penpusher: (History Channel)
Note: This piece is a segment from a novel I am currently writing. This is, in fact, the first time anyone has seen any segment from it.

The set up: the story’s protagonist has entered an alternate version of Earth and is still in the process of understanding and coming to terms with where he now is.

In order for him to comprehend the facts of this world, he has been brought to an archive and is in the process of viewing a series of newspaper articles, magazine clippings and television news and entertainment programming. At this point, he is viewing a special series of talk shows, collectively called “The Human Summit” which premiered Dick Cavett's late night talk show from ABC studios in New York.

Presented June 3 through 7, 1968, the weeklong series of programs featured interviews, songs, conversations and performances all related to “The Big Issues” as Cavett understated at the beginning of the week: The war, racism, poverty, crime. Guests included Dick Gregory, Harry Belafonte, The Smothers Brothers, Nina Simone, Bob Dylan, Dr. Ralph Bunche, Diana Ross and the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, George Carlin, Julian Bond, Aretha Franklin, Pete Seeger, Richard Pryor, Robert F. Kennedy and on Friday, June Seventh, the concluding night of the series, we pick up.

---

On screen: a title card with a still frame picture of the Mall in Washington DC filled with people. In the upper left corner, taking up a bit of the sky, is the logo for “The Dick Cavett Show.” and in the lower right corner, a figure waving to the assembled multitude. It is Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

The screen fades back to Cavett, seated in a chair on a darkened set, and he turns to his right.

“I think it’s only appropriate that you introduce our next and final guest.”

The camera focuses on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as he nods back at Cavett.

“It is a very special thrill to be able to introduce someone who I consider an important voice in the struggle for equality. She is going to perform a song that is both beautiful and meaningful. So, I would like to present my friend, Miss Joan Baez.”

Under the rumble of applause, the screen crossfaded to Joan, standing on a darkened stage, in a spotlight, a guitar threaded over her shoulder, as she saluted the audience behind a microphone stand with two mikes, one at her mouth and the other positioned in front of the instrument’s soundhole. The applause of the live studio audience faded and Joan leaned in, smiling delightedly.

“I'm honored to have been chosen to be the concluding part of a very important week of programs about issues we must discuss. And I have to say, it’s a special thrill to be introduced by Dr. King under any circumstances,” Joan noted, “but none more than when I am doing a world premiere performance of a song I have dedicated to him and to the Equal Rights movement. And that means it is dedicated to everyone.”

The audience applauded.

“I am joined tonight by the magnificent Edwin Hawkins Singers.”

The lights came up on the group, camera left of Joan, dressed in white smocks over blue tunics, much like a church choir. Choirmaster Edwin Hawkins, in a blue suit that matched the fabric of the tunics, took a bow to applause and acknowledged his group before the shot returned to Joan.

“The song is titled ‘The Lie.’”

Joan began to play her guitar and sang the lyric:

The founding of the nation
Began on the plantation
Everybody knew that this was true
The tobacco and the cotton
But also something rotten
Creates a harmful place for me and you.

The millions of those slaves
In chains for all their days
Forced against their will to work or die.
White owners knew full well
Human property was Hell
And so began the story of “The Lie.”

Protecting all the guilty
Simplicity so filthy
Some people would deny it ever was.
The reason, clear as day
Preserving the white way,
Of everything that hate and evil does.

- CHORUS -

The legacy we reap is what they’ve sown.
Human beings are not meant to own.
But those in charge would never answer why.
We covered up that sin,
So now we must begin
To finally come answer for “The Lie.”


“The Lie” was a decision,
A choice made from derision,
To claim that some were better than the rest.
The shame was a conceit,
A reason to mistreat,
All done to make the claim of being best.

At long last, slavery ended,
And everyone pretended
In a way that wasn’t much more than deceitful...
Jim Crow then ruled the day
Those freed slaves had no say
They were separate, but not at all like equal.

The hatred and the dread
In every guilty head
The worry for revenge they thought would come,
Whites let “The Lie” live on
And made sure they did give on
While handing out not much more than a crumb.


- CHORUS -


Now after all the fights
To win their equal rights,
The laws did change at last to rectify.
But society’s fulfilling
Only after we are willing
To destroy the ugly filth that is “The Lie.”

So strongly held in place
As populations face
Fear and anger aimed at all the others.
The divide that this created
Is what keeps us separated
We all are equal sisters, equal brothers.

