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Mama Put My Guns in the Ground

By Baruchi Malewich

A few days ago we have decided to dedicate this week’s playlist to the innocent casualties of conflicts and wars. If last week we tried to focus on the right of the combatant to refuse the order to kill, this week we focus on the lives lost because the order was not refused. The horrible bombings in Turkey and Egypt were the events that led us to choose this theme, but when we did we were unable to foresee the tragedy that was about to unfold in Aleppo. Since I first heard the news of the massacre, I’ve been walking around with a lump in my throat. The other day I was on the bus, heading back to my London apartment, when I saw a demonstration in front of 10 Downing, calling for an immediate no-fly zone around Aleppo. A young girl got on the bus, carrying a Free Syrian Army flag, and I nearly broke down in tears. I wanted to thank her for doing what I failed to do, I wanted to tell her I admire her humanity and determination. I ended up saying nothing, doing nothing. I’ve seen many friends condemning the West’s inaction on social media, and I, too, wanted to criticize and rage. But I can’t even say I tried to act, and so I’m only left with a deep sense of shame, and this playlist.

In May 1970 pressures to stop the war in Vietnam and its expansion into Cambodia were at an all-time high. The anti-war protests were concentrated around university campuses, and one such campus was Kent State University in Kent, Ohio. After several days of demonstrations, the Ohio National Guard arrived to disperse the crowd, but having failed to do so by non-lethal means, started marching towards the protestors with bayonets fixed on their guns. While maneuvering through the campus grounds, some of the guardsmen opened fire, shooting live rounds into the students that remained in the area, killing four and wounding nine more. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young wrote Ohio as a protest song against the events of that day.

One of my favorite songs off Jay-Z and Kanye West’s collaboration album ‘Watch the Throne’, Murder to Excellence is a two-part song: the first is a requiem to persons of color who were killed by the police or by other events of urban violence in the city of Chicago; whereas the second part, highly contrasted to the first, is an ode to ‘black excellence’, and to the success of those who managed to survive such violent environments. It’s a beautiful song, featuring a sample of Quincy Jones’ Katutoka Corrine, a piece Jones wrote for the soundtrack of the movie ‘The Color Purple’ which deals, also, with racism and violence against people of color.

In Easter of 1916, as the British Army was sinking in the trenches of World War I, a group of Irish republicans staged an armed insurrection to end British rule in Ireland. The uprising lasted for six days, until it was fully suppressed by the British Army, who was the superior side in both numbers and weapons. At the wake of this event, 485 people laid dead, over half of them civilians, as the British army used heavy machine guns and artillery fire in a crowded urban area. There were numerous accounts of British atrocities against the local Irish population. About 3500 were arrested, many had nothing to do with the uprising, and about 1800 were sent to internment camps. The uprising was initially met with disdain and criticism among the Irish people, but its brutal oppression and the executions that followed led many people to support violent resistance to the British rule. The Foggy Dew is an Irish ballad which depicts the events of the uprising, brought here in the gut-wrenching rendition of Sinead O’Conner and the Chieftains.

I’m not a big fan of U2. I honestly never expected I would include one of their songs in these playlists. But Sunday Bloody Sunday was always a bit of standout song as far as I’m concerned. Not only because it’s far more interesting, musically speaking, than your average U2 song, and actually capitalizes on their strengths as a band, but because of its message and history. Here comes a band, with several number-one hits, and delivers a protest song that, at the time, was so potent, and packed such a punch, that literally put the band members in harm’s way! The story depicts the events of January 30th 1972, when British soldiers (again) shot 26—and killed 14—unarmed peaceful protesters in Derry, Northern Ireland. U2 managed to write a song that highlights the tragedy, but rejects calls for violent retribution or support for the IRA. In that, Sunday Bloody Sunday is truly a musical and cultural achievement.

I’ve always considered Simon & Garfunkel’s Scarborough Fair to be one of the most beautiful songs ever written. I was, however, rather curious about the origin of the backing vocals to that song, or at least the ‘Canticle version of that song. While Scarborough Fair itself is an old folk song, that wasn’t written by the duo, and is predominantly a love song, the backing vocals always seemed to depict something very dark, a war on the horizon, a looming catastrophe. And so, I’ve recently made some research, and learned that the backing vocals bit from that song, is in fact the reworked lyrics of an older Paul Simon song called The Side of a Hill. It’s a simple song: three verses, unpretentious melody, and a story that left me with a tear rolling down my cheek. It’s one of those stories that aren’t set in a specific location or time, and yet their truth is eternal. I won’t bother to tell you much more about it, I will only urge you to read the lyrics yourselves while listening to the song.

Baruchi Malewich is an Israeli expatriate currently residing in the UK. He completed his BA is Government and Diplomacy from the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya and his MPhil in International Relations from the University of Cambridge. He was a DJ in the student radio of both schools, and is an avid music fan. He is currently working on PhD applications and on an online publication devoted to researching the role of theory in the

social sciences.


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