If I Had a Hammer

1960’s folk music is great to listen to if you have babies. Not only is it mellow and relaxing for them It is also good music, and it has a message that isn’t found in today’s music. This isn’t a commentary on the quality of today’s music versus music that was produced nearly 60 years ago and 20 years before my birth. It is surprising because during times of great political strife it is often the art that speaks. Go back to the build up to the Iraq War and think about how many songs there were for or against George W. Bush and his planned actions in Iraq. Green Day released an entire album called American Idiot that was explicitly anti George W Bush. Toby Keith released two albums supporting the president and American involvement in the middle east as well as extra-marital affairs in Mexico. I would say that I am out of touch but I’ve looked for Trump protest songs and I have found Childish Gambino’s This is America, and that’s just about it.

It is starting to feel that as a nation we are self censuring ourselves. Deadspin was recently told to stick to sports and every writer there quit in protest. That’s a great protest but it is a one time thing. Deadspin is now dead and gone, and it makes me think that the problem is that people have lost their ability to speak in metaphor or nuance. I know a lot of people that don’t like Bruce Springsteen but the misunderstanding of his Vietnam War protest song Born in the USA is the perfect example of a song that is heard one way but has a deeper meaning that is the exact opposite, and all you have to do to understand that song is to listen to more than the chorus. Apply this logic and the writers of Deadspin could have stayed on, stuck to sports on the surface, but continued to promote their political message through nuance and metaphor.

Today’s political discourse isn’t about nuance and metaphor. It isn’t even about rhetoric and debate. It is about who can scream the loudest, the longest, and post the most memes. Imagine signing onto social media one day and instead of seeing a meme or an angry reaction to a reposted news article you see your friend how written a treaties on the political issue de jour justifying his position using Thomas Hobbes social contract theory and JS Mill’s harm principle. This would be a complete shock when you are conditioned to be told what your friends opinion is by cartoon cats are a dude staring at the other girl’s ass. What we need to do is get back to a point where we can have adult discussions. Where we can understand metaphor and nuance and we can use the resources available to us to justify our positions.

What we should not be doing is the equivalent of telling people to stick to sports. You can see it all the time. We live in this time of intense political drama and we are told not to discuss it because we might upset our family members come Thanksgiving or you might lose out on a client or you might piss off a potential love interest. There are a lot of reasons given as to why we shouldn’t discuss politics, but they are given in an effort to silence dissenting opinion more than to offer a constructive behavior pattern for getting along around the dinner table.

Here is the truly beautiful thing about the digital age and it goes back to the title of this piece and my reference to 1960’s folk music. The Lee Hayes and Pete Seeger composition made famous by Peter, Paul, and Mary If I Had a Hammer sees a narrator explaining what he would do if he had a hammer, a bell, and a song and then in the final half of the song realizing that he or she does indeed have all these things and they can spread their song all over the land. It is not your typical protest song as it serves as both an homage to freedom of speech and the duty of those with a voice to use it to spread a message of peace and love.

We don’t live in 1960’s America. We don’t have to rely on famous singers to spread the message we want spread. The digital age has given us all hammers. We all have the ability to spread our message all over the land. And instead of being afraid to do so as the 2020 presidential race starts to heat up we should all embrace our duty to do so. We should let it be known how we feel, and more importantly why we feel that way and how we came to those conclusions. We live in a time where everyone has a voice and we should all start using it.

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