A year and two weeks ago, I wrote Snow in Austin, Winter in America, based on a powerful song by Gil Scott-Heron. I think that post is some of my best work, not necessarily prize-winning, but in trying to capture a mood. (You should go read it now. I’ll wait.) The street poet, progenitor of rap, musician, and author was a voice of conscience regarding the state of Black people in America, among other things. He could also lay down some serious grooves to go with his strong words; Winter in America is in a minor key and has a great blues flute solo. I wrote that post right before coronavirus began its whirlwind tour of the US — just before it went viral. (Ha!) It was a few months before the modern-day lynching of George Floyd on May 25, 2020. (Not ha.) Scott-Heron died on May 27, 2011, a decade ago later this year. What would he have to say about Floyd’s killer, Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin still being out on bail awaiting trial and maybe even getting some justice for George (yeah, we’ll see about that)? Time marches on. But as Sting once sang,“History will teach us nothing.” The prophetic music and lyrics of Scott-Heron and others like him (Marvin Gaye comes to mind) are relevant — still. Maybe in GSH’s poetry we can find a little solace in these cold and dark days. Or maybe we’ll get pissed and take action somehow. It is Black History Month, but is there more to it than history?
Speaking of snow jobs, last February Donald Trump had just been acquitted of his impeachment trial in his final year of trying to destroy democracy. In a major case of deja vu, he was just acquitted again after being impeached for inciting the January 6 insurrection on the U.S. Capitol building. He’s gone and now we have President Joe Biden and Vice President Harris, a Black woman of Indian descent. For whatever that’s worth, I don’t know, because millions of Texans and others are shivering at home with no electricity thanks to Snowmaggedon. Millions more Americans are still unemployed waiting on government assistance to help them survive the pandemic. Most of us are many months away from getting vaccinated against COVID-19. In France there’s a famous phrase from a guy named Karr, “plus ca change, plus c’est le meme chose,” which in ‘merikun English translates to “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Gil must be turning over in his grave about now.
To quote another GOP ex-president, George Bush Jr. (aka Shrub) — a saint and genius compared to Trump — “Fool me once, shame on…shame on you. Fool me—you can’t get fooled again.” (I wonder how rock icons The Who took that bastardization of their epic song “Won’t Get Fooled Again”?) Let’s hope in four years that if Trump is still alive the Republican Party won’t allow him to be their candidate. But right now, in America, Scranton Joe is busy signing orders to undo the last four years and trying to restore the United States’ reputation as self-appointed leader of the free world. Things like ramping up vaccine distribution, rejoining the Paris Climate Accord, pausing deportations and the like are positive actions. I wish him luck. But in some major ways, it all just seems like a case of, again, The Who: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.” Sure Joe, sign those papers and make those speeches. Will it really change things that much for the people at the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder who have no power — electrical or political? So far we still haven’t solved homelessness, food insecurity, substandard housing, and much more — still. So I’m skeptical any president is our savior. So was Scott-Heron when he wrote this song:
Many fine speeches (oh yeah)
From the White House desk (uh huh)
Written on the cue cards
That were never really there, yes,
But the heat and the summer were there
And the freezing winter’s cold. Now
Who’ll pay reparations on my soul?
Who’ll pay reparations,Gil Scott-Heron, “Who’ll Pay Reparations on My Soul?”
‘Cause I don’t dig segregation, but I
Can’t get integration
I got to take it to the United Nations,
Someone to help me away from this nation.
Who’ll pay reparations on my soul?
