Musical History Tour EXAMPLES

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Examples continued:

  • Economic Inequality:  Economic inequality is greater in the US now than it has been since the nineteenth century.  What was happening back then?  It was the Age of the Robber Barons, when John D Rockefeller became the world’s first billionaire, and when the most legendary period of labor militancy began. (“Age of the Robber Barons,” “Joe Hill,” “Helen Keller, Revisited,” “Battle of Blair Mountain“)
  • Black Lives Matter:  For years, the daily tendency of police officers throughout the United States to kill black and brown people in often totally outrageous circumstances has been in the news.  But did you know that this kind of institutional racism has been endemic throughout the United States since before the country became a country?  And not just in the South.  For example, the state of Oregon was founded explicitly as a “white homeland.”  (“Sunset Laws“)
  • The FBI:  Lots in the media about the FBI and how they’re somehow going to save us from Trump.  Did you know that the FBI’s first big job was to destroy the radical labor movement (the Industrial Workers of the World) in the United States?  (“Ballad of a Wobbly”)  In every period since the Palmer Raids of 1919, the FBI’s role has been to undermine and destroy other social movements, such as the Black Panthers (“Assata“).
  • Weapons of Mass Destruction:  We seem to be on the verge of a war with Iran over that country’s supposed nuclear weapons program.  Did you know that the US is the only country ever to use nuclear weapons to destroy entire cities full of men, women and children?  (“Hiroshima“)  And it did so twice.  Did you know that Israel has an unrecognized, massive nuclear weapons program?  (“Vanunu“)  Is there a double-standard here?
  • Political Partisanship:  The media and politicians often talk about “gridlock” in the Congress.  Supposedly the two main parties disagree all the time.  But if that’s the case, why did the biggest military budget in world history go off so smoothly? (“Failed State”)  If the parties are so different, why do the rich get richer and the poor get poorer regardless of who’s in power in the past several decades?  (“If Only It Were True“)
  • Housing Crisis:  It’s widely understood these days that there is a severe housing crisis in much of the US.  With housing too expensive to buy or rent for so many people, homelessness and extreme poverty is rife.  Did you know that people in Massachusetts were organizing to address this exact problem back in the 1780’s?  (“Berkshire Hills“)  And then in New York in the 1840’s?  (“Landlord“)
  • Wars/Military Spending:  When he was campaigning, Trump gave the impression he would focus on the home front and not with campaigns like the US war in Iraq, which he frequently derided as a failed effort.  Did you know that Woodrow Wilson ran on a similar platform before bringing the US into World War I?  (“Democrats Make Me Wanna Vomit“)
  • Brexit/European Union:  A majority of UK voters voted to leave the European Union.  They are often painted as rightwing and reactionary for doing so.  But did you know that many leftwing Europeans have also been very skeptical of the EU over the years?  In 1993, Danish police opened fire with live ammunition on one crowd of leftwingers protesting against EU centralization of power.  (“On the Streets of Copenhagen”)
  • Denmark/Social Democracy:  When Bernie Sanders was running for the Democratic Presidential nomination in the US, he often mentioned Denmark as a model for the society he wants to build.  Did you know that Denmark didn’t used to be so prosperous?  It was organized labor that was instrumental in changing that.  (“Stock Exchange”)
  • Pirates:  Pirates are in the news now and then, and are often depicted in movies.  They’re usually not very nice.  But back in the Golden Age of Piracy they were widely admired by the poor majority of people, who were known on occasion to lay siege to the gallows and free pirates who were about to be hanged in places like Boston Commons.  (“Black Flag Flying“)
  • Climate Change:  Lots in the news about governments taking action or not taking action to address the pressing problem of climate change.  Did you know that in the past, social movements have played a huge role in influencing environmental policies?  In Alaska in 1993 people got together and blockaded Prince William Sound to protest against Exxon, and won key demands.  In 1976 the world’s biggest windmill started producing electricity in Denmark, built by students and teachers at a folk school.  (“The Biggest Windmill“)  In Iceland, farmers blew up a dam.  (“The Dam“)
  • Terrorism:  Much is said about how we need to fear the terrorists, who always seem to be Muslims.  But did you now that the concept of jihad was a response to the European Crusades?  (“A Brief History of Jerusalem”)  Did you know that while Ottoman society was a thriving, multicultural place, Europeans were constantly killing each other in religious wars?  (“Breivik“)
  • Korea:  So much of the US and international press paints North Korea as a paranoid, rogue state.  But they have reason to be paranoid.  Did you know that during the Korean War the US killed millions of Korean civilians, bombed dams and flooded towns, and killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops as well?  (“Korea“)
  • Fake News:  We hear a lot about fake news these days, which is definitely a problem.  But did you know that in 1981 the Reagan administration deregulated the airwaves, causing thousands of radio reporters to lose their jobs almost immediately, destroying much of local journalism in the US, paving the way for the current “anything goes” media landscape?  (“Who Will Tell the People,” “What If You Knew,” “Why Don’t They Play You On the Radio?“)
  • Living Wage:  There has been a rise in union organizing among low-wage workers in the US in recent years.  (“15,” “Minimum Wage Strike“)  Did you know that International Workers Day started as a thing because of a massacre of workers who were protesting with similar demands way back in 1886 in Chicago?  And now the day is celebrated on May 1st all around the world except for in the USA.  (“First of May”)
  • “Right To Work”:  There has been more of an assault on labor unions in the US than ever in recent years, with anti-union legislation being passed in many states.  Did you know that when unions have less power, workers get killed and injured on the job much more often?  One example of this occurred in September, 1991 in Hamlet, North Carolina, when 25 workers died in a factory fire.  (“Sometimes I Walk the Aisles“)
  • Palestine/Israel:  Israel/Palestine is often in the news, with reports of “clashes near the border fence.”  But ever since the beginning, Israel has been unclear about where its borders actually are.  (“Israeli Geography 101“)  And while the media tends to start the narrative with whatever they think Hamas did wrong, in actuality the narrative began in earnest with a mass expulsion of over 700,000 Palestinian civilians from their homes, kicked out by the heavily-armed Zionist movement in 1947.  (“The Key“)
  • The Rise of Trump:  Donald Trump’s base of support is especially to be found in the “heartland” US states such as Oklahoma, where he got 65% of the vote.  But did you know that back in 1917 the socialist tenant farmers of Oklahoma were committing acts of industrial sabotage and plotting to overthrow the US government because they opposed the imperialist war in Europe?  (“Oklahoma, 1917”)
  • Democracy:  In the US we’re often told that we’re a great democracy.  If that’s true, why can’t we count votes properly?  The 2000 election was fraudulent.  (“Election“)  If we support democracy, why do we actively plot to overthrow democracies in places like Chile in 1973?  (“Santiago,” “East Kilbride”)