Power And Glory And Memory Lane

The Limeliters were one of my all-time favorite musical groups. (My musical tastes definitely mirror those of my generation– the “get off my lawn” category of elderly curmudgeons. If the music is subsequent to the Rat Pack or 60’s folk, I’m probably unfamiliar with it.) Thanks to modern technologies like Pandora, I can stream my embarrassingly old-fashioned choices through my car radio, and the other day, as I was driving to the office, I was listening to the Limeliters–and was struck by the contemporary relevance of the lyrics in  their rendition of Phil Och’s “Power and Glory.”

When I got to work, I Googled those lyrics:

Come and take a walk with me thru this green and growing land
Walk thru the meadows and the mountains and the sand
Walk thru the valleys and the rivers and the plains
Walk thru the sun and walk thru the rain

Here is a land full of power and glory
Beauty that words cannot recall
Oh her power shall rest on the strength of her freedom
Her glory shall rest on us all (on us all)

From Colorado, Kansas, and the Carolinas too
Virginia and Alaska, from the old to the new
Texas and Ohio and the California shore
Tell me, who could ask for more?

Yet she’s only as rich as the poorest of her poor
Only as free as the padlocked prison door
Only as strong as our love for this land
Only as tall as we stand

But our land is still troubled by men who have to hate
They twist away our freedom & they twist away our fate
Fear is their weapon and treason is their cry
We can stop them if we try.

Only as rich as the poorest of the poor” resonates today as a reproach to the growing gap between the 1% and the rest of us, to the GOP’s persistent efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare, to deny access to basic medical care to those who cannot afford it by defunding Planned Parenthood and restricting Medicaid, and by heaping punitive restrictions on all manner of public assistance.

Only as free as the padlocked prison door”...Not only does our frequently unjust criminal justice system incarcerate a greater percentage of our population than any other country, the Trump Administration is “padlocking” the border, engaging in crimes against humanity for blatantly political purposes. The other day, in one of his fact-and-logic-free rants, Trump made clear his belief that he benefits politically from the crises he instigates along the border.

“Those pictures are very bad for the Democrats,” he told The [Washington] Post on Tuesday, referring to recent images of migrants.

If he is correct–if the photos of American soldiers gassing refugee women and children are indeed “bad for Democrats” and viewed positively by large numbers of Americans– then we have not only lost any claim to “power and glory,” we have lost any claim to morality or simple humanity.

Fear is their weapon and treason is their cry” could hardly be more contemporary or relevant. The men “who have to hate” still live among us, still vote their fears and hatreds.

Given the age of the song, one thing is clear: evil people aren’t a new problem, and the tools they employ–fear and accusations of treason leveled at critics–aren’t new either.

The songwriter says “we can stop them if we try.”

A lot of us are trying; I sure hope we “stand tall” enough.


  1. I think one of the differences between the alt-right movement and it’s polar opposite progressive movement is one is based entirely on fears while the other is based on love. I had this discussion once with a psychiatrist and she handed me a wheel showing all emotions arise out of these two places.

    Greed is entirely fear based and it’s one of the seven deadly sins. “I can never have enough or if they take some of mine, I’ll have less.”

    These truths can be traced back to all religions and don’t require a leap of faith to get there. Those who study the human psyche should chime in with this discussion.

    My personal awakening showed me that while asleep as a human, almost all my decisions are fear based. Freud’s work pointed this out as well. Jung elevated those works. And remember, Edward Bernays, the Godfather of Propaganda (Public Relations), used his uncle’s work to manipulate humans.

    Our conversion from civic participants to consumers took place post WW2. As a human race, I firmly believe we are awakening, albeit very slowly, from this phase of our development.

    I read an interesting article last week about an analysis of capitalism based on the ads in the New Yorker.

