I love the word ‘beast.’ Heather and I call our dogs ‘beasts’ and there is something deeply true and endearing about the title.
But the book “In the Garden of Beasts” has nothing endearing in it. Erik Larson chronicles the rise of the Nazis in Berlin in the 1930s as seen through the eyes of the US Ambassador at the time, William Dodd. It’s very frightening, especially because there are many parallels between that time and ours.
The Germans just went along with it all. They accepted the words of their leaders and sat back while political murders, oppressive laws, war, and, eventually, genocide were all part of the fabric of their society. Hitler and his cronies just lied at will about their intentions and about events. Truth had little place in the narratives they spun.
Sound familiar? While I think that things are different here in the US, many of the same ingredients are present. According to a recent poll, nine percent of the US population is sympathetic to white nationalist views. That’s 22 million people. When Hitler came to power, most people did not support him. But in the end, it didn’t matter.
The question for me becomes, what to do? Mark Lilla in an interview with David Remnick at The New Yorker, says that those of us on the left are being defeated by our fixation on identity politics. He’s pragmatic; what do we need to do to seize power? Many writers talk about the importance of local politics, being involved in the system, or about the ineffectual nature of street protest if it isn’t accompanied by organizational politics.
As an artist, one thing that seems critical is at the very least to speak up and out. To not be silent out of apathy or distraction. And so, this song. It’s more than ten years old, but true as ever. The initial quote “even if your voice shakes, speak out” has been attributed to Maggie Kuhn, but it’s not certain if she is the original source.
Song recorded in Anchorage, Alaska, on my mac.
(Even If Your Voice is Shaking) You’ve Got to Speak Your Mind.
Even if your voice is shaking.
Even if your heart is breaking.
Even if it’s taking you a long, long time,
you’ve got to speak your mind.
Even if you feel like crying.
Even if your hope is dying.
Even if you’re trying to be gentle and kind,
you’ve got to speak your mind
You’ve got the power, you’ve got the choice
You’ve got the right to use your voice.
We’ve got the power, we’ve got the choice.
We’ve got the power to use our voice.
It might feel you’re misbehaving.
Even if you think you’re raving.
Even if your thinking’s only half-defined
You’ve got to speak your mind.
© Stuart Stotts 2007