Le Bastille & Guthrie,
& Heartbreak in Florida
By the time you read this, Francophiles and revolutionists of all stripes are done marking Bastille Day and Woody Guthrie’s 101th birthday. It’s also been a day to cut off yet another link with the past: someone, somewhere in India, will post the world’s last telegram.
But even for those whose best Sunday plans include a pass on headline news, it was hard to ignore the shock waves that came from Travyon Martin’s murder trial. To a nation that’s beaten to a pulp so many enemies, race has proven once again to be a formidable foe.
Many will be grieving over the not-guilty verdict. But for Pete Seeger, one of Guthrie‘s best friends, the date has a poignancy of its own, as Toshi-Aline Ohta Seeger, his wife and collaborator of 70 years, passed away last Tuesday. Now how this mix of milestones, trivia, and personal loss are connected, we could hardly say.
We can only offer that the French Revolution, despite all spilled blood and betrayed expectations, is still closer to the U.S. than even the 10 days separating Le Quatorze from the Fourth of July would lead to believe, as it did serve as a cautionary tale to the young American republic.
Over two centuries later, both nations are in badly need of a refresher on their ideals of equality and freedom for all. In fact, most news about a possible identify of purpose between the two come invariably infected with the pragmatism of shared intel and similar military-driven goals.
As for Guthrie and his friends, it’s startling to realize how much worse it got to be a dissenter and an outcast. Whereas no one disputes the high price he paid for his humanism and ideology, it’s almost fair to say that he wouldn’t have gotten too far on that rebellious road today.
In the age of the whistle-blower as a pariah, and the young black man as a menace, liable to be executed for wearing a hoodie, it’s heartbreaking to see how oblivion and a controlled media squeeze any relevance out of the occupied airwaves. The verdict is in but first…
So, when that person in India sends out the last telegram, chances are that it’ll be about Bieber, and not Trayvon. Most likely about Jay-Z and not Woody or Pete, or Toshi-Aline. It may refer to some Bastille party but hardly about a burned down sweatshop building.
As you read this, most people you know will have an opinion, and a Tweet or two, about what happened on that chilly, bloody night in Florida. Unfortunately, it’s unlikely it’ll sway the next election cycle. Over two centuries later, on both sides of the Atlantic, ‘liberté, égalité, fraternité’ remain as endangered as the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
‘What hath God wrought?’ Samuel Morse asked from D.C. in 1844, on the world’s first telegram. For over a century, one’d think it was the land that Woody sang about, in the post-Dust Bowl years. Now we’re not so sure. For many all over this country have woken up this morning wondering out loud, what has he indeed?
* Vive Le Crap