“I Can’t Breathe”

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I’m not entirely sure I should be starting the week out on such a dark note.  But this song demands attention.

I was going to make this a Freaky Friday post, but I decided to go with my Oscar picks instead.  (I went 0 for 2, but I’m not upset.  The music that won was good music.)  Really, I was just kind of avoiding exposing myself to this video again.

Pussy Riot’s first song in English is a good one.  They were in New York around the same time as the Eric Garner protests were happening, and they were inspired by that to write the song.  It is an oppressive song about oppression.  The electronic music and insistent drum beat give “I Can’t Breathe” a foreboding, ominous feeling–not surprising, given this band’s own experiences with oppression, censorship, and political imprisonment.  And I like the way fear and defiance balance each other out; they’re going to stand up for themselves even though they’re terrified about what might happen if they do.  That’s highlighted at the end by Richard Hell’s reading of Eric Garner’s final words.

But what makes this song indelible, and to me absolutely horrifying, is the video that features Nadya Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina being buried alive.  One of my major phobias is the idea of being buried alive.  It wigs me out beyond belief, and I found this video almost impossible to watch.  I started looking away from the screen as soon as I could see their faces.  It is massively disturbing and just as massively effective.  If you want to make a statement about the way people are being treated by law enforcement, you can’t do much better than this.

I recommend this song.  I suggest watching the video only in a well-lit, well ventilated place.  Outdoors works.  Outdoors, but only if you’re surrounded by concrete and other stuff that can’t be dug up and piled on top of you.

“Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)”

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Things got a little crazy yesterday.  Today is equally nuts, and tomorrow and the big day itself also promise to be busy.  But there’s always time for a little music.

I’ve got nothing to say about this song; it’s just one I happen to like that seemed to fit today’s news.

Because today the remaining two members of Russian Punk band Pussy Riot were released from prison.  It’s only a couple of months early, but at least these young women will be able to be with their families for Christmas.  Putting them in prison at all was a travesty.

Also today, I saw this heartwarming story about a former member of Santana who has been homeless for years being reunited with Carlos Santana.  Apparently, Marcus Malone has some royalties coming to him, and Santana seemed genuinely pleased to see his old friend.  My hope is that seeing this story will remind people that there are still homeless people year round.  The problem doesn’t go away with just one reunion.

But it’s a nice reunion.  And the freeing of political prisoners is good.  There is still much to be done, but we can be glad that these two good things have happened.  It is Christmas after all.

 

Pussy Riot Update

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It’s been well over a year since three members of the Russian Punk group Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years of prison for protesting Putin’s totalitarian regime in Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church’s compliance with that regime.  (See my original post for the full rant.)  Since then, Russia has descended even further into oppressive madness by making any mention or displays of homosexuality a crime.  Since then, one of the women was released.  Another, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, continues to fight for the rights of the oppressed (which would include herself at the moment) by going on a hunger strike to protest the horrible conditions at the prison she’s in.  She ended her strike after nine days, but her current medical condition is not good. (See here for more info.)

I don’t always understand extremes in protesting, but things have got to be pretty dire if you’re denying yourself one of the essentials of life in order to get someone to listen to you.  Tolokonnikova wants to be moved to another prison, or she’ll begin her hunger strike again.  Her actions have made public what I’m pretty sure everyone instinctively knew: That conditions in hardcore prison labor camps are beyond cruel.  While I believe incarceration is sometimes necessary for certain people, pretty young Punk musicians/protesters aren’t among them.  And I certainly don’t believe prisoners should be treated like slaves, or worse than cattle.  There must still be some respect paid to human dignity.

Toward that end, The Voice Project has begun a Support Pussy Riot Fund to help Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina while they’re in prison.  It’s a good cause.  They’ve even got cool t-shirts.  Give if you can.  And if you can’t, remind people that two women are imprisoned for something that would’ve had them picking up trash in a park and owing the local court a couple hundred bucks here.  Pass this information on, any way you like.  Keep mentioning their names, and the names of all the other prisoners of conscience around the world.

To help prisoners of conscience in other ways, visit Amnesty International.  (And I just realized that’s the U.S. site, so my international followers should click here.)

Pussy Riot

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This is not about the music.  This is about the freedom to make music.  This is about the freedom to protest against government and religion without fear of prosecution or persecution, also known in the U.S. as the First Amendment.

This is Pussy Riot, a Russian feminist punk band.  I don’t understand any of the lyrics, but I know what this song is about.  It’s about being young and angry and passionate, about caring enough about the world you live in to get up and do something about it.  These girls felt powerless, so they decided to get some of the power back by telling everyone else to fuck off.  That’s what punk was, once: one giant fuck you to society, so-called morality, consumerism, and politics.  This is actually really good punk rock–angry and funny at the same time.  Right now, Russia is reverting back to what it was during the Soviet days, and a lot of people there don’t like it.  They don’t like the way Putin seems to be creating a totalitarian state and consolidating his own power.  I don’t like it either.

This is Pussy Riot protesting at a church in Russia, protesting the way the Russian Orthodox Church seems to be getting into bed with Putin.  This is also them getting arrested for it.  Now in the U.S., this might have resulted in some charges like trespassing or disturbing the peace or protesting without proper permits.  It would have been resolved with a slap on the wrist–maybe a fine and some community service or a suspended sentence.  In Russia, it gets you two years in prison.  (There’s a nice little article at Slate that not-so casually mentions the consequences when religious institutions are allowed to influence civil law, and reminds Americans what’s really at stake when churches start sticking their judgmental noses into civil and Constitutional rights.  Like the right not to be religious.)

Be grateful for the First Amendment, boys and girls.  Be grateful that churches do not currently make federal law, and do EVERYTHING in your power to stop that from happening.  The Founding Fathers made it very, very, very clear that the United States of America is not a church state; they knew firsthand the dangers of creating laws based on religious morals.  Freedom of religion also means freedom from religion.  Civil law is COMPLETELY separate from church law.  Period.  There is no argument otherwise.  And if someone wants to claim otherwise, remind them of what the First Amendment actually says:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Then tell them to shut up.