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Ronald Reagan and Civil Rights

Gil Scott Heron

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Well, the first thing I want to say is…”Mandate my ass!”

Because it seems as though we've been convinced that 26% of the registered voters, not even 26% of the American people, but 26% of the registered voters form a mandate – or a landslide. 21% voted for Skippy and 3, 4% voted for somebody else who might have been running.

But, oh yeah, I remember. In this year that we have now declared the year from Shogun to Reagan, I remember what I said about Reagan…meant it. Acted like an actor…Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal. Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor of California, then he acted like a republican. Then he acted like somebody was going to vote for him for president. And now we act like 26% of the registered voters is actually a mandate. We're all actors in this I suppose.

What has happened is that in the last 20 years, America has changed from a producer to a consumer. And all consumers know that when the producer names the tune…the consumer has got to dance. That's the way it is. We used to be a producer – very inflexible at that, and now we are consumers and, finding it difficult to understand. Natural resources and minerals will change your world. The Arabs used to be in the 3rd World. They have bought the 2nd World and put a firm down payment on the 1st one. Controlling your resources we'll control your world. This country has been surprised by the way the world looks now. They don't know if they want to be Matt Dillon or Bob Dylan. They don't know if they want to be diplomats or continue the same policy - of nuclear nightmare diplomacy. John Foster Dulles ain't nothing but the name of an airport now.

The idea concerns the fact that this country wants nostalgia. They want to go back as far as they can – even if it's only as far as last week. Not to face now or tomorrow, but to face backwards. And yesterday was the day of our cinema heroes riding to the rescue at the last possible moment. The day of the man in the white hat or the man on the white horse - or the man who always came to save America at the last moment – someone always came to save America at the last moment – especially in “B” movies. And when America found itself having a hard time facing the future, they looked for people like John Wayne. But since John Wayne was no longer available, they settled for Ronald Reagan – and it has placed us in a situation that we can only look at – like a “B” movie.

Come with us back to those inglorious days when heroes weren't zeros. Before fair was square. When the cavalry came straight away and all-American men were like Hemingway to the days of the wondrous “B” movie. The producer underwritten by all the millionaires necessary will be Casper “The Defensive” Weinberger – no more animated choice is available. The director will be Attila the Haig, running around frantically declaring himself in control and in charge. The ultimate realization of the inmates taking over at the asylum. The screenplay will be adapted from the book called “Voodoo Economics” by George “Papa Doc” Bush. Music by the “Village People” the very military "Macho Man."


“Macho, macho man!”

“ Two-three-four.”

“ He likes to be – well, you get the point.”

“Huuut! Your left! Your left! Your left…right, left, right, left, right…!”

A theme song for saber-rallying and selling wars door-to-door. Remember, we're looking for the closest thing we can find to John Wayne. Clichés abound like kangaroos – courtesy of some spaced out Marlin Perkins, a Reagan contemporary. Clichés like, “itchy trigger finger” and “tall in the saddle” and “riding off or on into the sunset.” Clichés like, “Get off of my planet by sundown!” More so than clichés like, “he died with his boots on.” Marine tough the man is. Bogart tough the man is. Cagney tough the man is. Hollywood tough the man is. Cheap stick tough. And Bonzo's substantial. The ultimate in synthetic selling: A Madison Avenue masterpiece – a miracle – a cotton-candy politician…Presto! Macho!

“Macho, macho man!”

Put your orders in America. And quick as Kodak your leaders duplicate with the accent being on the nukes - cause all of a sudden we have fallen prey to selective amnesia - remembering what we want to remember and forgetting what we choose to forget. All of a sudden, the man who called for a blood bath on our college campuses is supposed to be Dudley “God-damn” Do-Right?

“You go give them liberals hell Ronnie.” That was the mandate. To the new “Captain Bly” on the new ship of fools. It was doubtlessly based on his chameleon performance of the past - as a liberal democrat – as the head of the Studio Actor's Guild. When other celluloid saviors were cringing in terror from McCarthy – Ron stood tall. It goes all the way back from Hollywood to hillbilly. From liberal to libelous, from “Bonzo” to Birch idol…born again. Civil rights, women's rights, gay rights…it's all wrong. Call in the cavalry to disrupt this perception of freedom gone wild. God damn it…first one wants freedom, then the whole damn world wants freedom.

Nostalgia, that's what we want…the good ol' days…when we gave'em hell. When the buck stopped somewhere and you could still buy something with it. To a time when movies were in black and white – and so was everything else. Even if we go back to the campaign trail, before six-gun Ron shot off his face and developed hoof-in-mouth. Before the free press went down before full-court press. And were reluctant to review the menu because they knew the only thing available was – Crow.

