LIONEL PODCAST: The American Nightmare — Dress Rehearsal

Can you say beta test? #OWS was a beta test for the day of complete upheaval in this country. ‘Twas just a test. What seals our fate is the fact that we feel special and somehow blessed. We’re exceptional. We’re the U.S. of A. That thinking will destroy us. Not to mention the thinking that laughs at and chides those who dare to take a position and march like the protestors at #OWS. They will in fact be seen one day as the prescient ones. And speaking of prescient … .

The prescient genius. Stephen Stills is one of my heroes. His first solo album is a masterpiece. Stills 2 was released on June 30, 1971. I heard it when I was recovering from some pretty major surgery as a young man of 13 (bladder surgery, but that’s for another show). Word Game knocked me out then and to this day. It was before rap and hip-hop but employs a syncopated vocalized rhythm that presaged the style by decades. Stills is a masterful guitar player and a prolific songwriter. What amazes me is a song that never loses its relevance but in fact marinates and becomes even more pertinent and (if you can believe it) more apposite. This is that song.

Would you knock a man down if you don’t like the cut of his clothes
Could you put a man away if you don’t want to hear what he knows
Well it’s happening right here people dying of fear by the droves
And I know most of you
Either don’t believe it’s true,
Or else you don’t know what to do
Or maybe I’m singing about you,
Who knows.
It’s incredibly sick, you can feel it, as across the land it flows
Prejudice is slick when it’s a word game, it festers and grows,
Move along quick, it furthers one to have somewhere to go
You can feel it as it’s rumblin’
Let emotions keep a tumblin’
Then as cities start to crumblin’
Mostly empty bellies grumblin’
Here we go
People see somebody different fear is the first reaction shown
Then they think they’ve got him licked the barbaric hunt begins and they move in slow
A human spirit is devoured the remains left to carrion crow
I was told that life is change
And yet history remains,
Does it always stay the same
Do we shrug it off and say
Only God knows
By and by, somebody usually goes down to the ghetto
Try and help but they don’t know why folks treat them cold
And the rich keep getting richer and the rest of us just keep getting old.
You see one must have a mission
In order to be a good Christian
If you don’t you will be missing
High Mass or the evening show
And the well fed masters reap the harvests of the polluted seeds they’ve sown,
Smug and self-righteous they bitch about people they owe,
And you can’t prove them wrong, they’re so God damn sure they know
I have seen these things with my very own eyes and defended my battered soul,
It must be too tough to die,
American propaganda, South African lies
Will not force me to take up arms, that’s my enemies’ pride,
Ands I won’t fight by his rules that’s foolishness besides,
His ignorance is gonna do him in and nobody’s gonna cry,
Because his children they are growing up
With bigots and their silver cups
They’re fed up, they might throw up
On you

Word Game – Stephen Stills

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