I protest all these protests.
It’s too much, me thinks.
When I sat down to write this week’s column, I was feeling a little lost for a topic. I didn’t want to write yet another sappy love-filled column about how crazy in love I am with my brand new husband. I can see your eyeballs rolling from all the way over here at the thought of another mushy, romance filled playlist! Give it a rest, right?
Plus, you know how I am. I like to have something timely. Something topical. Something you’ll find witty and interesting, and I also want to amaze you with my incredible talent for finding the perfect songs to go along with whatever subject matter is on my mind.
Then I looked around me, sand was so disheartened by the news that’s going on around us in the world, the country and in our fair city today, that it sucked the creativity right outta me.
First, just when I was getting ready to applaud the Supreme Court for their monumental ruling on gay marriage, they turned around and removed some of the provisions written into the Voting Civil Rights Act of 1965 that kept an eye on certain states that they feared might find ways to make sure the votes of black people wouldn’t be counted after they’d finally won the right to vote.
Then the Texas Legislature stripped away women’s rights, passing a bill that makes it the toughest state in the country to get an abortion. On the day they passed this bill, they also banned tampons and pads from the state capitol building (but still allowed guns). They were afraid that women, in protest, might lob these dangerous missiles at lawmakers.
Closer to home there was a ‘sit-in’ protest when the city council was set to discuss the possibility of a city ordinance outlawing sitting on public sidewalks in an effort to curb panhandling. Last night there was another protest staged in the downtown Promenade to highlight awareness of a hate crime earlier this week against a gay couple in the Keswick area who had their tires slashed, windows broken and their propane tank dangerously vandalized.
And then there was little thing called the George Zimmerman trial verdict. An unarmed young man died after being shot by another man when a Neighborhood Watch situation got out of control. I have my own conflicted personal feelings about this case. I kept up on it a little bit, and remember that my main thought was that I was glad I wasn’t on this jury. The evidence, the defense, the prosecution….it did not look like it was going to be an easy decision. Maybe if they’d gone into it charging him with manslaughter. But that’s not what happened. I do feel the jury did the best they could with the information and instructions they were given, even if there was no justice for Trayvon Martin. Justice can sometimes be a cruel game, and sometimes there’s no winners.
But what came after the verdict distresses me more than anything. Protests that turned into pillaging raids and violent rampages. There were stories of stores being attached and rifled, and innocent civilians being beaten with hammers because they had the misfortune of not being black. This is not the way to protest.
Protest needs to be focused on working towards a positive outcome, not exacting revenge. It needs to be focused on educating people so that they become more enlightened. I know, sometimes you gotta get angry. But looting, killing, destroying and attacking is not going to accomplish anything to defend your point of view. It only diminishes it.
Sigh. I am well aware that I’m preaching to the wrong choir. Another sigh.
You know what? I’m tired. And I definitely don’t have all the answers. I don’t have any witty way to tie all this together. What I’ve got are decades worth of protest songs that musicians wrote and sang and recorded to make their statement. To try to work in a positive way to encourage change. These are the songs that have been highlighting crisis and wrongdoings, political corruption and civil rights abuses, oppression and all kinds of social injustices. There are songs that white people wrote to support black people in the 60’s and before in an attempt to help them gain the right to marry and vote and have the same opportunities as white people. There are songs sung by straight people hoping to convince other straight people that it doesn’t matter what kind of junk you’ve got in your drawers, that the love in your heart for another human being is what counts, whether that person has the same junk or different junk, so let ’em get married already. There’s songs protesting lawmakers that are trying to take away a woman’s right to choose what she can do with her own body. Songs protesting war and armed conflicts with a variety of other nations: Iraq, Vietnam, Ireland, Afghanistan. Songs protesting fascism, totalitarianism, corrupt capitalism. Songs protesting pretty much everything. Even GMOs.
Enjoy the playlist, friends…if you can. It’s not really happy stuff, not most of it. But protesting is not about being happy. It’s about grit and persistence and sticking to your ethics (because using the phrase ‘stick to your guns seems kind of inappropriate today’) to create a positive future somewhere down the road.
- Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis It took an incredible pair of boulders for this rapper from Seattle to come out with a song championing gay rights. The video is so moving that I included it at the bottom of today’s column as well. That sweet female voice, by the way, is Mary Lambert. Love her!
- Blowing In The Wind – Bob Dylan
- We Shall Overcome – Mahalia Jackson The penultimate civil rights anthem.
- This Land Is Your Land – Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings My favorite version of Woody Guthrie’s song, originally penned as a critical response to “God Bless America.” In fact, Guthrie’s original version, included the line “God blessed America for me” in the chorus instead of the phrase “This land was made for you and me.” Additionally, most recordings of the song leave out the last, poignant verse of the song goes that goes like this: One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple | By the Relief Office I saw my people | As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me. Even most old recordings of Woody singing fade out before he gets to this part. Sharon Jones is the only one I’ve come across that sings Woody’s original 1940 verse.
- What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye
- A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke
- Get Up Stand Up – Bob Marley
- Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire
- Ball of Confusion – The Temptations
- Lost Woman Song – Ani DiFranco Nobody better to write a song to stand up for a woman’s right to choose the future of her own body, and the future path of her own life.
- Wen The President Talks To God – Bright Eyes Some say this is the most pertinent and direct protest song ever written for the U.S. government. Take a listen.
- How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Times & Live – Bruce Springsteen The Boss wrote this in protest to the government’s slow response in bringing aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina.
- Sunday Bloody Sunday – U2
- Ohio – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Remember Kent State? CSNY wanted to make sure we’d never forget.
- We Shall Be Free – Garth Brooks This was originally penned with a different civil rights movement in mind, but Garth Brooks brought it a whole new meaning when he was the only straight male to perform at a concert promoting gay civil rights. I like him so much more now.
- War – Edwin Starr
- World Wide Suicide – Pearl Jam The Dixie Chicks aren’t the only ones that criticized President Bush and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
- Fight The Power – Public Enemy
- American Idiot – Green Day This song is actually protesting the kneejerk reaction of Americans after 9/11.
- World Destruction – Afrika Baambaata & Johnny Lyden
- Kill The Poor – The Dead Kennedys
- Killing In The Name – Rage Against The Machine
- Putin Lights Up The Fire – Pussy Riot You’ve heard of these Russian girls. But have you actually heard their music? They’re in jail. For badmouthing their country’s leader. Aren’t we lucky to live in a country where we can protest and criticize our leaders through song and not go to prison for 7 years?
- GMO – JJ Doom Oh yeah. There’s music out there protesting genetically modified crops, yes there is, and I found it!
- GMO Uh-Oh – DankSwad
- Give Peace A Chance – John Lennon
Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.