    Historians will look back and probably title this period as an enlightenment period. My guess is the threat of extinction due to climate change will bring global citizens together. Some will be driven by fear while others will be driven by love of the planet and ALL its inhabitants–plant and animal. 😉

  2. Our music in this country often encapsulates the passing of our generations; then often come back to become relevant again. The first verse of the quoted song is reminding us of what we are losing due to greed and avarice of the few who leave scorched earth behind as they destroy everything in their path with no thought of the the future of this country or the generations expected to survive on their waste and destruction. If that waste includes destruction of American people in their way, they are expendable losses. Think Standing Rock and the pictures of fire hoses of icy water sprayed on the inhabitants of that Native American’s spiritual lands and the shooting of one Native American woman on her own land. The goal of the Keystone pipeline provides a temporary job opportunity to some Americans as we work to deliver Canadian oil to Chinese liners in our Gulf of Mexico. Trump continues to support Saudi Arabia to keep those oil lines open and maintain the income from selling them weapons. Think of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, an American resident, Trump’s personal expendable victim. The first verse of the quoted song reminds us of what we are losing.

    A news report a few days ago stated there has been another child in Johnson County, Indiana, diagnosed with childhood cancer. We have our own wasteland and polluted waterways here which have been ignored and deliberately covered up by local officials for decades. Trump is gradually repealing all protection by the EPA; adding to the dumping of hazardous waste.

    “Only as rich as the poorest of the poor.” “Only as free as the padlocked prison door.” We were promised trickle down economic benefits by lowering taxes on the wealthy 1%…still waiting and they have received more and bigger tax cuts with a proposal to cut them further…thanks to Citizens United. Trump’s wall will lock us in as well as lock out a few of his personally unwanted immigrants. There seems to be little awareness in the general public that Trump’s turning against our foreign allies of many decades is slowly imprisoning us to the mercy of North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    “Fear is their weapon and treason is their cry.” Our fear levels rise daily as Trump and his Fascist, White Nationalist, KKK based administration increases their Congressional attacks on our civil and human rights. We are the victims of our own government’s treasonous actions and Trump’s many signed Executive Orders; we are the expendables today.

    “We can stop them if we try.” Frightening words at this time as we daily deal with a sitting president who will not be allowed to speak at the funeral service of a former president; Trump has made another historical fact to add to our history books. “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” Agree with former President George H.W. Bush or not, agree with former Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack H. Obama or not; they maintained the strength of that chain of command. We now have the weakest link in that chain sitting in OUR Oval Office in OUR White House. What songs will be written about these times?

    For a return to a musical message of the ’60’s; have a listen to Simon and Garfunkle’s, “Silent Night” sung behind a 7:00 News Report based on actual events reported on August 3, 1966. ‘Tis the Season!

  3. JoAnn,

    I do not believe that it is the “few” who are responsible for the scorching of the earth. It is the majority who insist on “new and better” and lifestyles that make slaves of the poor. It is the greed of millions of people and their refusal to see and accept their responsibility in what has happened and continues to happen.

    There are over three hundred million people in this country. How many showed up in the Dakotas to protest the pipeline insanity? Or the selling off of public lands to miners and developers? Or the revocation of regulations that protect drinking water? And now the end to government support for electric cars.

    It isn’t the few. It is the many. “We have seen the enemy, and it is us.”

