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This is Not America on the 4th of July…

For the first entry in my “Lyrics Series” after my long sub-series on Bowie and politics, I was planning to zero in on some of the lyrics from “Rebel Rebel.” But “Lyrics Series Thursday” happens to fall on the Fourth of July this year—America’s Independence Day. It turns out that I can’t escape Bowie and politics quite yet.

America finds itself on its birthday undergoing a transformation. Caesar is at the Rubicon, getting ready to cross and accept dictatorial powers. As the world melts under heat that would have seemed alien just a few years ago, as we forget the millions who died from the first major pandemic in a century, as a Russian autocrat presses a European land war with eyes towards more of Europe, as economic disparities widen to unprecedented levels, as misinformation spreads unchecked through social media, as democratic institutions face unprecedented threats from within, and as technological advancements outpace ethical considerations, the precarious place of America in the world becomes ever more apparent.

Somehow, to all too many Americans, the answer to all this seems to take the form of a home-grown would-be dictator who promises retribution and revenge. Instead of confronting actual threats, some of which are existential, Donald Trump promises to place millions of undocumented immigrants into camps, use the levers of justice to get revenge on his political opponents, cease all policies designed to curb the climate crisis, replace career civil servants with flunkies, appoint more rights and precedent shredding judges who are in his personal thrall, pull out of NATO, pull out of the Paris Climate Accord, turn Ukraine over to Putin, place massive inflation-spurring tariffs on imports, and invoke the Insurrection Act against American protesters. On top of all that, he calls upon his supporters to use violence to achieve political goals and has pledged to pardon the terrorists who attempted the January 6th coup, who he lionizes at his campaign rallies. These, and many other bizarre and dangerous promises, are what he is actually pledging to do as a “dictator on Day One,” who once again will only accept an election result if he wins.

And he’s being embraced by tens of millions. Maybe enough to elect him. Despite being a convicted felon under indictment for fomenting an insurrection, violating the Espionage Act, and attempting to reverse the actual election results in Georgia. He’s being embraced despite being a fraudster who has (or his businesses have) already been fined hundreds of millions after losing multiple civil suits, whose “charity” and “university” have been shut down, whose businesses have often failed and gone into bankruptcy, who has been found liable for sexual assault and defamation and assessed tens of millions of dollars in civil penalties for doing so, who acts like and consorts with other criminals, who can’t tell the truth about anything at all, who falls asleep during his own trial, and who is severely challenged in stringing together a coherent expression of thought, and who, if not an actual Russian spy, carries on as if he were (I mean, how would he be acting any different?)

And, amidst a flurry of precedent-overturning, life-worsening decisions, the Supreme Court just decided that he’s above the law, giving him license to do everything that enters his mind and more.

This is not America.

Oh yes, this post is about the Bowie song. Well, those are the only lyrics that really matter in the song. The rest has a few movie references and some other words to give Bowie an excuse to sing (sorry, not in this video), but all anyone remembers is the refrain, which is useful in times such as this.

Happy 4th of July, America.
Bowie recorded “This is Not America” for the Falcon and the Snowman soundtrack with the Pat Metheny Group. The Pat Metheny Group is usually known as a jazz band. Here, the Group performs the song without Bowie.

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