Saturday, June 26, 2010

Southern Man Should Have Appreciated Neil Young Being Around

I heard Southern Man today and of course my mind turned to what always appeared to me to be one the most wonderful encapsulations of moral evasion in lyric writing history:

In Birmingham they love the governor
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?
Tell the truth

Of course this is not necessarily the writers of the song evading anything but it does certainly point out how we get selective about community. It is often forgotten for instance that the entire nation of the United States of America condoned and allowed and benefitted from slavery. Period. End of Story. America was a slave holding nation. But the North somehow claims that it was the South that was sinning, not the north, not the whole nation.

On the other hand it was certain Southern States that went to war to preserve the ability of certain people to hold others prisoner without trial and to treat them as chattel and to breed them and take their children etc etc. And then this hatred continued by law for a hundred years and when Neil Young wrote Sourthern Man it was a pretty on target about a lot of stuff. So why these lines:

Well I heard mister Young sing about her
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don't need him around anyhow

It seems a little sensitive especially since Young's Alabama seems like a song which really wants to help. I might see Southern Man as a put down but I never thought of Alabama as putting Alabama down.

Overly sensitive reactions I think. When fingers are pointed at our group we have a number of options: we can get all tribal and say the outsider has no right to criticize, we can disassociate ourselves from the offending group and claim not all of us are like that, or we can ponder what it means to be part of a community that collectively does really screwed up things.

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