It might have just been sad
If all the things done bad
Were simply from some passive rash insistence.
There was a clear agenda
Treat black folks like offenders
Though we know skin color does not make a difference.

Between the black and white,
We have to make this right.
Remove the hate and fear that lies within you.
Each ensuing generation
Will face a racist nation
If we permit “The Lie” to just continue.

Final Chorus:

The legacy we sow is what they’ll reap
The promise that was broken, we must keep
The stakes we face have never been so high
We cannot shy away
For tomorrow, for today,
To bring a final end to this damned lie!



As the sound of the Edwin Hawkins Singers soared to the heavens and Baez struck the final chord on her guitar there was a pause. It was, perhaps no more than two seconds of airtime, but within the space of that complete silence, everything happened. The audience breathed a moment to have taken in what they just heard, the music and the meaning. Cavett and King got to feel the landscape of both the performance and the audience. And Baez had a moment to wonder if the audience liked or hated the song.

But then the explosion of applause followed and cameramen struggled to quickly turn their lenses around as the house lights came up on the audience's wild standing ovation!

Cavett simply stood with Dr. King, both of the men applauding as the audience continued to cheer, Cavett wiping his eye as the show’s final credits rolled.

//

This excerpt of Proxy, North Carolina was specifically prepared for LJ Idol using the prompt No comment
penpusher: (Flag)
One of my favorite quotes from the infinitely quotable, brilliant philosopher/comedian George Carlin is the following:

“When you’re born into this world, you’re given a ticket to the Freak Show. If you’re born in America, you get a front row seat.”

To me, that quote makes three distinctive statements. The first, obviously, is that Americans get to observe a lot of ridiculousness: behaviors that are rooted in privilege, in wealth, in nonsense that could only be done if you don’t have to worry about having potable water to drink, proper food to eat, clean air to breathe, ground to walk on that doesn’t contain land mines. These are your classic #FirstWorldProblems. And wow! The nonsensical stuff happening is simply staggering, though, admittedly, we’re the ones frequently involved, which leads to the second statement.

As front row ticket holders... )
penpusher: (CBS)


The Marquee of CBS Television Studio 50, from February 9, 1964, eventually to be renamed
"The Ed Sullivan Theater"


and this weekend...



A small tribute from CBS to this 50th Anniversary of the appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show


Interesting side note - As for that marquee with other guests, Broadway star Georgia Brown was on the telecast to perform a scene from the musical Oliver! She was playing Nancy in that production and playing the Artful Dodger was a young British chap named Davy Jones... So, a Monkee appeared on the same episode of the Ed Sullivan Show that introduced the Fab Four!

The impact of The Beatles... )
penpusher: (History Channel)
Osama bin Laden, dead.

You know, I thought I would be more enthusiastic about it all. There are a few things that are tempering my reaction.

The first is the history. In a very big way, the United States funded bin Laden's efforts way back when. If we hadn't, would he have risen to the position he reached? The problem with time is that you can't rewind it and see what might have happened if you had made a different choice. Maybe we would have saved countless lives had we not helped Osama when we thought he could benefit us.

And that's really the second element of it all. At this point, as far as we knew, bin Laden wasn't really "in charge" of anything. He was just whiling away the hours in his mansion, til Jack Bauer (or whomever it was) arrived and took him out. But it's unclear what that accomplished in the bigger picture. Yes, it was a deserved death for someone who clearly had been either directly or certainly indirectly responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. But the next obvious question is will the counter move prove even more fatal to us?

I get why people are chanting USA! USA! in Times Square, at the World Trade Center site, and outside of the White House. I know that singing The Star Spangled Banner and God Bless America are a part of it and that some are in a party mood, but I'm just feeling a bit more cautious about it all.

Really, it's just a milestone and not an ending, and that's really why I'm not caught up in it. I am glad that he was finally taken out, but I do wonder where we're going now... with Afghanistan, with Iraq and the whole situation in the Middle East... with Libya, it's just more of the same.

Let's see where we go from here.
penpusher: (Enoelie Artwork)
http://tennessean.com/government/archives/04/03/48099754.shtml?Element_ID=48099754

Above is one of the more inane examples of why life really sucks right now.

Here's the thing. When people are unhappy, even the least little thing will annoy and provoke them to anger. It sure seems like there are a lot of unhappy people around here.

