Surely you know where this title comes from. Isn’t it just what we are all humming under our breath these days? We have had two years of absurdity which some of us hope will end soon with justice stepping in. We will be “liberated from the fold.” What we hope for, however, is that it will not be true that afterwards, “the world looks just the same.” Politics “as usual” is not what we want. We do need politics and the body politic to continue to provide the leadership and support that, as a complex national body, we need. We do have internal issues to deal with. Our domestic front is torn and tattered both physically and emotionally. We do have national polices which are necessary to further define us as a nation which stands for “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” We also have international issues which when done appropriately provide a witness to the value of diversity, democracy and human rights around the world.
What we don’t want is to be “fooled again” by the next swing in politics from a complicit GOP to a radical influx of Dems with a just-as-absurd out-of-balance and reactionary approach. One of the themes in the Who song is the recognition of an unfortunate repetition of behavior by politicians (and almost all leaders) who are granted the right to serve (read lead) and immediately become like those who were in power before. What is needed is a new type of leadership which understands the abuses of power and specifically works to ameliorate it. When you read our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, that is exactly what we find. The political balance of power was designed to allow no one branch to take charge. What we have been viewing on the national scene is what happens when one branch abdicates their responsibility for what benefit its ideological followers hope to gain. What they don’t see is their behavior as “the men who spurred us on, [and] Sit in judgment of all wrong, They decide and the shotgun sings the song” is not the way a democracy works. The prophetic reference to “shotguns” singing is all too well ingrained in us as a reference to the insane level of violence in American as a result of this current leaderships own violent rhetoric and alt-behavior.
A sad refrain in Pete Townsend’s song is the lack of hope of real change. His last verse picks up the imagery of the first verse where we are “out in the streets,” but the next time, there is no fighting, since all have already been “hypnotized” and now “There’s nothing [that] Looks any different to me And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye And the parting on the left Are now parting on the right….” How do we stop this repetition of that which does not work?
Prophets the likes of Jeremiah, Bob Dylan, Jesus, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Pete Townend, all are presenting us, in many and various ways, with alternatives to the repetition. The method and work to change life lies within us, those tempted to be hypnotized. Our Constitution calls us to be informed, positively critical, and realists about the complex dimension of a democracy. To take a phrase from my brother, we are challenged in our current environment to grow emotionally, to develop the emotional maturity to feel, think and act in ways which support our common growth as a country. It is not always about “me first.” We need to do the hard emotional work to not be blown about by every wind of ideology or purveyor in economic prowess. Life in a democracy is by its nature not easy. We are different, we are a collective, we are multi-lingual, of different faiths and cultures.
My prayer is that we can use this song as an anthem, not of cynicism, but of hope. We have seen the writing on the subway walls, as Paul Simon once said. Maybe, just maybe, this will spur us on to be our better angles, to seek first a better kingdom, and celebrate the diversity of the being the crown of creation and together, really and seriously together, children of God.