Friday, October 6, 2017

Swing Left


Continued from the political fundraiser a couple of nights ago. I was asked to lead the group in song and after making the opening remarks from the last blog, I continued.

There have been three resistance movements where music played a large part—Estonia, South Africa and the Civil Rights Movement in the U.S. (Indeed, a film about Estonia is titled “The Singing Revolution.”) In the U.S., protest songs is what kept people together out on the street, gave them courage in the face of the police and National Guard, unified them and expressed what they were fighting for. There were new compositions like “If I Had a Hammer,” “Blowing in the Wind,” “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free,” ”Universal Soldier,”and more. And then “We Shall Overcome,” “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” Down by the Riverside,””Free at Last” and more. The latter were taken from old spirituals and changed slightly to suit the occasion.

Consider. Back when these spirituals were created by enslaved or oppressed and segregated black folks, they had no recourse to voting to effect change, no access to the law and the courts, no chance to even peacefully march and protest. So these songs were all about the comfort of imagining that there’s a better land awaiting them on the other side of life, the Christian notion of heaven. Though there is no theology that describes heaven as color-blind, the Jesus the enslaved Africans were given was said to love all. So I imagine that in the face of unimaginable suffering, it was a comfort to think that redemption awaited them in heaven and many of the spirituals sing of this theme.

By the time the 1960’s came about, things had changed and the possibility of equal rights and justice here on Planet Earth seemed possible enough to work towards. And so the songs shifted emphasis from freedom after death to freedom in life. 

In that spirit, I offer a new version of an old spiritual, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” to bring us together for this very specific and concrete task—to go into Central California and get support for the Democrats to take back the House and the Senate in 2018. Looking out at the white heads, I suspect some of you sang these kind of songs back in the 60’s so you know what it’s like. Link elbows and let’s raise the roof!

Swing left, oh, Valley voters
Helpin’ us to carry the House
Swing left, oh, Valley voters
Helpin’ us to carry the House

I looked to the Valley and what did I see
Helpin’ us to carry the House
Voters restoring democracy
Helpin’ us to carry the House

For those in the middle, which way will you lean?
Helpin’…
Won’t you cross to the left in 2018?
Helpin’…

The arm of justice is deep and wide
There’s a better world if you join our side.

Republican party is chilly and cold
Has no heart and it has no soul

If you get to vote before I do
Tell all the Valley voters to get there too

Swing left, oh, Valley voters
Helpin’ us to carry the House
Swing left, oh, Valley voters
Helpin’ us to carry the House

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