Freedom Songs of the 1960’s Still Relevant Today
Why the call to action of human rights songs are as relevant now as when they were written.
Twenty-Five years ago Stevie Wonder commented that, unfortunately, Bob Dylan’s 1963 song “Blowin’ in the Wind” was still relevant, 30 years after it was written. I agree, but now it is 55 years since it was written. That song is still relevant today because, then as now, many people are still being denied their basic human rights including the right to be who they are. Some of the lyrics are: How many years can some people exist before they’re allowed to be free? How many times can a man turn his head and pretend that he just doesn’t see? Today those lyrics apply to how many years must an immigrant contribute to this country before they are allowed to be free, when will the LGBT community be allowed to be themselves and how long can some people pretend this isn’t happening to our fellow Americans?
Simon and Garfunkel had a version of Silent Night in 1966 that included a news broadcast in the background. Bruce Eder described the song as “a grim comment on the state of the United States in 1966”, (and one that still applies today). Some of the news was: President Johnson proposed equal access for everyone for every type of housing but it had no chance in Congress and everyone knew it. Today the news is any legislation that promotes equality for everyone has no chance in Congress, and everyone knows it. Other news in 1966 was Nixon urged an increase in the Vietnam War effort and called opposition to the war the “greatest single weapon working against the United States”. Today Trump claims that any opposition to his whims is the greatest single weapon working against the United States.
In 1971 the Washington Post published the Pentagon Papers that concluded we could not win in Vietnam. Nixon took the Post to court to prevent the paper from publishing any more of the Pentagon Papers because, in his opinion, a free press that didn’t support his administration was not good for the country. In 1972 the Post broke the story on Watergate but since the Supreme Court had already ruled a free press is guaranteed by the Constitution and is essential for a free and fair democracy in the Pentagon Papers case, Nixon tried to use the FBI, CIA and the IRS as political weapons to silence the Post, and other opponents, claiming that what the Post was reporting about his administration was “fake news”. Today we have a president who is attempting to silence the press by claiming any unfavorable report on his administration is also “fake news.
Now in 2018 we have Trump appointing an activist justice like Scalia who will make decisions based on his personally held religious beliefs. With Kavanaugh we can expect an outright assault on human rights and the separation of church and state, exemplified by: increased restrictions on abortion; more restrictions on voting rights; allowing business owners to deny contraception benefits to female employees in the company health plan and to deny some customers service because of the owners religious beliefs; granting medical professionals the right to deny anyone healthcare based on the provider’s personally held religious beliefs; allowing public schools to hold Christian prayer and teach Christianity in school at taxpayers’ expense; increased corporate power to influence elections, and reduced environmental regulations.
All of these are ideological and religious agendas designed to favor some groups over others. A truly neutral justice would allow a woman to choose, allow every citizen to vote, require businesses to not discriminate against women in the company’s healthcare plan or to discriminate against some customers; require medical professionals to provide medical services to everyone; keep government and religion separate by not allowing religion in government sponsored public schools; let elections be decided by voters and protect the environment in which we all live.
If you care about your freedom of and freedom from religion, guaranteed to you by the First Amendment, remember in November to vote for candidates who respect the US Constitution. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Our lives end the day we become silent about things that matter” and Bayard Rustin, the man who organized the 1963 March on Washington said, “The proof that one truly believes is in action”.