Change of the Guard

I’ve been kind of focused on the election crap these past couple weeks, like most people. I’m hesitant to go into much political discussion here because there is enough of it out there, and I’m hardly qualified to be a political analyst (or an opinionated shockmeister as many of them are).

But I do think it’s interesting that Obama is leading in the polls, and that this is inspiring an increasingly desperate and angry din from the right wing folk. I’m not talking about fiscal conservatives or middle of the roaders, but the really scary citizens who actually think Obama is either a:

a.) Muslim

b.) Terrorist

c.) Baby-killer

d.) Person who wants to take away all my money

e.) Person of Color

OK, we know he is half black…but I think the other accusations above are on the silly side.

We’ve all heard disturbing reports about GOP crowds shouting “kill him” or “get him” or whatever it is. You can argue about whether or not this poses an actual security threat, but the point is that having a black president scares the crap out of a lot of people. This fear is easily converted to anger, and most aren’t afraid to show it. I won’t go into all the sordid details – you all presumably have access to the Internets (but the small child at the McCain/Palin rally holding the Curious George doll comes to mind).

Still, while white racists try to outdo themselves by sinking to new lows in public, Obama keeps ascending in the polls. This does not necessarily mean he’s going to win the election, but it is most certainly a gauge of current public opinion. I came to the realization last week that even if Obama should lose the election (or the republicans pull some kind of Black Ops trickery at the polls like they have been known to do in the past), this antiquated mode of thinking – that America belongs to white people and diversity only weakens us as a nation – is on its way out. The times are changing, and these pink faces shouting “kill him!” are the last of a dying breed. We are witnessing the death throes of American racism, the extreme right wing, or whatever you want to call it. It may not happen with this election, but the fact that someone like Obama (not just a man of mixed race, but a relatively young, intelligent and level headed person) could get this far is nothing short of revolutionary considering this country’s often embarrassingly violent past.

Which brings us to Steely Dan. I won’t pretend that I know what these guys were thinking when they wrote “Change of the Guard,” which appears on their debut LP Can’t Buy a Thrill from 1972. But listening to the song today, it sounds like they could be describing the current political climate. Thus, I leave you with the words of Donald Fagen:

“All the cowboys and your neighbors
Can you swallow up your pride
Take your guns off if you’re willin’
And you know we’re on your side
If you wanna get thru the years
It’s high time you played your card
If you live in this world
You’re feelin’ the change of the guard”

(Video from Krolblach)

There is, of course, a more sinister interpretation of this song, suggesting that it describes some sort of fascist agenda – but let’s assume it does not. For once, I am bored with cynicism.


5 Responses to “Change of the Guard”

  1. The song came out the year Richard Nixon was re-elected. Don’t know how political they were back in the day, but Donald Fagen’s lyrics on his most recent, “Morph the Cat,” are definitely politically motivated, while satirical and sardonic as always. He’s totally outspoken in his interviews now. But I see their ’70s work as being social criticism, while at the same time, songs like “Here at the Western World” are almost like Kenneth Anger mini-dramas.

    One funny Fagen interview from the ’90s… I believe it was in “Pulse” magazine… I had no idea who he was then, but for some reason, I read the interview… I remember he described rap music as “crunk.” I thought it was a made up word to describe what he thought it actually sounded like… almost like Don Martin’s MAD drawings, you could imagine someone’s boom-box blaring on the streets, and Don Martin drawing the sounds as, “boom, clank, crunk!” Anyway, I found out years later that crunk was an actual word. I believe it’s even in Webster’s Dictionary.

  2. Interesting, because “crunk” is a type of hip hop that reportedly originated in 89 or 90. Did Donald Fagen invent crunk? I’d like to think so.

  3. I doubt it. The comment way, basically, “Rap today is nothing but, kind of, like, crunk.” This was from an interview in 1996, I believe.

  4. Very, very well written Ryan. I am not sure I agree that this country is changing, DUE to the nutheads rallying out there.

    I do hope that you are right and I do hope that history is getting rewritten today!

  5. Thanks. I do think there is an old guard that’s fading. And it will be up to future generations to continue the forward momentum. But our nation’s history still looms pretty large.

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