Sunday, November 16, 2008

Resonance, Respect, and the Existence of Greatness

Yesterday, I heard a segment on NPR about Yip Harburg and Jay Gorney's song, "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" It was on a series only sporadically run called What Makes It Great, and so the song was discussed by a composer/author/musician in terms of why this song out of so many still carries such a powerful message and remains fixed in our collective awareness as an "anthem" that reverberates forward.

Not only was the analysis fascinating and enlightening, but it also was a great segment that connected the themes of depression-era worry and loss with the current economic anxieties experienced today. Although we're not in the same place we were then, certain themes within the song easily parallel aspects of today's financial mess.

If you have time, listen to the story - if only to hear Daniel Shorr's rendition of the song, which is poignant and simple. And be sure to listen to Yip Harburg's rendition (listed among the variations along the left-hand side), which is strikingly powerful and further aids in understanding the song's origins and emotional message.

Harburg and Gorey underscored the need for social action and justice during the hardships of the Depression. Their hope was to call for greater awareness of the need to help one's fellow man, and the reality of a shared suffering in the aftermath of Americans' industrial, creative, and patriotic expression and movement through the early 1900s.

It reminded me, very strongly, of all the commentary surrounding Obama's supposed "socialist" agenda. I still don't quite understand an ideology that does not protect, encourage, and support every member of society. And it seems some Ameicans seem to truly fear anything that hints of socialism... and yet, why in the world would we not seek to be a nation wherein every individual feels like an equal member?

And so the message in this song... that I have built, I have fought, I have struggled... and now I'm being forgotten - the entreaty for human response and shared responsibility is what echoes forward to me. Perhaps what resonates so strongly is the request for recognition and dignity on a very basic, human level... which we likely all can understand.