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  • Friday, December 02, 2005


    I learned everything need I to know about imperialism from Phil Ochs

    After recording a few of my more urgently desired rock and punkish vinyl records, I drifted through the collection and eventually picked out "Chords of Fame" by Phil Ochs, a two disk retrospective of his career.

    Ochs was a powerful protest folky in the same camp as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and he used music to good effect in raising awareness of the US government's long history of imperialist foreign actions among other topic. Santo Domingo speaks to the fairly frequent US intervention in the Dominican Republic, particularly the 1965 invasion. Were you aware that we invaded that country? There are *lots* of direct US interventions during the twentieth century that I've never heard about. William Blum chronicled many of these in a book called Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II.

    Ochs has an achingly clear voice, beautiful to listen to. He can also be quite funny. His version of Love Me, I'm a Liberal is very amusing. And Outside of a Small Circle of Friends combines bleak reality with a call for people to never be bystanders in the face of injustice, all wrapped in a light humor.

    He was writing about Vietnam in 1962, well before most people had any clue about what the CIA was developing there.

    Phil Ochs doesn't have much to do with it, but I'm continually surprised at the consistant drive of the US government in imperialistic pursuits. It spans all kinds of presidents and administrations and reaches far back in our national history. I don't know why it should surprise me; I like to think I've been around the political block a few times and don't have much in the way of illusions. Yet I do. When I constantly hear that there are some bad apples in government but generally the US does a lot of good in the world, it sort of seeps into my unconscious. The stuff I learned in high school, the conveniently edited history, stays with me even as I try to establish a realistic view based on accurate information rather than the "patriotic" and popular illusionary image.

    Here's to you, Phil.

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