Snow in Austin, Winter in America

Snow fell from the cold, dark skies on my bike ride home from the gym. The frozen precipitation is rare in Central Texas, especially in relatively mild winters like we’ve been having. So it’s a wondrous sight when it does snow. I felt lucky to have been outside riding when it came down. Light, white, wet kisses on my face melted quickly. Some accumulated on car hoods and lawn chairs, and the roommates and dogs were happy to see and feel it, too.

Of course in other places, there are no romantic notions about snow, because they’re drowning in it and shoveling it by metric ton. Another substance is also being shoveled in similar quantities, but it’s brown, smelly, and comes out of the back end of a cow. And by that of course, I can only be referring to the State of the Union, which was by some accounts a total snow job. Winter isn’t coming, Jon Snow, it’s already here. The revolution will not be televised. It’s winter in America.

Gil Scott Heron was the original proto-rapper, a jazz and soul poet, lyricist and musician with a distinctive vocal style. He was active from 1969-2011 when he died. With Brian Jackson, a keyboardist, composer, producer and flautist, they created a number of seminal soul and jazz works. The lyrics dealt with the African-American condition that still resonate today for all Americans. You may know Gil’s work more from the song behind a common phrase, The Revoltion Will Not Be Televised.

Winter In America.jpg
Source: Wikipedia

It was the album Winter in America that really put them on the musical map. Here are two verses and the chorus from the title song (which actually appeared on their next album):

The Constitution
A noble piece of paper
With free society
Struggled but it died in vain
And now Democracy is ragtime on the corner
Hoping for some rain
Looks like it's hoping
Hoping for some rain

And I see the robins
Perched in barren treetops
Watching last-ditch racists marching across the floor
But just like the peace sign that vanished in our dreams
Never had a chance to grow
Never had a chance to grow

And now it's winter
It's winter in America
And all of the healers have been killed
Or been betrayed
Yeah, but the people know, people know
It's winter, Lord knows
It's winter in America
And ain't nobody fighting
Cause nobody knows what to save
Save your souls
From Winter in America

Source: AZlyrics

To hear the full song, here’s a link to a video of a live performance.

On Tuesday, we had another State of the Union address from the future ex-President of the United States. (Name omitted like in news reports of serial killers and mass shooters.) On Wednesday, #45 was acquitted by a partisan party-line vote in the Senate of charges of obstruction and using his office to entice a foreign power to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, one of his rivals in the upcoming election. Republicans managed to blame the Democrats and vice versa as usual, the people and the truth are the losers.

I was at One Page Salon and the substitute host asked the readers who they would pick to rewrite the vile, misleading, delusional and flat out untrue speech. Answers ranged from George Carlin to Kurt Vonnegut and John Waters for their truth-telling, humorous look at America and scathing critiques. (Missing from that list would be Lenny Bruce. All white men, I know.)

Gil Scott-Heron in a meditative moment.
Source: Adam Tuner

A Dude, being of the Caucasian persuasion, of course does not speak for my brothers and sisters in Black America. I don’t presume to talk for anyone except myself. But this song got into my ears and psyche long ago. A roommate in Seattle introduced me to Gil, but when he came to town I didn’t go see him perform live for some reason. I always regretted that, but he lives on.

At troubling times like these, with the literal and figurative coldest season upon us in the U.S., Gil’s prophetic voice is one we could sure use right about now. In a time of so-called fake news, social media, corporate malfeasance, the rich getting richer, resurgent racism and cop killings of black people, and hate crimes against Jews, artificial intelligence (they go together), Russian hackers, climate change, killer viruses, lockstep party allegiance (on both sides), with a narcissistic, pathological liar and demagogue as the most powerful man in the world, I’m ok with the dude and his supporters being taken down a million notches. If anyone can do it remains to be seen.

From Gil’s spoken-word classic, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised:

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock
news and no pictures of hairy armed women
liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.
The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,
Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom
Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.
The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back
after a message about a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.
You will not have to worry about a dove in your
bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.
The revolution will not go better with Coke.
The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.
The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,
will not be televised, will not be televised.
The revolution will be no re-run brothers;
The revolution will be live.

Source: Metro Lyrics
A mural of Gil Scott-Heron in the UK. Source: Owen Humphreys – PA in Chronicle Live

Under the current corporate regime, America is no longer that beacon to the world, that “shining city on a hill.” We are a country in a hell of our own making by people intent on tearing up the social contract to love thy neighbor. The GOP wants to shrink government to be so small they can drown it in a bathtub. They should all just resign instead (and give up their free healthcare for life while they’re at it,)

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi may have (rightfully) torn up the State of the Union, which made for a great television moment, but so what?. Thhe President didn’t shake her hand and oh yeah, he’s shredding the Constitution. Yes, people, it’s Winter in America, and The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. The green grass lies dormant now, but silently, stealthily, its seeds grow upward, through the thick concrete. Hope springs eternal, and righteousness rolls down like a river. War is over, if you want it. People, get ready. A train’s a-comin,’ and a new day is dawning. I have a dream.

Because when the snow melts, you learn where all the bodies are buried.

Snow-covered grass in a red wheelbarrow

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6 thoughts on “Snow in Austin, Winter in America

  1. Soooo many books I feel you would be interested in! My first Master’s thesis was on the religious references and symbolism utilized in the protest music of the 20th century…dating back to Joe Hill. Published as “Get on Board Flower Children.” I found fascinating research texts like “Guerilla Minstrels,” The Sociology of Dissent,” etc. Man, we gotta get together!

    Liked by 1 person

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