Friday, February 6, 2015

Our Not-So-Great Virginia: The General Assembly and Learning the Hard Way

I have been called a "Pollyanna" and "politically naive." I defended the members of the House and the Chairman of the Rules Committee from all the gossip and scuttlebutt I kept hearing about "how this deal was really going to go down." I could not and would not believe it.  And even when I saw a lot of it come to life today, it didn't apply to everyone.  There were some real stars and heroes along the way.  But about "the process"...well... I was wrong. So wrong...and my heart grieves for Virginia.

This afternoon, when I left the Rules Committee meeting, I was embarrassed. I was not embarrassed that I was a Virginian, but I was embarrassed to be a Virginia Republican.  I was also ashamed that someone like Susan Greenbaum could be treated so badly and dismissed almost out of hand. Her bill was not even called out individually. The Speaker of the House moved the discussion of her bill into the bill he was bringing forth and citizen comment was not invited/allowed. I was prepared to speak, but I guess no one saw me trying to be noticed, as a delegate was standing in front of me. Perhaps I will have another chance to do so in the days and months to come?  I certainly hope so.  I do have something to say.

So, dear Virginia...This is the choice the House is giving you: The State Song of Virginia is submitted as a remix of Shenandoah, which has been put forth by a retired professor, who is a Civil War scholar. (I think he has an interesting resume, too.  I don't focus much on the Civil War, as I prefer Colonial and Revolutionary history...but President Kennedy appointed him to the Civil War Centennial Commission in the early 1960's and now, at age 84, he is serving on the Virginia Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission.  NOTE: He did not write the lyrics himself, but commissioned them. The new lyrics are written by a jingle writer in New York, who's from South Carolina and has never lived in Virginia.)

You might think Shenandoah does bring back memories of the Commonwealth, but it is not a song about Virginia...and the original lyrics, as noted by most scholars of the song whom I have found in researching it, are these:

Missouri, she’s a mighty river.  Away you rolling river.  The redskins camp, lies on its borders. Ah-ha, I’m bound away, ‘Cross the wide Missouri.

The white man loved the Indian maiden. Away you rolling river. With notions his canoe was laden. Ah-ha, I’m bound away, ‘Cross the wide Missouri.

“O, Shenandoah, I love your daughter. Away you rolling river. I’ll take her ‘cross yon rolling water.” Ah-ha, I’m bound away. ‘Cross the wide, Missouri.

The chief disdained the trader’s dollars: Away you rolling river. “My daughter never you shall follow.” Ah-ha, I’m bound away, ‘Cross the wide Missouri.

At last there came a Yankee skipper. Away you rolling river. He winked his eye and he tipped his flipper. Ah-ha, I’m bound away, ‘Cross the wide Missouri.

He sold the chief that firewater, Away you rolling river. And ‘cross the river he stole his daughter. Ah-ha, I’m bound away, ‘Cross the wide Missouri.

“O, Shenandoah, I long to hear you, Away you rolling river. Across that wide and rolling river.” Ah-ha, I’m bound away, ‘Cross the wide Missouri. comes down to changing lyrics.  To review: Virginia gets rid of "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny" as the State Song because of its original racist lyrics and says you cannot change the lyrics to make the song acceptable.  BUT now they take an equally racist song (words in bold) and change the lyrics to that?  A song with words and concepts which are not acceptable in the year 2015 and beyond.  I don't understand this.... Honestly, I don't.  This type of thing might have been passed in my parents' day, but at age 55...hardly one of the youth of our nation.... I am frankly appalled.  Shenandoah was co-opted for Virginia years ago, it's true....but even those images make you think of only one part of Virginia.  

The newest lyrics are, to be quite frank, not even proper lyrics...according to what I have heard songwriters talk about in the past.  Even if you aren't a songwriter or lyricist, they seem strange.  To call Virginia the "heartland of the nation" is odd. (Even if you capitalize the "H" in Heartland in the bill, you don't hear the "capital H" when it's being sung).  What do YOU think of when you think of the Heartland of America?  Certainly not Virginia...   And the phrase, "We're yours. We all are yours."? Well, even beginning songwriters know that you never waste a word or phrase in songwriting.  You certainly don't repeat a phrase like that.

So, fellow Virginians...This is what is going to the House.  YOU NEED TO BE AWARE THAT YOUR CHOICES ARE SHRINKING. This may very well be what they will pass, if indeed most representatives are truly afraid of voting against it.  (I still can't believe that...although what I saw with my own eyes today certainly made me wonder.)  

If this is NOT what you want for state song....then YOU SHOULD LET YOUR REPRESENTATIVE KNOW NOW!!  (If it is, you can let them know that, too.  Fair is fair.)

Our Great Virginia is NOT the best song for Virginia.  We deserve better. I guess Speaker Howell, the bill sponsor, doesn't keep up with the poll numbers.  Here is a snapshot from the ongoing WTVR poll.. (It's an ongoing poll, with the videos of four songs included. *These are from this evening at 7:15pm.):

This poll has gone back and forth, with Virginia, the Home of My Heart and Sweet Virginia Breeze neck and neck. I have NEVER seen Our Great Virginia get over 1% of the vote.  I thought politicians paid attention to polls. Hmmm...must be more of my political naiveté.

This poll is from the Speaker's district newspaper.
Even his own constituents don't seem to like Our Great Virginia

The effort to have the right song brought forth will continue.  Our Great Virginia is not that song.  It is a travesty. The Speaker has been quoted as saying he is putting it through as a favor for a friend. Not even a constituent.  A friend. What kind of favor is that? It's wrong! We will lobby the Governor, the Lt. Governor, the Senate, the House...whatever it takes...for as long as it takes.  And we might be seeing a lot of new faces in the years to come...

I read this in a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch article, and I think it is very important to remember:

"All 40 state senators and 100 delegates are up for election in 2015."