♫ But you will probably not recall
That it’s not been too … too long at all,
Since we even had the right to
Cast a vote. ♫
Legendary jazz and bluesman Bob Dorough, who passed earlier this week at the age of 94, shares music and lyrics credit for largely forgotten Schoolhouse Rock entry “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage” with Tom Yohe, who co-created the Schoolhouse Rock series and passed back in 2000.* The series, which mostly ran on ABC Saturday mornings, debuted in 1973. It played a huge role in civically educating an elementary school-aged Uvular, to say nothing of its salutary effects on his now-superior command of interjections, conjunctions, and multiplication tables.**
In a very real way, the “America Rocks” features sold the myth of a nation devoted to maintaining the rule of law, ensuring justice, and promoting ever-greater freedom and equality. Myths all, but essential messages to cram into the spongelike minds of children younger than 10.
Many a Politicado will cavil or full-on rage at the preceding sentence. Consider, though, that the essentialism and determinism of “America equals great” grates exactly to the degree that one realizes how far short of its mythic sense of self the U.S. Republic falls. No progress gets made without setting a goal, and the conception of where one’s own country should go gets fixed far before a person can begin to comprehend A People’s History of the United States, The Fire Next Time, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Silent Spring, or pick your anti-‘MURICA mind poison.
People must like their country and neighbors in order to strive to make both great. A seeming trifle like “Sufferin’ Till Suffrage” implants positive patriotism and bonhomie while also reminding viewers that problems have solutions, that injustices have fairly simple remedies that amount to ceasing to act unjustly. Perhaps strapping the Republican leadership of Congress and all states down Clockwork Orange-style for a dayslong Schoolhouse Rock marathon would put an end to nonsense like disenfranchising minorities and economically disadvantaged citizens via restrictive voter ID laws.
That will never happen. Nor should it.*** But only bold action will shift the U.S. polity out of speeding in reverse toward the destructive myths of “founded as a Christian nation,” white supremacy, and limiting electoral participation. Even that venerable rockin’ schoolhouse went all Manifest Destiny with “Elbow Room.” Shouldn’t trust anyone, one supposes.
Comments on how other countries impart and stray from their mythologies welcome below. Plus, all the usual political and policy stuff.
*Your humble Weekend Politics thread host considers it no coincidence that Dorough lived through the third of U.S. history that most would agree represents the country’s high point. Civil rights finally started taking hold in the wake of World War II, the music never improved from the 1960s, and a person who dropped out of high school could afford two cars and a house in the suburbs well into the 1980s. Dorough had every reason to see the sunny side before the hard-right shift in politics and the ascendance of financiers over manufacturers.
**A figure 8. Trace it on its side, and it’s a symbol meaning infinity. Or, slightly shorter than the average WPT header.
***Does anyone else hear Mayor MCSquirrel Rule’s entrance music!?