The Un-Woke Mind Virus

I read this morning in an actual newspaper printed on newsprint that some parent in Utah has successfully petitioned to have the Bible removed from elementary and middle school libraries in that most conservative of states. I guess, though, if you’re going to yank Judy Blume, ‘ol Moses ought to go down, too, writing all that shit about fratricide, genocide, incest. Add to that David’s offing Uriah to he could be with Bathsheba; Job’s getting whacked with woe by his Creator in a friendly bet with his prodigal son Satan; Jacobs’ sons attacking Hamor and Shechem, butchering every male of their enclave, looting livestock, dragging away the wives and children of their victims.[1]

I suspect that the usual vulgarians in Congress (a couple of whom are depicted above) will be howling in protest, perhaps not discerning that their putting parents in charge of schools has more than one ideological scenario. If they’re sincerely serious about eradicating the Woke Mind Virus, they should be ecstatic that the New Testament with its pacifistic, communistic, and inclusive messages won’t fall into the hands of impressionable young people trying to make sense of what TS Eliot called “the immense panorama of futility and anarchy that is contemporary history.”

Compare the MAGA ethos with the Beatitudes, delivered by Jesus after dividing private property (i.e., loaves and fishes) and redistributing them among the masses.

Talking about woke!

Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

I’m reminded of Woody Guthrie’s song “Jesus Christ,” sung to the tune of “Jesse James.”

This song was written in New York City
Of rich men, preachers and slaves
Yes, if Jesus was to preach like he preached in Galillee,
They would lay Jesus Christ in his grave.

[1] The last item in that series happens to be Donald Trump’s favorite Bible story. For more, do yourself a favor and click on the link for BIBLE STUDY WITH DONALD TRUMP.

The Late Nanci Griffith’s “Other Voices, Other Rooms”

The very best Christmas present I ever received from an in-law is Nanci Griffith’s masterpiece Other Voices, Other Rooms, a collection of covers from songwriters who influenced Griffith’s own music making. My sister-in-law Linda Birdsong gave it to me in 1994, saying she thought I’d enjoy it. Understatement of the century Clinton years.

I ended up purchasing ten or so more CDs to check out the work of some of the featured songwriters, which include Kate Wolf, Vince Bell, Townes Van Zandt, Frank Christian, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Ralph McTell, Tom Paxton, Woody Guthrie, Janis Ian, Gordon Lightfoot, Jerry Jeff Walker, and Malvina Reynolds and Harry Belafonte, just to name fourteen.

The magic begins with a cover of Kate Wolf’s “Across the Great Divide,” an incredibly beautiful composition that embodies concretely the passage of time in both terrestrial and temporal images.

Here are the first three verses, but I encourage to go to YouTube (who won’t allow me to embed a link) and check out a live version:

I’ve been walkin’ in my sleep
Countin’ troubles ‘stead of countin’ sheep
Where the years went I can’t say
I just turned around and they’ve gone away

I’ve been siftin’ through the layers
Of dusty books and faded papers
They tell a story I used to know
And it was one that happened so long ago

Although they’re all excellent, the next song that blows me away is the third cut, Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Valley,” a duet Nanci performs with the great Arlo Guthrie. 

Other personnel featured on the album include Dylan himself, who plays harmonica on “Boots of Spanish Leather” and Guy Clark on the Woody Guthrie’s “Do-Re-Mi.” Also, Emmylou Harris and Iris Dement are sprinkled about, and the final cut “Wimoweh” features Odetta, the Indigo Girls, John Prine, James Hooker, Holly and Barry Tashian, John Gorka, Dave Mallet, Jim Rooney, and Nanci’s father Marlin Griffith.

Demonstrating just how much of life is fraught with loss and longing, the overall mood is melancholic with “From Clare to Here” (featuring Peter Cummin), Jerry Jeff’s “Morning Song for Sally,” Michael Burton’s “Night Rider’s Lament,” and “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” (featuring John Prine who wrote the song).

Of course, Nanci produced an admirable body of work herself, and she’s certainly going to be missed. From everything I’ve read about her, she was a lovely person, generous, intelligent, somewhat scholarly.

Sad, sad, sad.