Monday, December 18, 2017

Musical Monday - Alabama by Neil Young

The current political climate moves so fast that it seems almost forever since Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore in the Alabama special election for the Senate, but the reality is that it was only last Tuesday. In a normal world, the results from this election (and Moore's obstinate and childish refusal to concede in the face of an obvious defeat) would dominate the news. In the current political climate, there have been a half dozen big stories since then that have pushed these election results off the public's radar.

And yet, it is a huge story. In 2016, Trump won Alabama 62 - 34. This race should not have even been close. The GOP should have won this seat in a landslide. The Republicans didn't help themselves much by nominating Moore as their candidate - he was an awful candidate for a myriad of reasons, although the fact that he was removed from the Alabama Supreme Court for refusing to follow the law and his thinly veiled racism and sexism were all probably selling points in his favor for a lot of GOP stalwarts. Even so, Moore should have won this election by a wide margin. And he didn't. This says a lot about both the political backlash the Trump administration has engendered, and the changing face of the Alabama (and by extension, national) electorate.

In 1972, when Neil Young released this song on the Harvest album, this outcome would have been nearly unthinkable. Not only would Moore have been a perfectly acceptable candidate, he might have been thought of as being a little bit too liberal. At the time, George Wallace was governor of Alabama (in their response to both this song and Young's previously released song Southern Man, Lynyrd Skynyrd released Sweet Home Alabama - Wallace is the governor Skynryd is referring to as being loved in Birmingham), and had run for President of the United States three times on an explicitly racist platform. I maintain that Young's Alabama, while definitely bitter and angry in parts, is also a hopeful song, looking forward to a future in which the worst excesses of the day had been shed - and I think that this past Tuesday is evidence that this may be the case. Or at least evidence that things are changing.

I'm not going to say that racism won't sell in Alabama (and many other places in the U.S.) any more based on the results of the recent election. After all, Jones barely squeaked out a win against an opponent who was so morally reprehensible that he should probably be shunned by all civilized society. But things do seem to be getting better. In 1972, Alabamans routinely elected reprehensible people to high office. This time, at least, they didn't. It isn't a high bar to clear, but the voters in Alabama managed to clear it. That's progress. Plus, I have always liked this song, and I don't know if there will ever be another set of events that transpires in such a ways as to give me the opportunity to feature it on Musical Monday.

Previous Musical Monday: Christmas Canon Rock by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra
Subsequent Musical Monday: Christmas Eve/Sarajevo by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra

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