No place on Earth may sum up the utter fucked-up-edness of the good ole U S of A quite like Oklahoma. I spent nearly two weeks in the Sooner State this past month. While I enjoyed my visit immensely, the experience left a lasting impression. Yes, it's probably the most conservative state in the Union: home to Senator James "Mountain" Inhofe, site of one of the bloodiest (and nearly forgotten) race riots in American history (which successfully eliminated nearly the entire black presence from one American city), but it's also home to some of the largest populations of American Indians left in the United States. Using the tools of capitalist expansion we treasure so dearly on both sides of the political aisle in our narrowly defined two-party state-- democratic "consensus" and privatization-- we forcibly removed dozens of Indian Nations (nearly 79) and relocated them to present-day Oklahoma. Again, using those same tools, we dissolved even this morally tenuous arrangement to undo what remained of our legal obligations to the continent's first inhabitants-- a painful reminder perhaps of persistent, truly "native", visions of alternative social conformity.
Oklahoma, like the nation at large, also provides lessons of great promise. Before the Dawes Act forcibly annihilated the sovereign territorial claims of Indian nations, leaders from the "Five Civilized Tribes" (Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw and Seminole), confined to the eastern half of Indian Territory, submitted a request to Congress to re-define their collective, communal territories as a fully-fledged Indian state. They named their state Sequoyah, after the Cherokee leader Sequoyah who invented the Cherokee alphabet. Before their removal to Indian Territory, the literacy rate of the Cherokees vastly trumped that of local Southern whites. Naturally, illegal white homesteaders copied the precise language of the Sequoyah document (without deference to Indian Nations), and submitted a new request to Congress under a different name: Oklahoma. The State of Sequoyah was tabled, communal Indian property seized, privatized, subdivided and sold off and the official constitutional governments of Indian Nations forcibly dissolved.
Believe it or not, Oklahoma is also home to America's most celebrated communist-- famed folksinger Woody Guthrie. Guthrie wrote his most famous song, "This Land is Your Land", as a critical response to Irvine Berlin's "God Bless America". If you can't figure out why exactly Guthrie might dislike "God Bless America", hopefully former Miss Oklahoma and famed "anti-homosexual" crusader Anita Bryant's rendition (track 37) will help clarify the matter for you. In honor of Guthrie and the painful history of our nation's rightful heirs, I offer you a lengthy musical tribute to the country I know like no other, my own. Happy Fourth.
It's a long one: 50 songs, one song for each of the 50 stars in our flag and the 50 states they represent (and an extra bonus song for Sequoya, the state that should have been).
Scroll down to listen, or DOWNLOAD HERE.
For a song about each of the 50 states check out this MIX.
1. If I Had a Hammer, The Weavers. If I had a hammer. . . If I had a sickle, err "bell". . . Written by my personal hero, Woody Guthrie.
2. Travailler, TTC. A tribute to that other 18th century bourgeois revolution (though slightly more radical), the French. According to Google translate, the lyrics go something like this: "I love working well, but it depends on the day, there are days and days to not work. I like to work, but I like to sleep too! What I prefer is when I work in bed. . . I like a lot of money that's why I like to work. Okay! do not count on us, we fill your schedule and holes!" Sounds pretty damn American to me.
3. Revolution, Grandaddy. "If you go carrying pictures of Chairman Mao, you ain't gunna make it with anyone any how."
4. Flower Feast Song, from "A Shaman's Notebook". Ironically enough, this ancient Aztec incantation may provide the most precise description of American capitalism ever written.
5. Five O'Clock World, Ballistic Kisses.
6. Louder Than A Bomb, Tiga. 'Cause Americans are louder than a bomb yo.
7. US Navy Song, BJ Snowden. BJ on the flight deck.
8. American Flag, Cat Power.
9. Battle Cry of Freedom, George Shirley and William Bolcom. My favorite patriotic song. Believe it or not, this one sometimes makes me cry. Union forever!
10. Transcontinental Railroad, Zebulun Dinkins. You try making a song about infrastructure development! Respect.
11. Revelations, Yoko Ono and Cat Power. Of course the New Left would turn every negative into a positive. Although if you think about it, Revelations does make a great alternative national anthem if I had to choose one (besides This Land is Your Land of course). Just envision Yoko's voice belting out above the medal stand at the next Olympic games.
12. Living Like a Refugee, Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. . .
13. This Land is Your Land, from the Album "Red, White and Blues". Put down your Prozac America and fully indulge in this depressing cover.
14. American Daydream, Electric Guest. Dream during the day, dream at night. Where would any of us be without a little American Dream to smooth out (and smother) our yearning for equality and justice?