Lon Chaney, our man of a thousand faces - no match for Ron. Doug Henning does the make-up - special effects from Grecian Formula 16 and Crazy Glue. Transportation furnished by the David Rockefeller of Remote Control Company. Their slogan is, “Why wait for 1984? You can panic now...and avoid the rush.”

So much for the good news…

As Wall Street goes, so goes the nation. And here's a look at the closing numbers – racism's up, human rights are down, peace is shaky, war items are hot - the House claims all ties. Jobs are down, money is scarce – and common sense is at an all-time low on heavy trading. Movies were looking better than ever and now no one is looking because, we're starring in a “B” movie. And we would rather had John Wayne…we would rather had John Wayne.

"You don't need to be in no hurry.

You ain't never really got to worry.

And you don't need to check on how you feel.

Just keep repeating that none of this is real.

And if you're sensing, that something's wrong,

Well just remember, that it won't be too long

Before the director cuts the scene…yea."

“This ain't really your life,

Ain't really your life,

Ain't really ain't nothing but a movie.”

Edited by Gil Scott Heron
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I agree the clouds of nostalgia distort the reality of the past.

We must be living in 'the bottle'

The day Reagan was first elected I remember seemed a gloomy day for all.

All these years later the view doesn't look much better. Just another 'Winter in America'

'See that black boy over there, runnin' scared

his ol' man's in a bottle.'

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Hi Nick, do you mean this?

The Bottle

See that black boy over there, runnin' scared

his ol' man's in a bottle.

He done quite his 9 to 5 to drink full time

so now he's livin' in the bottle.

See that Black boy over there, runnin' scared

his ol' man got a problem

Pawned off damn near everything, his ol'

woman's weddin' ring for a bottle.

And don't you think it's a crime

when time after time, people in the bottle.

See that sista, sho wuz fine before she

started drinkin' wine from the bottle.

Said her ol' man committed a crime

and he's doin' time, so now she's in the bottle.

She's out there on the avenue, all by herself

sho' needs help from the bottle.

Preacherman tried to help her out,

she cussed him out and hit him in the head with a bottle.

And don't you think it's a crime

when time after time, people in the bottle.

See that gent in the wrinkled suit

he done damn near blown his cool to the bottle.

He wuz a doctor helpin' young girls along

if they wuzn't too far gone to have problems.

But defenders of the dollar eagle

Said "What you doin', Doc, it ain't legal,"

and now he's in the bottle.

Now we watch him everyday tryin' to

chase the pigeons away from the bottle.

And don't you think it's a crime

when time after time, people in the bottle.

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Hi Gil - yes that is the ONE

but not forgetting

Revolution Will Not Be Televised

You will not be able to stay home, brother.

You will not be able to plug in, turn on and cop out.

You will not be able to lose yourself on skag and skip,

Skip out for beer during commercials,

Because the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by Xerox

In 4 parts without commercial interruptions.

The revolution will not show you pictures of Nixon

blowing a bugle and leading a charge by John

Mitchell, General Abrams and Spiro Agnew to eat

hog maws confiscated from a Harlem sanctuary.

The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be brought to you by the

Schaefer Award Theatre and will not star Natalie

Woods and Steve McQueen or Bullwinkle and Julia.

The revolution will not give your mouth sex appeal.

The revolution will not get rid of the nubs.

The revolution will not make you look five pounds

thinner, because the revolution will not be televised, Brother.

There will be no pictures of you and Willie May

pushing that shopping cart down the block on the dead run,

or trying to slide that color television into a stolen ambulance.

NBC will not be able predict the winner at 8:32

or report from 29 districts.

The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down

brothers in the instant replay.

There will be no pictures of pigs shooting down

brothers in the instant replay.

There will be no pictures of Whitney Young being

run out of Harlem on a rail with a brand new process.

There will be no slow motion or still life of Roy

Wilkens strolling through Watts in a Red, Black and

Green liberation jumpsuit that he had been saving

For just the proper occasion.

Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, and Hooterville

Junction will no longer be so damned relevant, and

women will not care if Dick finally gets down with

Jane on Search for Tomorrow because Black people

will be in the street looking for a brighter day.

The revolution will not be televised.

There will be no highlights on the eleven o'clock

news and no pictures of hairy armed women

liberationists and Jackie Onassis blowing her nose.

The theme song will not be written by Jim Webb,

Francis Scott Key, nor sung by Glen Campbell, Tom

Jones, Johnny Cash, Englebert Humperdink, or the Rare Earth.

The revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be right back after a message

bbout a white tornado, white lightning, or white people.

You will not have to worry about a dove in your

bedroom, a tiger in your tank, or the giant in your toilet bowl.

The revolution will not go better with Coke.

The revolution will not fight the germs that may cause bad breath.

The revolution will put you in the driver's seat.

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised,

will not be televised, will not be televised.

The revolution will be no re-run brothers;

The revolution will be live.

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