What an odd mix of politics, prejudice, socialization, schooling, private ignorance and public religion! Dawn found some real power of story in this one . . .and I feel a song coming on!
Perhaps in response to Rob Sherman’s atheist activism or his daughter’s recent (successful) campaign to get God Bless America off of the Homecoming Dance song list at her high school, the family evoked a response from the suburban Chicago community.
Their home was vandalized Friday night . . .
It’s a curious sort of counter-melody, isn’t it, for schoolkids to transpose GBA into this fight song key? God Bless America has been playing “good cop” to The Star-Spangled Banner’s bad cop, the song nobody can sing or wants played at their school dance or baseball game.
I learned as a schoolchild to sing gospel as popular music and not in church, while my guitar gently weeps: “to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” Singing and dancing, too. So if there has to be just one song, something like this would make the most sense to me.
But if we must fight over god and country songs for the public school dance and make God Bless America a winner or loser, it seems to me that even between “believers” and ‘atheists” the discor-dance (pun intended) is more politics than religion. More about purposes of war and peace than heaven and hell. Flag and country today, not ancient prophecy of kingdoms to come in the end times.
God Bless America hit the charts as an armistice song celebrating peace, while The Star Spangled Banner was inspired by war — bombs bursting in air, rockets’ red glare, the Flag was still there — so which really suits the purpose of school “homecoming” — defending the homeland or homecoming for the troops, both, neither?
And sing out right now if you believe it’s unAmerican that we teach kids to believe in the lyric, “school homecoming” which surely is unworthy here in the Land of the Free. Maybe what homeschooling freedom fighters really need for their time and purpose, is a stirring and easy-to-sing anthem about coming home, rather than those droning responsive readings from the dictionary. . .
Guess what happened to my senior prom? It never happened at all, canceled by song-fighting. We the diverse and contentious student body of a recently desegregated public high school, couldn’t agree on which band would play what kind of dance music (white or black, basically) and the obvious compromise of having two bands — one at each end of the ballroom as we’d done for the junior prom — hadn’t solved anything and wasn’t any fun. The one thing it turned out our schooling gave us in common then, was learning that lesson the hard way.
So nobody got to dance to any kind of music; we all got the default we deserved and we all sat home alone. It still grates on me after 35 years. Still trying to figure out what it means, if anything.
Whose “time and purpose” should prevail uber alles and/or blessed above all, under what power of story and composed for whose freedom principles? And if we can’t figure it out for ourselves, do we all just lose everything? — no wonder our public schools are such battlegrounds! They are our public squares, our backyards and our church socials, all rolled into one earsplitting, crazy-making soundtrack for every minute of our lives. Our unschooling is top-of-the-line as ear protection, but amplified schooling is still a constant thrum in our community like the swamp or the seashore, or maybe the city streets, wherever you make your home . . .
Here in Florida our official state song, the one I was taught in school classrooms back in the ‘sixties, wasn’t written as religious OR political. There’s nothing in it about God or flag or war, in fact it really was a “homecoming” song! (except its composer wasn’t actually from around here, don’t think he’d ever even visited — but hey, that is ART!)
Too bad though. I hear “way down upon the Suwanee River” has become just another lyric to fight about, here at home.
For current times and conflicting purposes, it seems that “Old Folks At Home” is just too old folksy and homey-sounding, so embarrassing as a reminder of once popular private times and purposes that the now-popular governor (with political purposes) won’t even let it be played in his public home! — he’s looking for enough public money to officially silence the old folks at home, for public school music teachers to put on a “campaign” with the state’s kids at their school homes, to have them put a new state song in our hearts by franchise.
So here’s how the story will go: sooner or later “we” (the governor) will get enough public money together to pay the teachers to wage the campaign, and open the polls, and maybe the schoolkids will learn their lesson well, and value their power to choose something totally irrelevant rather than their power to refuse to choose just one song for all. Maybe like adults, they’ll beat each other up over it. Maybe they’ll vandalize each other’s houses too, so that everyone’s “homecoming” becomes part of the fighting about whose songs hit closest to home at school? No doubt the losing chorus will sue for a recount.
And no matter what song finally “wins” we all lose a little more of that fond feeling for our homeland as Home anymore.
(It’s not clear in these confusing times, whether the Governor’s purpose is a fight song or a song no one can fight. Maybe he imagines all purposes can be served at the same time, by one song we all sing in unison, in public because that feels like most like home?)
Maybe a nice Easter song this time, so we can all stop fighting and thank god that our homeland isn’t old folksy and nobody stays at home any more.
Dawn’s story (and mine) should teach us that young or old, at home or at school, we the people can’t all agree on the right music for one dance, much less to represent the whole state.
Songs come from their own time, with their own purpose. No two are alike or interchangeable — which is funny because when one is really exceptional we call it a “standard!” And then complain it has an old folksy sound –
America, what a (fruited, foamy) country!