This Saturday, as we often do, saw my brother, B. and I take a country drive on a perfect Indian Summer day through the rolling farmland of southern Michigan. Sometimes stopping at a wooded spot or an old cemetery these drives are a pleasant necessity for the three of us; one needs to get out of town even if only for an afternoon. As my Irish comrades say: the craic was ninety. These are adult drives and often require a certain stamina, some strong coffee and a variety of different textured things to nosh on.
The conversation this Saturday centered on music, not rare in itself, but since my two touring partners just got back from the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival in San Francisco it was especially excited. I’ll leave them to tell of that wonderful gathering. This week also saw the release of Bob Dylan’s latest Bootleg offering Tell Tale Signs which served as our soundtrack for half the drive. It’s a treasure trove and will keep me busy falling in and out of it for some time. Dylan, despite everything, continues to make inspiringly good music. If you are a Dylan fan pick it up.
At one point I mentioned, the conversations tend to meander and Dylan often reminds of me of the Civil War, how nice it was that everyday on my walk to the University I pass Sherman, Sheridan and Grant Streets. These are the generals that made revolutionary war on the Slavocracy, for which I hold them in some esteem. They, and more importantly the soldiers who fought “under” them, deserve the historic gratitude of free people. They are our, our Carnot, our Antoine, our republican army. I will debate the point with anyone that that war was our revolution, as profound in its way as the French, the Russian and the other giant transformations wrestled in blood from the hands of the past.
B. agreed, but was quick to point out something that I know but needed reminding of; the leaders of the Union that fought to destroy the Slave South encored their victory, a victory all of humanity shared in, by turning West and completing their national bourgeois revolution by the finals acts of the continental dispossession and genocide of Native America. In this they were as energetic as they were against the Confederacy.
B. then mentioned the song Colony by the great Irish singer Damien Dempsey as a counterpoint to my too one-sided view of those warriors. He and I had seen Damien in Ann Arbor a couple of years ago in front of a handful of people. He is a great talent that has picked up the torch handed to him by Dick Gaughan, Christy Moore and a few others. I trust he will continue to give voice to working class and oppressed people. He is nothing if not sincere, genuine.
Colony is a powerful indictment of those who think they can conquer and as powerful a vindication of those who would resist. This video doesn’t give Damien’s voice his full due, but the song’s power is undeniable nonetheless. Dempsey’s song is utterly modern, its themes everywhere today. There is no good imperialism comrades, it belies every protestation of progress.