  4. power and glory… some thoughts I have in this time of ‘mourning’:
    I was sitting this morning thinking – Here is a man – GHWB, who got shot down (like McCain) but wasn’t a POW in WWII, went to Yale, became a legislator, then moved up the ranks unto President – And other than honoring his service, A man I wouldn’t take the time to spit on. In 1986 I got to meet the man face to face and in a huge crowd of News people – and ask him ‘Why Helicopters were being requisitioned by the 5th Army IG for a destination of Galvaston TX, and then ‘points south’…’ A friend of mine who was in the Maintenace Section of the 1085th MED DET (HEL AMB) which I had just been out of for some 6 months (I served 6-1/2yrs faithful service and have the discharge paper to prove it.), and who owned a bar in town, called me aside one early afternoon when I walked in for a beer and told me the following:
    “Yesterday I was out in the back wrenching on the Alert Ship (the one with the Forest Penetrator lift) and in walks a full bird colonel, and two E-6’s and demanded of the Sergeant at the desk all the flight logs of our most airworthy aircraft. We had 7 in our unit. (The 109th Engineers had about 19!) So the CO, XO, First Sergeant, and even a Command Sergeant Major were called in. Upon their arrival they all disappeared into the back office. Except for one E-6 left standing in the office. ——-, my friend and E-6 himself walks over to him and asked him: “What the hell does the 5th Army IG want with Vietnam Era aircraft…?” The man made sure the door was closed before he spoke and pulled ——- aside and said,”All I know is they are going to Galveston Texas, for use ‘South’.” Randy said, “Hernandez, what the hell was that about? Something is up.” About 4 days later GHWB (who was Vice-President running for Pres. at the time (Aug ’86) was due to speak at the Rapid City Civic Center. I got in as a ‘Reporter’ and was granted a place on the picture taking podium off to what would have been his left side of view… and I finally got my chance to ask him my question – THREE TIMES he dodged it asking if anyone knew what it was about?… I relented and retreated to my stand and he launched into an absolute diatribe on Central America…! Well about 6 months after that or so was the report on 60 Minutes about the Cocaine cowboys running Cocaine into the US (our own government!) and I can tell you (with NO QUESTION!) that the ships I saw in that video were Medical Aircraft with the Red Cross – they were the ships from the 1085th… Some years later, about 1993, I met a Deputy Sheriff who came down to introduce himself, we must have talked for an hour! Somehow we got to talking about something that keyed us relating to each other our ‘Central America’ stories – HE had been sgt of the guard – guarding those aircraft in El Salvador! He told me he was watching plain clothes men grading marking and telling the grunts which pallet of Cocaine went on which ship!!! They were going to A RANCH IN TEXAS. –
    Now in 1987 CRACK COCAINE became the new threat. It takes 3x’s the Cocaine to make Crack as it does to strait process… GHWB’s family has links wayyyyyy back to the British families that imported OPIUM. (His son GW took care of that by securing Afghanistan for us – remember it was supposed to be IRAQ!)
    It was Ronald Reagan and GHWB that we can thank for CRACK COCAINE and the surge in Heroin can be charged to HIS SON!
    So when people praise and laud the man, I laud his former service, but to me he is properly: SHIT. And I have only these memories to think of him by!

  5. When Phil Ochs wrote that, we thought we were on the verge of an awakening. Can anyone forget the “Age of Aquarius” that seemed just around the corner? Turns out the boomers (myself included) ended up making things worse than they have been since the days of the robber barons. I don’t often quote 45, but here it is, “Sad!”

  6. It’s amazing how often musicians say prescient things that have a very long shelf life. I’m always reminded of the various Vietnam area anti-war songs – Fortunate Son and that kind of thing still resonate as well.

  7. I couldn’t help thinking of the words “power and glory” from “Jesus Christ Superstar”. Jesus said, “Be sure you know what power is. Be sure you know what glory is.”

    I’ve written several times about the primitive instincts and behaviors that we’ve carried with us, as a species, since we were evolved enough to develop abstract thought. Hoarding led directly to economics. Hoarding was also our basic survival behavior that assured a larder of food, water and shelter. When tribes of primitive, human-like beings started competing with one another for dwindling resources, two things happened: (1) Some tribes migrated to other, more hospitable lands, and (2) the fought one another until one tribe submitted to the other. Sound familiar? Add to that the vagaries of unregulated capitalism and thermonuclear weapons, and we have a formula for disaster.

    I’ve also mentioned Rebecca Costa’s insightful book, “The Watchman’s Rattle”. Her thesis is that humans evolved much faster socially than they did biologically. So, we’re now living on a planet where there is no other place to migrate to, with resources dwindling daily and our reproduction rate has far exceeded the planet’s ability to support us, now the most populous mammal on Earth. Our success is literally killing us.

    What a wretched irony. I wonder what the churches would say to that.

  8. Greetings M. Hernandez. Look up the Bush (hero:() rescue in the S/P and see if you can find an account of the rescue by a man named McDonald. I hope you can find it> Irvin Korea 1952-1953

  9. Rev. Manuel Colunga-Hernandez @ 8:19 am. A book was written about the events you described – Dark alliance by Gary Webb, linking the cocaine trafficking back to the CIA, some of the same characters involved in Iran-Contra were a part of the scheme.

    The Empire struck back against Gary Webb, black balling him for the rest of his life, he committed suicide. He did write:

    “If we had met five years ago, you wouldn’t have found a more staunch defender of the newspaper industry than me … And then I wrote some stories that made me realize how sadly misplaced my bliss had been. The reason I’d enjoyed such smooth sailing for so long hadn’t been, as I’d assumed, because I was careful and diligent and good at my job … The truth was that, in all those years, I hadn’t written anything important enough to suppress.”

