Monday, November 13, 2017

A-Changin' History Lesson: Only a Pawn in Their Game

As I so often do, I reflect on things on my dirt trail runs. Last week I'm jogging with my phone and Bob Dylan's, Only a Pawn in Their Game, from his 1964 album, The Times They Are A-Changin' comes on my Amazon Music shuffle. As the song starts to play, I'm thinking I haven't heard this one in years, but now at 62, I'm really listening to this song with a total focus, more clearly than ever before.

Lately, I've been getting into Dylan's early songs as nobody can quite match his songwriting and voice at the height of both. He is so young, and how can he be that wise in his early 20's for God's sake? I know most rock 'n' roll legends "best" works are done in their 20's, but Bobby's in a league of his own.

So, as I'm listening to Only a Pawn in Their Game, P.T. Barnum's (*attributed) line, "There's a sucker born every minute," comes into my head as an updated 21st century version of racism. Dylan's song is about the June 12, 1963 assassination of Medgar Evers by white supremacist, Byron De La Beckwith.  Evers, a World War II veteran and, "an American civil rights activist from Mississippi who worked to overturn segregation at the University of Mississippi and enact social justice and voting rights." Beckwith, a pawn born long after the southern slavery economy of the 1700's.

In my mind, I'm thinking, "Charlottesville" (August, 2017) and Only a A Pawn in their Game is not a forgotten civil rights song from the early 60's, but unfortunately, as relevant today with only the transition from the white hoods to some white guys in polo shirts with tiki torches from Home Depot.

Only A Pawn In Their Game
Written by Bob Dylan

A bullet from the back of a bush took Medgar Evers’ blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man’s brain
But he can’t be blamed
He’s only a pawn in their game

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
“You got more than the blacks, don’t complain.
You’re better than them, you been born with white skin,” they explain.
And the Negro’s name
Is used it is plain
For the politician’s gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man’s used in the hands of them all like a tool
He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
’Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoofbeats pound in his brain
And he’s taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide ’neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain’t got no name
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game.

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He’ll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain:
Only a pawn in their game

Copyright © 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music



So back to that line, There's a sucker born every minute. Last night I'm watching the new HBO documentary, Rolling Stone: Stories from the Edge and their piece on pastor Jimmy Swaggart and his prostitution scandals in the 80's. As I'm watching this, I'm also thinking about the current Judge Roy Moore and The unholy excuses of Roy Moores' alliesand the sucker line just kind of writes itself.



On The Times They Are A-Changin' is the song With God On Our Side. "The lyrics address the tendency of nations, tribes, or societies to believe that God will invariably side with them and oppose those with whom they disagree, thus leaving unquestioned the morality of wars fought and atrocities committed by their country." With the latest mass murder of 26 in the small town of Sutherland Springs, Texas from a deranged person with a semi-automatic military-like weapon, many who oppose any gun control say the standard line, "it's too soon to talk about it." Here's Donald Trump on the subject- "We have a lot of mental health problems in our country, as do other countries, but this isn't a guns situation ... we could go into it but it's a little bit soon to go into it. Fortunately somebody else had a gun that was shooting in the opposite direction" or "it would have been much worse." For most Americans, you just want to scream or go out for a long run. I will also include the now pat phrase, "thought and prayers" said as the new standard action response and plan by politicians and pundits to the victims, families and communities of these type of killings, in a 48 hour news cycle. We all understand the sentiment "thoughts and prayers," but followed by what? The song, With God on our Side, brings a new relevance for me as domestic terror acts overwhelmingly perpetrated by white men routinely continue. But remember the magic words, "thoughts and prayers," and thank God we have him on our side as this appears to be the only game plan we're sticking with.



Speaking of P.T. Barnum, comes the current President of the United States and his statement, "Drain the Swamp," for replacing the establishment fat cat politicians with people who would better represent the hard working people of our land. Here's some of Trump's snake oil for -
  • building "The Wall" (with Mexican money), to somehow protect us from Mexicans;
  • taking health care away from millions of lower income people, to somehow protect them, the middle class and fund his tricked-down tax plan;
  • cutting taxes for the very most wealthy and paid by the middle-class, to increase the national deficit, to protect his fat cat friends;
  • denying climate change, to protect the powerful dinosaurs of energy, his friends;
  • Scaring the hell out of most Americans by trying to push the buttons of his man-child counterpart in North Korea, to built his fear game;
  • Siding with the KGB/FSS-backed Russian oligarchs ("[Putin] means it"), to protect his business interests, if not something more incriminating; 
  • calling our 1st Amendment free press, "fake news," to protect himself; and,
  • doing NOTHING along with congress that somehow protects the 93 people killed in America everyday with guns.
This may be our nation's biggest con job of all time, at least in my lifetime. "The Donald" is NOT "The Outsider" elected to clear the temple, but in fact is the establishment fat cat of all fat cats. His cabinet are all establishment fat cats who worship big money over everything else. 62.9 million people voted for Trump in 2016, just sucked right into his "anger" game. He promised the white working-class man to make him first, great again and protect him by perpetrating "fear and divide" as a national platform of backwards change and governance. The GOP's  brilliant "gerrymandered" game board, along with Democrats not voting, elected a 1950's duck-tailed bully. 

In times like this, I just got to go back to the Dylan well one more time for some historical perspective. How will we protect our nation from this Barnum-style flimflam "Swamp Thing" and cabinet? How will a disapproving majority (55.7%) change this around for the positive? VOTE (which I highly recommend you do the old fashioned way, on paper, like an absentee ballot).

With that, I take young Bobby's words in, with a hope for 2018.

The Times They Are A-Changin’
Written by Bob Dylan

Come gather ’round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you is worth savin’
Then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin’

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won’t come again
And don’t speak too soon
For the wheel’s still in spin
And there’s no tellin’ who that it’s namin’
For the loser now will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin’

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don’t criticize
What you can’t understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is rapidly agin’
Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin’

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is rapidly fadin’
And the first one now will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’
© 1963, 1964 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991, 1992 by Special Rider Music



*Note- If you want to read an interesting story of P.T. Barnum and "fake news" in the 1860's, see the Cardiff Giant

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