Thursday, June 16, 2022

Back: When They Say We Want Our America Back (What The F#%k Do They Mean?)


Jill Sobule: When They Say We Want Our America Back (What The F#%k Do They Mean?)

It’s been a while since I’ve gone off on a full out political rant here (although, to be fair, it’s been less than a month since my post about the dB’s “Change With the Changing Times” veered off course at the end). 

I’ve been watching the January 6 Committee hearings, and the videos that they played of the insurrectionists who attacked the American Capitol and attempted to steal an American election from American voters all seemed to be justifying their actions with some variation of wanting to take America back. Or, at least, that they were operating at the instigation of a man who popularized the slogan, Make America Great Again—which implies, of course, that it was once great, but now isn’t. Which implies that things were better when straight (or closeted) white Christian men ran things, and everyone else knew their place and was supposed to be happy for the crumbs. 

After the first night of the hearings, one of my college classmates, a Black woman who is a prominent and successful orthopedic surgeon, posted on Facebook, “What did Trump do for them??? They keep saying they were so grateful for all he had done for them??” And it’s an interesting question. Because the one legislative “accomplishment” of that administration was a tax cut that would likely not have benefited most people at the coup attempt in any significant way. He didn’t improve their health care, or raise the minimum wage, or protect their health or safety. My response was, “Made them feel their white supremacy was supported.” 

But it really was more than that. Trump preyed on the fear that his followers have of losing their advantage if the playing field was equalized. As Lyndon Johnson, a president who did many great and terrible things during his administration once noted, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” And that’s what Trump did, and still does. He fed their fears, their white supremacy, their anti-immigrant hatred and their economic worries, despite doing nothing tangible for them. And then, he picked their pockets, again and again and again. Although I think that part of the reason that Trump attempted a coup was to keep his power, I think that the reason that he wanted the power was to be able to continue the grift. Remarkably, he’s been able to keep the swindle alive, even without the power (and his son-in-law, the dead-eyed Jared Kushner, seems to have learned that lesson, too.) 

Back in about 2015, when Rand Paul was running for president on a nationalist platform, Jill Sobule wrote our featured song, asking the all-important question, when these people say that they are going to take America “back” then “What the Fuck Do They Mean?” And I think that the answer is becoming more and more clear. By getting rid of the Voting Rights Act, and by gerrymandering wildly and making it harder for poor people and minorities to vote, they are limiting the power of Black, Latino and other groups to have fair representation in state legislatures and Congress. By increasing income inequality, they are concentrating power in a handful of people and companies.  By facilitating the likely end of abortion rights, they are imposing Christian sharia law, and again making it harder for women, particularly poor and minority women, to control their own bodies. And giddy with success, there are increasing calls to attack the right to use birth control, marriage equality, and even the right to interracial marriage. All while doing nothing real to prevent gun violence. 

The version of the song above is from Monster Protest Jamz...Volume 1, a compilation of new protest songs that included the work of artists like Tom Morello, Todd Rundgren, Amanda Palmer, Wayne Kramer, Wendy & Lisa, and many others, which was part of Sobule’s “My Song is My Weapon” project. Unfortunately, it appears to be unavailable because it was issued by Pledgemusic, which went bankrupt and was liquidated. 

But I’ll also insert this video of Jill singing the song in August, 2016 (before we got the Election Day shock), with my beautiful and talented wife singing backup.