The opening words to this song streamed through my thoughts last Saturday, when I participated in a women’s march in Medford.
Everywhere I hear the sound of marching, charging feet, boy
‘Cause summer’s here and the time is right for fighting in the street, boy
Hey! think the time is right for a palace revolution, but where I live the game to play is compromise solution
Hey, said my name is called Disturbance; I’ll shout and scream, I’ll kill the King, I’ll rail at all his servants
Of course, when I thought of this song, it was winter, and I was in a women’s march, organized by women to remind the POTUS and America that they’re here and displeased, and want to continue the agenda of change in America that’s been going on, an agenda that includes equality regardless of gender, age, sexual orientation or preference, religion, ethnicity, skin color, and many other things that America claims to be free and equal about.
It was ironic, and a little disappointing when thinking of protest songs, that “Street Fighting Man” came to mind. Where’s the street fighting women? I was surrounded by them.
Mick Jagger said that events in the United States and France inspired the song when he wrote it. It seems like an indictment of the pervasive male oriented society that only men were mentioned from that era of protests in the 1960s. Despite its inherent sexism, the song, with its driven rocking beat and discordant sitar and guitars, is a powerful protest anthem, powerful enough that Chicago radio stations didn’t play it in the summer of 1968, fearful that it would incite more rebellion and violence in a city that was already struggling with the violence emerging in the shadow of Democratic National Convention as anti-war protesters and police clashed.
Stream forward through time a few years, and the publication of the Pentagon Papers display the American Government’s hypocrisy and cynicism, a reminder that emerges through the recent film, “The Post.” Watching that film, the calls for change and to shake up business as usual sharpen with understanding, along with the bitter taste arising from the belief that our government, no matter which party dominants, is failing us. Those parties apply lip-service to our demands, but their actions often sustain the status quo and business as usual. Most Americans want change, but often split about the shape of change desired. It’s the struggle of democracy. The path seems clear, but it’s messy an slippery.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
~ Frederick Douglass
That’s why I joined those women and marched to demand change. I want change. I served in the American military to forward the ideals of freedom, democracy, and equality, with the simple truth that all people are created equal. I slowly learned how those words and sentiments are often more of a propaganda slogan and less of a governing ideal, and that many people, including our leaders, lack the principles and moral courage to fully embrace the ideals behind these words.
In the song, Mick asks, “What else can a poor boy do,” and adds, “There’s no place for a street fighting man,” a suggestion about the frustrations of limited options.
What a wheel of history we ride.