The joys of reality television and glossy gossip magazines can only divert the general population for so long. Eventually they'll come back around to their homes and/or the news stories of the day, they'll get depressed about the state of the world and the state of their personal lives and not really feel capable about doing anything to change it. Maybe they'll write to their representatives. Maybe they'll go shopping. Maybe they'll pray. The Status Quo wins again and the march towards the inevitable continues, unabated.

"Control the things you can," says the adage, but people are discovering that there's less and less that is in their control. Doesn't such frustration mean that we are heading for a new wave of violence? After all, when there are fewer and fewer choices to be had in their lives, frequently reactions explode, people are hurt, or worse, and those that remain have to clean up the mess... one more story for Tom Brokaw's final year on the air.

I still can't help but feel that in this time, the early part of this new millennium, we weren't supposed to be having a debate about "free speech." I mean, I thought we settled that in 1790! Why aren't we focusing on things that can help take us to the next level up? Why aren't we working to discover solutions to benefit the world as a whole become a more wonderful planet for everyone, rather than trying to alter one of the few things that had been working for over 200 years?

The United States has a history of doing insidious things to other countries in order to get what she wants. It goes all the way back to before this country was a country, and no one can deny it. Are the chickens coming home to roost? Or is there a way for us to play a positive role in the world again, as we did during the World Wars?

Or perhaps, that's actually what some are hoping for: another world war to allow the USA to demonstrate that military might, to boost the economy (since every war has done exactly that), and to make us look like heroes to our allies again, instead of being street-tough thugs who can run over countries the way we ignore the United Nations.

Our current Middle East policy will assuredly cost us thousands of lives, both military and civilian. It's already done so. But there will be no change in that. There's no battle if there's no "us v. them."

Admittedly there is no us v. them. We're all humans and we're all here. But the competition is what helps to create this illusion, this game that's being played to manipulate feelings, to control money, to inspire patriotism, to keep everyone in line. This is why Christianity has come to the fore so strongly! We are nothing like those heathens! Bombs away!

I guess I'm sounding like some sort of conspiracy theorist, but the timing sure is perfect.

Let's be fair. The other side is using the very same tactics to keep their people in line. To them, we are the reason their lives are miserable. They are being taught to hate all the things we stand for. So the game is on.

Back stateside, if we didn't have to take up such issues as a clearly unconstitutional bill (that passed the House by a fairly wide margin) to assess fines for "dirty language" against media outlets and the performers who appear on them, maybe we would have time to ask some questions. For example, no one has spoken of the communications breakdown that took place with the CIA that might have prevented 9/11. That's the dirty language that everyone should be calling for today. Instead, we have to rally the troops and defend the Constitution.

Lyndon Baines Johnson was another non-elected President from Texas who got us buried hip deep in a war that seemed crucial to the United States at the time, but probably shouldn't have happened. Sure, Vietnam seemed like the thing to do, since the US was trying to prevent a "Domino Effect" of communism across Asia. Just as, at the time, moving in on Iraq was the very thing needed to do in order to prevent more devastation and disaster across the Western world. All those Weapons of Mass Destruction could be used against us at any moment.

Back in the 1960s, we were simply not prepared for what was going to happen. There was no good way out of the situation, and patriotic pride refused to let politicians do an about face while there was an opportunity to do so with a minimum of human sacrifice.

This time, instead of a swamp, it's a desert, but the war is basically the same. We are attempting to "rescue" a group of people who want no part of our efforts. It is a no-win situation. Even if everything went according to plan (assuming there is a plan), we would still be despised by the people of that country, seen as carpetbaggers, outsiders, the enemy.

So, we are offering Iraq the freedoms that the USA has become famous for, while we are attempting to take those very same freedoms away from our own society. It's enough to make Alanis Morissette sing.

The truth is we aren't actually trying to "rescue" those people. We have our own agenda, our own vested interest in seeing things go the way we would like, just as we did in Vietnam. And we've got the $Billions and the cannon fodder to make sure that it does.

But checkbook diplomacy got us to where we are now. Forget your party lines. Every administration has screwed up in the Middle East. That may be due to the power and arrogance that the US has, being the strongest country in the world, dealing with these disorganized dustbowls. Why not just drop nets and carry everyone away to some island? Or might the rest of the world raise an eyebrow at that?

The future for all of us is in dialogue. It's in breaking down the barriers that we have constructed... not by force, but by word. No one is leaving, not the Christians, not the Jews, not the Muslims, not the Spanish, not the Iraqis, not the Americans. We are all here. Until we can get something bigger than a Mars Rover up there, we all have to share this place. We need a new policy. We need a change. We need it now.

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