At least reparations is a word more white people have heard now. But under our corporate capitalist system, the rich get richer; Wall Street prospers while Main Street suffers. Biden brand of so-called “personal” mainstream centrist politics is suspect to me. (He’s stood by his old racist friends in the Senate, remember?) I doubt he’ll really fundamentally be allowed to improve life for most working class and poor people. All politicians pay lip service to most of the promises they make to get into office. With the 50-50 split in the Senate, only one Democrat has to break ranks for a bill to fail. By trying to appease Republicans and their base, Biden and his party have already appointed some less-than-progressive folks to high office and are backing down from policy initiatives like a federal minimum wage of $15. It’s not enough to live on — still — and phasing it in over five years is a joke. The Green New Deal is getting pushback from Texas oil and gas companies — the same ones who’s energy supply failed in the storm. And I’m pretty sure Joe can’t be trusted to always use diplomacy or to reduce the US military budget, which takes half of every income tax dollar for the Pentagon. When it comes down to kitchen table issues, at least Trump got me $1,200, and so far Biden hasn’t got me the $600, and the $1,400 seems unlikely. Of course, that’s an oversimplification, but money talks.
House Democrats held a hearing yesterday on the possibility of a study to look into the remote chance someday of maybe making reparations to African-Americans.
When it comes down to it, all politics is local. A president may enact some policies that might trickle down and help the individual. Voting for your City Councilmember and holding them accountable is much more effective. An exeption that proves the rule: Biden was VP to President Barack Obama who passed the Affordable Care Act health insurance. Ten years after it passed, I signed up. But despite the subsidy, it’s costing me a pretty penny in premiums every month, there’s the deductible, and so far it hasn’t done much for me yet. If I make any decent money this year, I’ll be penalized and the subsidy will go down, costing me even more. Next year I probably won’t be able to continue it. The local county health care plan has worked well, and I can actually call up my county commissioner or the entity that runs it when it doesn’t. Have you ever tried getting anybody in DC on the phone? Writing your Congresscritter a letter gets you a form letter from a college intern, and not a thing changes.
I can hear your thoughts: “Give the man time, he’s only been in office a month. He’s a centrist, he wants to unify the country. Sure, he’s no Bernie Sanders, but he was the only one who could beat Trump. If you don’t love America, leave it.” And so on. Maybe I’m a cynic, a disillusioned idealist, but I think I’m still hopeful for real change someday. John Lennon’s words still echo, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” I have a dream we’ll not just have officials playing to lowest common denominator politics, the next funding cycle of their PACs, and kowtowing to whatever the base is told to believe by the two ruling parties through their surrogates at Fox News and CNN. Also, the revolving door between corporations and Congress allows lobbyists to write laws to benefit big business — all regardless of political parties. Worst of all, there’s the big money that buys elections — all legal thanks to the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Corporate capitalism doesn’t give a god damn what party your bought-and-paid for politician is in as long as their money buys access, favors and power. Still.
I do not have a picture of GSH on a bicycle. He probably rode one on occasion. But a poem / song of his was used to great effect in the incredible , genre-bending HBO show Lovecraft Country. In it, the character Atticus Freeman fights the horrors of racism in segregationist 1950’s America and some other horrible monsters out of the mind of sci-fi writer H.P. Lovecraft (a notorious racist). The song is classic Scott-Heron, using wit, humor and the stark reality of the Black experience to call out racism and injustice. He was pointing out the hypocrisy of people dying of poverty in America while the US space program spent millions of dollars (and spends — still). Here’s a link to the official audio; it’s called “Whitey on the Moon.” Take it away, Gil. Rest In Power, brother.
I can't pay no doctor bill.
(but Whitey's on the moon)
Ten years from now I'll be payin' still.
(while Whitey's on the moon)
The man jus' upped my rent las' night.
('cause Whitey's on the moon)
No hot water, no toilets, no lights.
(but Whitey's on the moon
Was all that money I made las' year
(for Whitey on the moon?)
How come there ain't no money here?
(Hm! Whitey's on the moon)
Y'know I jus' 'bout had my fill
(of Whitey on the moon)
I think I'll sen' these doctor bills,
(to Whitey on the moon)
Quite ironically, today NASA landed a fifth rover, Perseverance, on Mars.
Thank you for visiting me on WordPress or at https://ADudeAbikes.com. Feel free to add your Likes and Comments and to Follow the blog through WordPress if you have it, or by email. Contact me on the About page with any questions. Please feel free to Re-blog and Share as long as you give credit and the permalink to this post.
© 2021 A Dude Abikes. All rights reserved.