15. Rwanda Sioux, Seek in G. Break all your mirrors boys. America is a vampire. A (partial) list of broken US treaties, courtesy of the Avalon Project at the Yale Law School:
to Cede Their Lands in Mississippi : 1826
Don't forget the Dawes Act, which forcibly privatized sovereign National property held in common and promised to Indian Nations in present-day Oklahoma. The act, in effect, forcibly dissolved Native constitutional governments. All current "blood" citizenship requirements for tribal enrollment are today derived from the original Dawes Rolls.
16. They'll Never Keep Us Down, Hazel Dickens. "They'll never shoot that union out of me." But please shoot a little on my face!
17. A Sailboat in the Moonlight, Escort. If our slave-owning Founding Fathers were alive today, this would be their anthem (works for stock-brokers too). I can see them now, in crisp flat-front chinos instead of the usual tri-corner, watching the fireworks with a martini in hand, from the hand-polished deck of a yacht, lazily gliding through the warm night air somewhere off the coast of St. Thomas.
18. Esta Tierra Es Tuya, Sones de Mexico Ensemble.
19. Harlequin, Zammuto. Happy Christmas! I mean July 4th. I mean. . . Yeah. Happy holidaysssszzzz Holiii.. . . DAZED. SToaNERS! In America, every man is an island.
20. Revolution, Nina Simone
21. No More Auction Block for Me, Odetta. I want this song sung at my funeral (preferably by an animatronic robo-Odetta).
22. Battle Hymn of the Republic, Carol Channing. If you made it all this way, you're in for a special treat. HalleYUEWWWWyah.
23. The 50 States, Bedroom Productions from "K48 Magazine, #2"
24. He Needed, King Missle. How much do you need?
25. American Revolution, Zebulun is back. Let me see you put "Stamp Act", "House of Burgesses", "Boston Massacre" AND "Intolerable Acts" in a song!
26. Rich Man, Schaffer the Darklord. Just about sums up MY America. How about yours?
27. Thrice All American, Neko Case. "Make way for the Walmart."
28. Alley Oop, The Hollywood Argyles. The American cave man lives!
29. Busted, Hazel Dickens. How could I possibly include just one Hazel Dickens' song!? Keep hangin' on to that dream America. . . Cause you busted.
30. Supply and Demand, Supreeme.
31. We Are Americans Too, Nat King Cole. You know things are fucked up when you have to write a song like this. . .
32. White Man's Burden, Bob Connelly. In case you're worried, this song is ironic.
33. How Deep Is Your Love? The Rapture. This is the kind of song that pops up on the playlist late in the afternoon, right near dusk, after you've already had 4 beers, your lips taste vaguely like barbecue sauce, waiting for fireworks still hours away. How deep is your love patriot?
34. Three Branches of Government, Zebulun Dinkins.
35. This Land is Your Land, Will Geer and Woody Guthrie. The man himself lays the hammer down.
36. USA I: Is a Monster, Dan Deacon. Baltimore's own bemoans. . .
37. God Bless America, Anita Bryant. Yes, that Anita Bryant-- former Miss Oklahoma and famed "anti-homosexual" crusader.
38. Symphony 4: America's Mercy War, Emily Wells.
39. The Patriotic Flag Waiver, Dr. John.
40. Reich: Different Trains-- 1. America-- Before the War, Kronos Quartet. Where's my high speed rail Obama!?
41. Native North American Child, Buffy Sainte-Marie. If I were a drag queen, I'd probably lip-sync a whole hell-of-a-heap of Buffy Sainte-Marie songs, if nothing just for the beaded buckskin get-ups.
42. The American Eagle, Bruce Haack.
43. Livin' in God's Country, Loretta Lynn.
44. America, The Shoes. Cause this is Big Shoes!
45. The Great American Bum, Cisco Houston. My present and my future. :-)
46. American Girl, Schwevon! "I want a swimsuit with stars and stripes on it."
47. America, K'naan: "My country tis of thee, sweet land of robberies. . . "
48. Talking Un-American Blues, Betty Sanders. Yes. It exists. A song about the House Un-American Activities Committee.
49. America's Great National Pastime, The Byrds. Coke like the drink?
50. American Pie, The King's Singers. Who else should bring our mix to a close but the British.
STATE OF SEQUOYAH BONUS TRACK:
51. Mickey Mouse, Black Lodge Singers. Nothing may sum up America better than Disneyland. In case you can't discern the lyrics, here's the song: "Mickey Mouse, Minny Mouse, Pluto too, they're all movie stars at Disneyland."
Stars and Bars
Ironically enough many Indian Nations, although internally divided, officially sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War, whose representatives in Indian Territory promised more equitable sovereignty commitments from the South.