Election songs of the week, no. 4: Randy Newman, A Few Words in Defense of Our Country
In which I try to transform my dread over the upcoming election into something useful. Four of five.
I have no idea how I’m going to get through the day. I have to lecture on gender in International Relations (wonder who I’ll be focusing on?) from 3-5, and then it’s home to meet up with American friends to watch the outcome of the most consequential election of my lifetime (even as a non-American).
As I post this, I hopeful that Clinton will win. And I’m also hopeful that she can do some good. Certainly, her economic platform is justly lauded as the most progressive in American history. But when I think it through, I fear that the choice on offer is between The End, or The Beginning of The End. (To be clear, this is completely on the Republicans, not Clinton.) I’m not sure how the United States could recover and become again a positive force in the world with the election of an authoritarian like Trump. But even if Clinton wins, the intransigence I fear she’ll face from the Republicans (prove me wrong, Republicans. Prove. Me. Wrong. (Seriously, though. Please prove me wrong.)) will make governing almost impossible in the long run. Sooner or later, in her presidency or the next, something will have to give.
The main thing I’ve learned from the 2016 election is that the United States has yet to come to terms with the legacy of slavery and the white nationalism that has scarred the country so deeply from its inception. The 2016 election, at its heart, has been about whether the United States will be a white-supremacist or a multicultural country. Twice before – the US Civil War, and the 1960s Civil Rights movement – the battle over slavery and the rights of African-Americans tore the country apart. And now the United States is right back where they started, on the fault line. The only question is when the next Big One will strike.
Which brings us to Randy Newman’s musically gentle, alternately caustic and resigned
take on the Bush II administration. Those bad old days are now in the rearview, and Americans (and the world) have been fortunate to have had a president as poised and calm as Obama these past eight years. But the damage has been done, and continues to be done, to the United States and its ability to claim a leadership role in the world. Nothing lasts forever.
The end of an empire is messy at best
This empire’s ending, like all the rest
Like the Spanish Armada adrift on the sea
We’re adrift in the land of the brave, and the home of the free