Monday, September 05, 2005
Lotta talk about this old Randy Newman song lately (our "Song of the Week" - click the player at left).
Aaron Neville performed it on NBC’s “Concert for Hurricane Relief,” on which Kanye West made his live statement, “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” rendering the song’s refrain, “They’re trying to wash us away, they’re trying to wash us away,” suddenly real topical. I don’t know whether or not Neville changed the line, "what the river has done to this poor cracker's land” to “. . . poor farmer’s land,” as the singers did the following Sunday morning on NPR’s “Prairie Home Companion” show, but that part of the song is also drawing interesting parallels between Bush’s and Coolidge’s empty grandstanding on the relief issue.
For anyone who needs a quick history lesson, here's an excerpt from a column by journalist Greg Palast that puts the current headlines in quick perspective:
Friday, September 2, 2005
The National Public Radio news anchor was so excited I thought she'd piss on herself: the President of the United States had flown his plane down to 1700 feet to get a better look at the flood damage! And there was a photo of our Commander-in-Chief taken looking out the window. He looked very serious and concerned.
That was yesterday. Today he played golf. No kidding.
I'm sure the people of New Orleans would have liked to show their appreciation for the official Presidential photo-strafing, but their surface-to-air missiles were wet.
There is nothing new under the sun. In 1927, a Republican President had his photo taken as the Mississippi rolled over New Orleans. Calvin Coolidge, "a little fat man with a notebook in his hand," promised to rebuild the state. He didn't. Instead, he left to play golf with Ken Lay or the Ken Lay railroad baron equivalent of his day.
As I travel around the USA, I'm just horrified at America's stubborn historical amnesia. Americans, as Sam Cooke said, don't know squat about history. We don't learn the names of a nation's capitol until the 82d Airborne lands there. And it doesn't count if you've watched a Ken Burns documentary on PBS.
I suggest starting with this: read "Huey Long" by the late historian Harry T. Williams. If you want to ease into it, get the Randy Newman album inspired by it (Good Old Boys) with the song, "Louisiana 1927."