Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Tuesday, June 15, 2004


At least once a day the toddling dude asks for “pow,” his word for piano. He sits on my lap as I plunk through songbooks, playing the melodies and singing and sometimes fleshing out some chords. He has a favorite songbook of kids’ songs, from a parent-and-child music class he took with my beloved spouse. Our other book is from 1961, “Childcraft: Music for the Family,” which I picked up 10 years or so ago from a thrift store because it had nice photos of white kids playing instruments. Lots of good songs too.

I never knew “Home On the Range” had a second verse, quite lovely.


How often at night when the heavens are bright
With the lights from the glittering stars,
Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed
If their glory exceeds that of ours.

Home, home on the range . . .


“Childcraft” is also teaching me “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean,” a tune I’d heard of (Ives quotes it in some of his pieces), and had heard, but didn’t know. A rousing march, an arm-swinging song for belting. A great line: “Thy banners make tyranny tremble.”

And a great second verse:

“When war winged its wide desolation,
And threatened our land to deform,
The ark then of freedom’s foundation,
Columbia rode safe through the storm;” . . .

Our current president seems to think war’s wide desolation gives him license to deform our land and sink the ark of freedom’s foundation. Amazing.


The anti-tyranny position espoused by “Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean” reminds me of the great Lincoln campaign song sung by Ronnie Gilbert on that great late ‘80s compilation of songs from the Civil War era. Gilbert, an old woman by then, with years of leftist activism and music behind her, including years as a member of the Weavers with Pete Seeger, put on her best rousing stern passionate white protestant radical abolitionist voice to sing the galloping waltz “Lincoln and Liberty,” with this terrific verse:

“Success to the old-fashioned doctrine
That all men created are free,
And down with the power of the tyrant
Wherever his stronghold may be.”

Gilbert nails the words “free” and “down”; practically shouts them.


President Bush’s lawyers told him that the crisis of war authorizes him to suspend American law whenever he sees fit. They tossed out the Constitution and everything this country stands for; Bush was quoted as saying that the great thing about being President is you don’t have to answer to anybody. The ghastly torture scandal is a direct result. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld should rot next to Saddam Hussein in prison for the rest of their lives.


Down with the power of the tyrant.

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