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Protest something now!
October 7, 2011 - Stephen Browne
The "Occupy Wall Street" protests came to Minnesota on Friday morning at the Hennepin County Government Plaza in downtown Minneapolis.
The protests in New York which inspired this are entering their third week. Europe has seen their own protests in places like Greece. And recently there was the so-called "Arab Spring," which itself appeared to inspire protests in Israel of all places.
The Wall Street protests do not seem to be ideologically coherent at this point, just a collective expression of dislike for corporations and the way the economy is these days. It's a great opportunity for street theater though.
It's an odd historical fact that protest movements seem to come in waves that sweep around the world. Back in the late 1960s American youth marched in protests against the Vietnam War at the same time Polish kids were marching in protest against censorship by the Soviet occupation government, while kids in France were marching against... I think it was the government that now employs a significant number of the former protesters.
At any rate, the events reminded me of a great song by Tom Lehrer, the greatest satirical songwriter this country ever produced. It's titled, "The Folk Song Army."
Lehrer said, "One type of song that has come into increasing prominence in recent months is the folk-song of protest. You have to admire people who sing these songs. It takes a certain amount of courage to get up in a coffee-house or a college auditorium and come out in favor of the things that everybody else in the audience is against, like peace and justice and brotherhood and so on. The nicest thing about a protest song is that it makes you feel so good. I have a song here which I realize should be accompanied on a folk instrument in which category the piano does not alas qualify, so imagine if you will that I am playing an 88 string guitar."
We are the Folk Song Army. Everyone of us cares. We all hate poverty, war, and injustice, Unlike the rest of you squares.
There are innocuous folk songs. Yeah, but we regard 'em with scorn. The folks who sing 'em have no social conscience. Why they don't even care if Jimmy Crack Corn.
If you feel dissatisfaction, Strum your frustrations away. Some people may prefer action, But give me a folk song any old day.
The tune don't have to be clever, And it don't matter if you put a coupla extra syllables into a line. It sounds more ethnic if it ain't good English, And it don't even gotta rhyme--excuse me--rhyne.
Remember the war against Franco? That's the kind where each of us belongs. Though he may have won all the battles, We had all the good songs.
So join in the Folk Song Army, Guitars are the weapons we bring To the fight against poverty, war, and injustice. Ready! Aim! Sing!
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