  10. Country Joe McDonald – I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag is IMHO the most direct song ever written about the Vietnam War. There were no hidden meanings to the lyrics. Fortunate Son as referenced above told the story of the Class War.

    After 9/11 the Clear Channel the largest owner of radio stations in the United States, circulated an internal memo containing a list of songs that program directors felt were “lyrically questionable” to play in the aftermath of the attack. Among the Songs was War by Edwin Starr. You can view the complete list here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clear_Channel_memorandum

    The Dixie Chicks were blackballed when they had the courage to speak out against Bush the Younger’s Gulf War 2.

    In a perverse sense this is the beauty of our Fascist System, Corporations carry on self-censorship. The McMega-Media will also tell us what a marvelous statesman Bush the Elder was – We have to propagate the Myth of America the good.
    “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
    I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him;
    The evil that men do lives after them,
    The good is oft interred with their bones,
    So let it be with Caesar
    William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

  11. Yet she’s only as rich as the poorest of her poor
    Only as free as the padlocked prison door
    Only as strong as our love for this land
    Only as tall as we stand

    But our land is still troubled by men who have to hate
    They twist away our freedom & they twist away our fate
    Fear is their weapon and treason is their cry
    We can stop them if we try.

    Simple poetic words full of hard hitting reality.

    Can we restore the dream of the founders and fighters who gave all to us that has been now taken away?

    Can we do it in a way that no more have to die for it?

    No one knows what the price will be. We all know what the cost will be if we are not able to live up to the traditions of those before us who knew it was worth whatever the price.

  12. I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in small farming communities and remember how the citizens of our country stood up and marched for civil rights , marched to protest the war in Viet Nam. I too listen at times to music I heard in my childhood and youth but find I cannot stay there because it makes me feel old and sometimes fills me with grief of a time long gone.

    I write music. Some of my music has been influenced by the protest music written in the 60’s.
    If we are going to stand strong against injustice, we will need music to lift us up and give us courage.

    When I look at the history of our country, I see a repeated pattern in which the “ordinary”, hard working people stand up and raise their voices over and over again. They sing as they stand because music unites people and helps people move with love and courage instead of fear. Music, I believe, helps us “move the moral arc of the universe forward.”

    As Carrie Newcomer sings “If not now, tell me when.” Sheila, if you have never listened to her music, you might find that it lifts you up and gives you courage. Her music certainly helps me in these dark times. She’s a prophetic voice arising from Bloomington, Indiana and is a reflection of the unique culture that we call Hoosier.

    I think now I will go listen to Phil Ochs.

    Thanks so much for sharing those lyrics.

  13. We tribalized hominids are still in the hunting and gathering stage of evolution except that we have substituted the Dow, fiat money, and and other asset-gathering for roots and berries. We call the present system “sophisticated,” but compared to what? History is linear, and much has happened since 165 million years ago when an asteroid destroyed dinosaurs and surviving hominids developed a swollen cerebrum and gathered roots and berries until the agricultural age began several thousand years ago in present day Iraq with domestication of plants, affording humans with a first-time agricultural surplus and releasing the various tribes from daily search for roots and berries by allowing humans the time to get into philosophy, mathematics, the arts etc.

    To bring things up to date, we now have broken down large tribes into smaller subsets and distinguish differences based on gender, religion, color, the 1 percent and other irrelevant criteria. Thus the rich have sold us on the idea that they are rich because of merit and hard work. Piketty writes at some length in destruction of this myth. The fact is that rich parents have rich kids and poor parents have poor kids, and no one seems to have the political courage to provide public policies that end such structural discrimination, instead leaving it to academics like Piketty while the one percent obliviously plows ahead in the quest for ever more assets at the expense of the rest of us. So what to do today in the time and space allotted to us? Support those like Liz Warren, Sherrod Brown, Joe Biden and others who tell us that if elected they will institute policies that will more fairly and equitably distribute the income and wealth of our economy, distribution of which is now greatly lopsided in favor of the rich, thus leaving less and less for distribution to the rest of us. Greed needs no legislative help; fairness does.

  14. Gerald. Thanks for the corroboration. Thanks for the commentary on the truth and the myths of capitalism as practiced in the USA.

  15. Many stood tall and caused a blue wave. Here’s hoping those saints keep that wave rolling along. We all need to help them.

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