Back during the Cold War and Cultural Revolution period in China, they had show trial bodies like the House Un-American Activities Committee for us communists, both real and imagined. You see, whilst socialism was on the map, it represented a recognized danger to American patriotism and what that represents: capitalist imperialism. Upholding this proud legacy, I thought today would be an appropriate occasion, being July 4th and all, to provide some unpatriotic, thought-provoking songs for your consideration and enjoyment. We'll visit several of my personal favorites, as I've never really been much of a patriot myself.
The first stop on our proverbial tour will be the recent avant garde MIA video called Born Free. The video being left up to interpretation such as it is, I thought, in the case of this particular one, it would be appropriate to also provide what I think is probably the overall best discussion of the contents and response that I've found so far. To add to what all is said there, I think this is the best music video of 2010 already and easily. I would also add that, in addition to certain seemingly apparent references to her father's cause and the genocide campaigns in Sri Lanka, the implication of American forces in this video I think also refers to the increasing militarization of the police forces here in particular that's well-documented but rarely discussed. Believe it or not, while we may not have camps like this yet on U.S. soil (though we do have principally similar camps abroad for opponents of our wars), the police in this country do in fact conduct these sorts of insanely brutal raids on people for non-violent offenses, many of which really shouldn't even be illegal (like weed possession, for example). One such particularly gruesome case was highlighted by Revolution newspaper not long ago, wherein police bombed and shot a 7-year-old girl as part of a house raid in Detroit. It's also worth highlighting at this particular juncture that this sort of horrific repression is on the rise not just in the U.S., but more broadly as well. Consider the recent, extraordinary repression in Toronto against overwhelmingly peaceful G20 protesters as an example of what I mean. This was the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Anyhow, this video by MIA provokes far-reaching debate on topics like police brutality, fascism (and the emerging threat thereof, including here in the United States), genocide, discrimination, etc. etc. that disturbingly plague our world today, and it's really in that sense that this video is really and truly profound and of immense merit at this time especially, I think.
So, pressing on, I also wanted to provide some songs that deal more directly with the topics of imperialism and nationalism in light of July 4th coming up. So the second stop on our proverbial tour will be Empty Walls by Serj Tankian. This 2007 music video creatively sums up the history of U.S. foreign policy from around the time of the 9/11 attacks by presenting it metaphorically through children and childish play devices. It takes us from around the time of the 9/11 attacks to the invasion of Afghanistan to the invasion of Iraq, through the toppling of Saddam and the original torture scandal to the legacy of house raids and shows logically how this oppression feeds the reactionary, fundamentalist fighters. It's a very powerful and artistic condemnation of imperialism itself and especially of America's global war of terror (er, excuse me, war "on" terror). It powerfully causes us to think very critically about America and what it's doing in the world.
Our next stop will be another Serj song (...you're probably sensing that Serj is one of my favorite artists at present, no?). This one is off his upcoming album called Imperfect Harmonies due to be released on September 7th. It's called Borders Are. The video is simple, but powerful. We're presented with a world map in which all national borders are swept away as the song progresses. Particularly thought-provoking at this time, I think, is the last border that's removed: At the end of the video, the U.S.-Mexico border is slooowwwly (probably for dramatic effect) swept away. This subtle, yet apparent emphasis on that border in particular at such a time as this, with the new Jim Crow type oppressive laws against especially Latinos that have recently come down in Arizona in particular ("Jim Crow" meaning feudal type laws that reduce those who "look foreign" and especially who are Latino in this case, to a legally-enforced second-class status, a la racial segregation), but which are also resonating throughout the U.S. as well, affected me emotionally, and I think it will do the same for you. The essence of the song as a whole is a call for the abolition of all nations, which is part and parcel to the goal of a communist world; a world in which all people freely share all the world.
Next we'll stop off on a song I simply can't resist adding to this list: that modern classic and long-time favorite of mine, Rage Against the Machine's Sleep Now in the Fire. (I understand that, what with copyright stuff involved, not everyone can access the official video I just linked to. For those who can't, I guess you'll have to stick with this song presentation.) The video is decent (it was done by Michael Moore), but the song itself is really the more important thing in this case. It lyrically takes us through the course of American colonial history down to modern times, pointing to many of the great atrocities that have established this nation and built into the mighty imperialist superpower it is today. It also presents us with a certain image of oppressors of many sorts, including Christian ones and ones that would perhaps even claim the mantle of communism. And, most importantly, it connects us to the horrible oppression that is inherently bound up with this system. It's a very appropriate song for such an occasion as July 4th.
Finally, I'll conclude this tour with my favorite version of The International: a 1993 Chinese rock version by the avant garde Maoist band Tang Dynasty. For those who don't know much or anything about the song, this resource very briefly provides its history and also provides an English translation. In my view, The International is the ultimate national anthem: an anti-patriotic, revolutionary one. It's adoption as the Soviet Union's national anthem was very appropriate, I think. "The International unites the human race!" That's what we should be about.
Happy Birthday America and may you die soon!