Particularly in the past year or two, there are certain songs, a famous speech, and a cliched term that I have grown tired of. I feel as though that saying so is almost a betrayal of the culture.
There are songs played/sung too often. This includes Imagine, the John Lennon song, played whenever we have a “Can’t we just get along” moment. Gal Gadot admits her cover was in “poor taste.”
Leonard Cohen’s great song Hallelujah is another. I’m partial to the version by k.d. lang, but there are others. I don’t even watch music competition shows on TV. But when I flick through the channels, someone is emoting that song. A 50-year moratorium would be nice; OK, 20 – give another generation a chance to rediscover it.
Also on the list is the hymn Amazing Grace. This is definitely a COVID thing. I ADORE Amazing Grace, especially Aretha’s version. Yet, after too many deaths, from disease, disasters, and other tragedies, it’s become the go-to song. And not always done well. I could use a break from it. Sacrilege, I know. Though when it’s played on bagpipes, it STILL gets to me; go figure.
I’ve said this before, but it’s the “I Have a Dream” speech by MLK. (sigh.) No, not the WHOLE speech. “One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.” Good stuff.
Or, “In a sense, we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men – yes, black men as well as white men – would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
“It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked insufficient funds.”
The summer of our discontent
Or “This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality… Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.”
That’s all in the first third of the address. Instead, all we hear is the ending. Specifically, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
To that end, the takeaway by too many is that we’re all now equal, those who were born on third base and those in the on-deck circle with a broken bat. No, one can’t talk about the latter part without fixing the former. (n.b., we ain’t there yet.)
The term “cancel culture” has, to my mind, been rendered meaningless. The culture has always “canceled” people, whether it be Hester Prynn in fiction or Copernicus in real life. It is almost “them” doing the canceling, whereas when “we” do it, it is to create “standards.”
As this article states, “Cancel culture is built into the fabric of documenting history. Implicit in the phrase ‘those in power write the history books’ is the notion that stories, victories, and pain of everyone but the winners are erased or greatly diminished.”
In my lifetime, there was a group called the John Birch Society. Its critics, such as old-line conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr. and the magazine National Review, considered it a fringe organization element of the movement. They were certainly “canceled”, in modern parlance.
Yet, Politico noted in 2017, The JBS is back. “Bircher ideas, once on the fringe, are increasingly commonplace in today’s GOP and espoused by friends in high places. And the group is ready to make the most of it.” And has.
If so virulent an organization has become the “mainstream”, then “cancel culture” is, at best, not nearly as monolithic as some have suggested.