The War on Women and Fridays with Billy.

We’re back! After two weeks of no Billy Bragg for holiday-related reasons, the internet can now heave a sigh of relief. Fridays have regained their Billy-ibrium!

This week’s selection, “Trust,” is a short story, really, told by a woman. One of the things I’ve always loved most about Mr. Bragg is his ability to channel the voice of someone entirely unlike himself — a gay veteran of the Second World War, a Japanese-American victim of internment, or, in this case, a woman who’s been very badly done by the man in her life.

He wrote this song at the height of the AIDS crisis, and the lyrics leave us entirely uncertain: Is she pregnant? Infected? Or just afraid? There’s no way to know, but that fear, that uncertainty — that abandonment — is a thing with which many, many women are all too familiar, and which far too few men have made an effort to understand.

Least of all the men making decisions about our bodies.

There’s been a lot of angry back and forth lately about the phrase “war on women,” and on the recent day that 150 Afghan girls were poisoned for the crime of going to school, I wavered a bit, myself — and then I remembered the state-sanctioned rape that is forced transvaginal ultrasounds, such as take place in Texas every day. People are literally attacking our bodies in an effort to create a legislative reality that inimical to our most basic interests — I think “war on women” is pretty reasonable.

The first line of defense in any battle has got to be information, and in that spirit, I want to encourage you to check out and bookmark the frankly mind-boggling Team Uterati Wiki on which Angry Black Lady and the Team Uterati team are doing yoeman’s labor. It’s a one-stop-shop for information on the people, the places, and the roughly 1,100 anti-choice bills currently pending across the country.

You heard me: One thousand and one hundred.

Women are human beings. We have a fundamental, human right to bodily autonomy, one that powerful people (some of whom are women) are attempting to strip from us, for their own purposes. The only way to win this war is to fight back. Let’s arm ourselves with knowledge, inundate them with our demands, and vote the bastards out come November. And then let’s keep fighting.

*******************

He’s already been inside me
And he really didn’t say
And I really didn’t ask him
I just hoped and prayed

He’s already been inside me
And I really don’t feel well
I keep looking in the mirror
But it’s hard to tell

Will he stay by me and take my hand
And hold me till I sleep
Or will he crumble and fall to the floor
And weep
Oh feeble man, Oh evil man

He’s already been inside me
Would he have told me if he cared?
I know I ought to find out
But I’m much too scared

He’s already been inside me
And I know it can’t be good
Nothing feels
The way it should

Will he hold me in his arms again
And wipe away my tears
Or has he already taken
My best years
Oh evil man, Oh feeble man

What is Fridays with Billy?

UPDATE: It’s been suggested to me that this song is “being sung by one man about another man, not by a woman at all.” I can see that, and remember it crossing my mind back in the day, so I mention it here — I can only hope Mr. Bragg himself weighs in someday…! (Knowing his work, it’s entirely possible that he left the song just that vague on purpose).

Advertisements

For all the black, brown, yellow, and red boys we have killed – Fridays with Billy.

If we are honest with ourselves, Americans will admit that we face a range of racisms that frankly boggles the mind. I suppose it’s not “Americans,” per se, I suppose it’s humans — but Americans are the humans among whom I live, among whom I raise my babies. It’s our racism with which I must grapple.

Asian Americans are our “model minority” today, stigmatized and locked into behavior and qualities that we claim to value, even as we reduce human beings in all their complexities to a check list of traits and expectations.

But in the 1940s things looked quite different. Japanese Americans — and often others, lumped together based on physical appearance — were such a threat that people felt the need to tear them from their homes and lock them away.

I don’t like to write about anti-Asian bigotry as if it began and ended with the internment of Japanese Americans, but those camps remain one of the greatest stains on our collective soul, a stain that I believe we are all too ready to forget.

Billy Bragg sings a song about those camps, something that you would think an Englishman would be unable to access, and sings it from the soul of someone else, almost, sings it from the dirt in which young men lay dead, in a war that engulfed a generation, even as some left mothers, fathers, wives and children back in internment camps in order to fight for the country that had put them there.

In this 2010 live version, Billy brings the song (by Barbra Griffin and Leah Cooney) up to date in his introduction, with his usual astute grasp of human nature and sneaky sense of humor. He’s a gift, this man, and in a week in which Americans are talking about the killing of brown boys, I think also of the other brown boys, and yellow boys, and red boys, and girls, and men, and women, and babies who we have killed in our ignorance. In their memory, I give you Billy Bragg, singing “Everywhere.”

lyrics;What is Fridays with Billy?

With love for my father – Fridays with Billy.

My father, Ted Hauser, and me.

It was my father’s 82nd birthday on Wednesday, but he wasn’t here to celebrate: He died of cancer when he was 35 and I was 10 months old.

As a child, I think I believed that grown ups stop missing people who died long ago. I think it seemed a little odd to me when a grandmother would start talking about her own grandmother with sorrow.

I’ve realized, of course, that loss never really ends. We live differently with it over time, but it’s always there. I am always, and will always be, a little girl wanting to hold her dad’s hand.

82 years ago,  in the very hospital and on the very floor on which my daughter was born (coincidentally on the anniversary of his death), my father was born, a tiny, wrinkled thing, a baby — a promise. Not anyone’s dead dad yet, not anyone’s dead husband. Just a promise. I wish he could have lived more of that promise out before he was taken from us.

Billy Bragg wrote a lovely, aching song of sorrow and missing for his own father, and while it seems odd to sing it for my dad — the lyrics show that Billy has very clear memories, and I have not a one — the grief in his words feels like the grief in my own heart. So: This is for you Daddy. I love you.

Some photographs of a summer’s day
A little boy’s lifetime away
Is all I’ve left of everything we’ve done
Like a pale moon in a sunny sky
Death gazes down as I pass by
To remind me that I’m but my father’s son

I offer up to you
This tribute
I offer up to you
This tank park salute

full lyricsWhat is Fridays with Billy?

Crossposted at Emily L. Hauser In My Head.

Rumours of War – Fridays with Billy

This song is – must be – about what came to be known as the World Wars, but which at the time were just wars, which people found themselves having to face, one death, one battle, one horrific new fact at a time.

But it’s about all of the wars, really, and all of us, and the music makes my throat ache even before the words begin.

There are soldiers marching on the common today
They were there again this evening
They paced up and down like sea birds on the ground
Before the storm clouds gathering

I must buy whatever tinned food is left on the shelves
They are testing the air raid sirens
They’ve filled up the blood banks and emptied the beds
At the hospital and the asylum

I saw a man build a shelter in his garden today
As we stood there idly chatting
He said “no
no I don’t think was will come”
Yet still he carried on digging

Everything in my life that I love
Could be swept away without warning
Yet the birds still sing and the church bells ring
And the sun came up this morning

Life goes on as it did before
As the country drifts slowly to war

What is Fridays with Billy?