somewhere — alo-o-own,” John Lennon’s “Starting Over,” that’s me, that’s real America, “…don’t let another day go by — it’ll be — just like starting over…”

Yes, lots of foreigners are REAL Americans, and lots of born Americans are pure fakes. Get it? OK, I’ll keep going.

“Your love – is lifting me higher — than I’ve ever — been lifted before…” Jackie Wilson taking flight, there is hardly any higher peak of Anglo-American ecstasy. If you are unmoved, you are un-American.

Anglo-American? Yeah, “such a feeling’s coming over me…” Karen Carpenter doing the best country music ever uttered (yes, this is true). The true voice of white American imagination with heart. OK, Elvis gets in there, and James Taylor brings country to philosophy when he opens with “Something in the way she moves…” Yes, heart is the high of love, and it draws us all in. “Love me tender — love me sweet — never let me go — you have made my life complete — and I love you so…” to hear Elvis do this and be unmoved is to be from Mars. Beyond all the money-grubbing, soul-sucking scum that interposes itself between the pure American artist and the audience, is the product of genius, a direct pipeline to the eternal, the universal voice of being. “Holy smokes and land sakes alive — I never thought this could happen to me — I got stung!…”

“Get Happy,” that’s true America. Hear Judy Garland do this Harold Arlen tune to get the real feeling of being an American. A New York Jewish composer writing a Negro spiritual (sort of), and sung by a Jewish-American gamin vocal genius. Even so, love the Ella Fitzgerald version — can anyone sing better? Frank Sinatra said of Ella, “man, woman or child, she is the best.” On this, he was right. “Hallelujah — hallelujah — come you sinners — gather round…a land where the weary are forever free…forget your troubles and just get happy!…” Brothers and sisters, this is the best revival you will ever attend. Listen to the sax in the Ella version, the real thing, feel it? If you’re moving, you’re American. “Get ready for the judgment dayyyyyyyy!”

And what will our Judgment Day be like? Wilson Pickett will lead the choir in “Everybody Needs Somebody,” as the waiting and wanting rejoice at their liberation and reward. Dubya and the fakes will be clueless, but probably worried on seeing the Vietcong in judges robes behind the bench.

The Vietcong are real Americans, one of our purest strains. They are one side of the American psyche denied in a psychosis of self-avoidance, a schizophrenia of psychic amputation. Instead of throwing troops fed on Rexroth and Kerouac at them, we unleashed troops fed on Playboy and quarter-pounders at this Buddhist, Third-World side of our psyche. We saw the tragedy of cornball-fed doughboy Cain killing riceball-fed water buffalo boy Abel. Ho Chi Minh could have been the Teddy Roosevelt inversion for our times — imagine his face on Mount Rushmore.

Instead of Ho’s visage in the Black Hills, we have the Black Wall etched in tears, the scar that will never heal because truth-facing is MIA. Time for some “Highway 61 Revisited,” (“God said to Abraham, ‘Kill me a son,’ Abe said, ‘Man, you must be putting me on’…”), time for some Aretha Franklin (“Baby — baby — baby…”). Our artists can only point to the moon, and we could see that light were we willing to forsake obsessing about the fingers. Dance on, danzón, bugaloo.

“Good lovin’…” by the Rascals, the best rock and roll song ever. If you disagree, you haven’t heard it loud enough. Can’t take it? Then, if you’re young, you’ve not got the American pulse; c’est la vie.

But, must everything American be blaring, brassy and bawdy? Of course not, listen to the Navaho flute of Nakai, or the soaring sonorities of Dvorak’s New World Symphony, yes Bohemian and yes American. And listen to Dvorak’s musical grandson: Duke Ellington.

The pulse is deep, it is wide, it can soar high, it can connect to the navel of the world and unfurl the panorama of eternity, and it is grand, and generous and heartbreaking, like a starry sky melting into the melon glow of dawn over southwest desert mountains. The wail of fighter plane turbines drilling through that reverential space is part of real America too, but it is that part which is so easy to make fake.

So, what makes for real America? Is it historical primacy, or historical prominence, or just longevity? “The People,” ersatz Indians, Native Americans, “indigenous peoples” are the bedrock of America, the impermeable stratum to which the blood that soaked into the land settled to cake and bind into a matting supporting the overlaying weave of America that Europe, Africa and Asia have knitted into the fabric of our culture. The noises of this catastrophe, this tragedy, this miracle, are woven into the sounds of its music, its joy of Cuban son, our salsa, the lubrication of spirit, the celebration of time’s passage that bathes the soul in effulgence of inchoate insight, beating like the heart of an infant, a hummingbird, or — in slow motion — a rock-and-roller. A real American is the issue of the survivors from old cultures that have fallen away, or are kept hidden from public defilement. They are Adams and Eves, innocent, spoiled and open to inheriting the earth, ignorant, cold and witless to the hunger of the outer world crushed by the weight of America’s joy. To be a truly real American is to see all this, to be driven insane by the clarity of understanding the holocaust we unleash upon this earth, and of splashing out unhindered by truth or moral vision, into a life of maximal creativity and expression. How else are we to understand a Billie Holiday, a Jim Morrison, a Winslow Homer, a Dorothy Day?

When you understand what it means to be a real American, then you can see that most Cubans are real Americans, where most Floridians are not; that most Mexicans are real Americans while most Californians are not; and that many immigrants will never be real Americans, though probably most always were. If this essay makes no sense to you, then you are sober in your delusions, for I am drunk in my insights. Insight knows itself to be particular, whereas delusion imagines itself to be general. This separates Carlos Castañeda from John Ashcroft. If you don’t like my icons, then pick your own, just make sure they are real, like Crazy Horse and Noam Chomsky, instead of fakes like George Armstrong Custer and Henry Kissinger. If this rant makes any sense to you, then you are capable of seeing that the America that will survive into the 22nd century, in peace and security, is as remote from the America of George W. Bush as that of Mark Twain was from J. P. Morgan’s, or Kurt Vonnegut’s was from Richard Nixon’s.

Real America is like a psychic glue binding us all together across our ethnic and intellectual territories, with a common sentiment that is Henry Fonda in “12 Angry Men,” Gregory Peck in “To Kill A Mockingbird,” Sidney Poitier in “Lilies Of The Field,” Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast At Tiffany’s” and the voice of Ella Fitzgerald doing the songs of Gershwin and Cole Porter.

We all have our private-language ethnicities, some based on culture and tradition, like Vietnamese or Mexican, others being intentional modern concoctions based on identity. But real Americans connect trans-ethnically through a psychic web of mutually-held vision and appreciation. Real America is alive in the Carnivals held in schoolyards by parents gathering funds for music and art education, and library books for their children, by issuing the products of their kitchens: cookies, bundt cakes, lumpia, spring rolls and ribs. Watch the kindergartners dance the Hula!

The real America is a spirit that is too easily raped, as George W. Bush and his gang have done, and too tough to be easily overcome, as the delusional enemies of our delusional nation have assumed.

When the Lincoln of our times is found, then the many chords of real America will sing in harmony, and the fascist myopia of taxless property will fall away before a harmony of vision worthy of Eugene V. Debs. An America that fails to open its loving arms to its own cannot survive, and cannot be real. “Do I love you, do I?…” Oh yes, Ella.

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Originally published at Swans.com on June 7, 2004
http://www.swans.com/library/art10/mgarci15.html

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