The Dead Kennedys released “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” in 1981. The single came with an armband that featured a crossed-out swastika. It was written as a response to the appearance of neo-nazism and white supremacy in the punk rock culture in both the US and the UK.
Yesterday, after the shocking events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the band posted the anti-swastika image on their Facebook page to the delight of tens of thousands.
We never before thought we would find something likable about Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, but his remarks yesterday were exactly what this country needed to hear, and what needs to be repeated.
“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple. Go home,” said McAuliffe yesterday evening. “You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.” He went on to say, “There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”
We also think it is worth noting the words of Robert E. Lee, as it was Charlottesville’s planned removal of a statue of the Confederate General which precipitated yesterday’s tragic events. Invited to a reunion at Gettysburg in 1869, Lee politely declined, writing in part,
I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.
The statue was commissioned in 1917, nearly a half century after Lee passed away. It seems unlikely he would have approved of its creation in the first place and even more likely that, a hundred years later, he would have supported a plan to remove the statue.
Tuesday’s paper greeted our front porch with the alarming news that later this year publishing giant HarperCollins will be offering Go Set A Watchman, a sequel to Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize winning novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, possibly the single most beloved work in American literature.
And no, this unexpected continuation isn’t some Alexandra Ripley audacity, it’s a sequel by Harper Lee herself, although actually written before To Kill A Mockingbird and said to have been rejected by the publisher because what they found most compelling was the flashbacks to the thirties which were adapted to create her Pulitzer Prize winning novel. The authenticity of the authorship of Go Set A Watchman isn’t in question — its whether the book was ever intended by its author to be published at all.
The names are confusing: to be clear, there’s no relation between HarperCollins, the publishing giant with such class to have once commissioned OJ Simpson’s If I Did It and the legendarily reclusive author. HarperCollins issued a second press statement three days later assuring us the 88-year-old author — by the accounts of friends is mostly blind, deaf and suffering from severe memory loss — consented to the release of the manuscript she carefully protected for sixty years.
Lee started work on a second novel in the 60s, and on a non-fiction account of an Alabama serial killer in the 80s, only to abandon each. Aside from a few brief essays, she never published again after To Kill A Mockingbird. She has granted almost no interviews, once declining a speaking engagement by saying “it is better to be silent than to be a fool.”
This 2011 story in Australia’s Daily Telegraph puts it in perspective. Then eighty-one years old Reverend Thomas Lane Butts of the Monroeville Methodist Church describes visiting the author: “She’s 95 per cent blind, profoundly deaf, bound to a wheelchair. Her short-term memory is completely shot, and poor in general. She knows who I am. Every couple of weeks or so I load her up in my car and we, as she says, ‘escape’ for the day.”
Harper Lee’s legal battles haven’t made headlines in recent years, but they’ve likely led her worries. The author has successfully sued a former agent and a Monroeville museum, both for profiting from her legacy, as well as the author of a biography which she claimed was unauthorized, who violated the trust of Lee and her sister.
Harper Lee’s extraordinary sister, Alice Lee was an attorney who practiced into her 100s. Lee once described her sister as “Atticus Finch in a skirt.” Unfortunately, her protector passed away several months ago at the age of 103, leaving the author of To Kill A Mockingbird unprotected from literary agents and publishers who saw dollar-signs in the long-stored manuscript which we are nervously assured is being published with its creator’s consent.
We can only imagine what Atticus Finch would do — and shit, Gregory Peck’s not even around to fill in for him. We’re just certain that every account of Harper Lee suggests a vulnerable adult. It’s the reason that we, as record store owners, won’t buy some collections when it seems the owner has not consented. Its the sort of decency we learned when we we first read To Kill A Mockingbird as kids. Apparently, there are some people at HarperCollins who haven’t read it yet, and its best they don’t or they won’t enjoy their millions of dollars.
In the Australian story about Monroeville, the Reverend Butts shares the reason Lee gave for never writing another book when he finally asked: “Two reasons,” she said,
One, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill A Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again.
Here at Hymie’s we just finished filing our taxes. Maybe you’re still working on yours or maybe you’re like Ned Flanders and you filed yours exactly sixty-five days ago. Either way, we found a song for you.
“How can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live?” by Ry Cooder, from his 1977 live LP, Show Time. This song was originally written by Blind Alfred Reed in the 1930s, who accompanied himself on the fiddle. It is today considered an early ‘protest song.’ I have always felt it was about the straightest dope you can find, especially the second verse.
Imagine you have a persistent pain in your neck. It’s often hard to swallow food, and when you do pieces of the food you’re eating become lodged in your neck, causing pain over several hours. You have a family history of lymphoma, too. Time to see the doctor.
“Looks serious. You’d better go have these tests.”