Friday, July 03, 2009

Independence (by Suzie)

I love this song by Celeste Krenz and Rebecca Folsom of the Rhythm Angels. I first heard it on “Women Voices: Folk Alliance 2008.” It’s also on the Angels’ CD, “Girls Like Us,” released by Celeste’s company, High Horse Records. DJ the DJ calls it the best song of 2009.

Jon Chandler describes it as a “you’re a cheatin’ bastard” song.” I didn’t read it that way; the woman in the song is living in fear. Barry Mazor, at No Depression, calls the song “an in-your-face blast concerning gun control.” But it's so much more. Although the woman in the song muses about killing her husband, she sounds like she’d be satisfied, at the end, to just drive away. I messaged Celeste Krenz, who was kind enough to explain:
We wrote the song late one night. I was going through a divorce at the time (it was not over a cheating husband) but any divorce can be difficult. Diana Jones, Liz Barnez, Rebecca Folsom and I were in my kitchen and just talking about the power struggle and being heard in relationships. We started talking about why people resort to using guns and I said, (I have a very soft voice) I am a fairly reasonable person but there have been a few times in my life that I'm glad I did not have a gun. We started writing the song and finished in about an hour.

You really could look at it both ways, gun control and gun protection. It's pretty pathetic that women can't get protection from the police until they've been seriously threatened ... and on the other hand, a perfectly balanced person with a gun in hand at the wrong moment could make a life changing decision out of blinding anger. Guns are so distant ... you don't even need to touch the person.

Oh, it was a good discussion that night about domestic abuse, the world of invisible people who think the gun is their voice (mass shootings) and everything in between. In the end, I think she just knows that the gun would allow her to walk away. It's a fantasy about being powerful enough to be free ...
Gerri Gribi has compiled lists of songs pertaining to domestic violence, as has Bethany Pombar.

Because tomorrow is the Fourth, I can’t help but mention Gretchen Peters' "Independence Day," a hit for Martina McBride. I love how this country song applies phrases from Christianity and patriotism to abused women. Here’s the chorus, plus a kicker:
Let Freedom ring, let the white dove sing.
Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning.
Let the weak be strong, let the right be wrong.
Roll the stone away, let the guilty pay, it's Independence Day.

Talk about your revolution.
It's Independence Day.
One issue for women who need to sell CDs or concert tickets is that songs like this can make men uncomfortable. At least, that was my take in April, at a house concert by Laurie McClain. She has a new song with the refrain "thank you for staying away" for the abusive husband who left her with two young children. Chandler, mentioned above, praises “If I Had a Gun” but jokes that it prompted him to move his stool a little farther away from the singers. I haven’t seen male singers worry about how the women in their audience will respond to songs in which men commit violence against women, even though it’s much more likely that the women in the audience will have experienced physical abuse than vice versa.

There are other songs titled “If I Had A Gun.” In Brooklyn Zu’s version, guns buy respect, maybe even manhood. The same seems to be true in a song by Federation. Dead Milkmen talk about a gun getting respect, but the song is also a good argument for gun control. Ditto for a song by Gene Simmons. Jeff Silver writes about suicide. Atomic Bitchwax wants what he wants. Otherwise, I don’t know. Diefenbaker: I have no idea. Ditto for an Oasis song that others are trying to decipher.

Bruce Cockburn took the if-I-had-a-weapon construction further with “If I Had A Rocket Launcher,” in which he fantasizes about taking down those who kill in the name of the state. I think it is easier for progressives to focus on the violence and repression of governments than to understand that violence and repression in the home is also a social injustice. Peace begins at home.