Marita Vargas
I feel a song coming on
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By Marita Vargas
March 21, 2010

It's hard to say what American artistic expression will look like under tyranny. We've had so little practice perfecting our chops while the iron rod threatens our backs. (N.E.A. grant winners who complain about the public picketing their sacrilegious exhibits notwithstanding.)

Most of what we know of oppression-as-inspiration has come to us from beyond our shores. (Yes, I've heard of the troubles of Arthur Miller and others. I'm sorry for those of his era who didn't make it back to write again, but Miller did make it back. And, in a way, he proves my point. Miller was showered with awards by the society that persecuted him. R.I.P., Mr. Miller. But we must ask: Did his plays help us retain and refine our freedom? If we take The Crucible as his masterpiece, is it likely to inspire those who would guard against tyranny on the left as well as tyranny on the right? In all fairness, it is too great a burden to place on any one play. But it isn't too great a burden to place on any one audience. The measure of an enlightened citizenry is that they can tell a fraud calling out witches where there are none, from a prophet calling out witches where they abound. And, every now and then, we actually expect our artists and writers to keep the two straight.)

Overall, in the last century the gulag and the re-education camp had a way of concentrating the mind and cleansing the artistic doors of perception in a way that freedom and prosperity did not here at home. Don't get me wrong, I prefer freedom and prosperity. But we are on the verge of losing both, and it seems quite natural to ask what the cultural fallout will be.

Even now, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the F.B.I. is scouring social networking sites, using false identities to pose as friends of regular users. Ostensibly these modern day Polonius-types are on the lookout for misdeeds. These actions coupled with the White House's earlier snitch-and-tell maneuvers should make Americans feel queasy about their future as a free people. So the techno-surveillance society has arrived. Do you feel safer?

It is late in the day for anyone out there to produce the 1984 of our time, but that doesn't mean anyone so inclined should not try. Of course, now is the perfect time to read the original. Animal Farm is a must read, and so is Brave New World. It Can't Happen Here is a personal favorite, and of course, Fahrenheit 451 is off the same cut and not to be missed. The above are all cautionary tales, and we have failed miserably to heed their warnings.

What any of this means for artistic expression in a post-freedom America is anyone's guess. But I'm hoping Americans will not lose their famous sense of humor. Older Americans will remember Jack Benny's To Be or Not to Be and it seems logical that we would all re-rediscover Shakespeare. Shakespeare, after all, lived under an oppressive regime, and he never forgot how to communicate with the groundlings, something one could not say of our artists or politicians today.

Charlie Chaplin's The Great Dictator as a send-up of that German dictator whose name we are not supposed to mention in company with the new messiah's still packs a punch. If our man in the White House behaved himself and kept his paws off our internet and health care such comparisons would never arise; but when I think of Corrie Ten Boom's furtive actions to save her radio in German occupied Amsterdam, and consider that our President is in favor of the Fairness Doctrine, I bristle.

Overall, however, I'm content to compare our fearsome leader and his henchmen to the Soviet crowd, that's good enough for me. With that in mind I wrote the following song; and if it's never sung at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that's okay with me. Our current crop of leaders is just not broad minded enough. I just might have to sing it myself on U-Tube.

Song for a Commie Broad

Oh, I'm feeling bourgeois tonight.
Want to eat vichyssoise tonight.
Oh, I'm feeling bourgeois tonight,
Comrade dear.

Want to ride in a limousine.
Wear my pearls as I make the scene.
Float the Nile like an ancient queen,
Comrade dear.

Whisper something from Karl Marx.
Touch my hand and set off sparks.
Touch my hand and set a fire burning, burning.
Après moi le deluge they say.
Gonna fiddle the live long day.
Gonna smile and let the fire burn.
Burn baby burn.

Oh, I'm feeling bourgeois tonight.
Want to hit the boudoir tonight.
Oh, I'm feeling bourgeois tonight.
Comrade dear.

Want to mix with the titled few.
See the world from a penthouse view.
Blow a million in union dues.
Comrade dear.

Whisper something from Karl Marx.
Touch my hand and set off sparks.
Touch my hand and set a fire burning, burning.
Après moi le deluge they say.
Gonna fiddle the live long day.
Gonna smile and let the fire...
Fuel the pyre and let the fire...
Gonna smile and let the fire burn.
Burn baby burn.
Ooh, la-la.
Gonna smile and let the fire burn.
Burn baby burn.
Nes't pas?
Gonna smile and let the fire burn.

© Marita Vargas

 

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Marita Vargas

Marita Vargas believes in freedom of speech and in civil discourse. Because for decades the American people have been silenced, intimidated, and poorly informed, they are in danger of losing their freedoms for the simple reason that they rarely discuss the underlying reasons for the current state of affairs. She can be reached at maritaemilyvargas@att.net.

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