“Put your music player on shuffle. Write 250 words inspired by the first and last lines of the very next song that plays.”
Tobacco Island by Flogging Molly
All to hell we must sail
For the shores of sweet Barbados
Where the sugar cane grows taller
Than the God we once believed in
Till the butcher and his crown
Raped the land we used to sleep in
Now tomorrow chimes of ghostly crimes
That haunt tobacco island
My love of Celtic punk is the deepest and most visceral expression of my inner radical. It’s always appropriately angry and revolutionary. This song is about Oliver Cromwell, who once overthrew the king of England, ostensibly to set up a republic, but set himself up as a military dictator instead (sound familiar, history buffs?) . Ask anyone, he was a right bastard. He had a particular distaste for the Irish and compelled many he didn’t arrest or execute into forced labor. It didn’t destroy those people. It gave them a reason to fight back.
Why do I connect to this music? History does seem to repeat itself and I can’t abide seeing people stepped on, marginalized, mistreated. I appreciate the cultural stubbornness of Ireland and Scotland; the refusal to shut up and take the abuse for the promise of a moment’s comfort. They recognized an empty promise. We often find ourselves on the edge of a cliff, morally, politically, personally. We can let ourselves be pushed off it, or we can turn around and fight and use the rubble to rebuild. The pursuit of power has caused incalculable harm throughout human history. But it’s always possible to make a change. You may feel that one person’s actions can’t stem the tide of this sort of destruction, but that’s how it always starts. One person, shouting into the wind. I’ll be standing here shouting until someone comes along who can manage to knock me down and keep me there. Keep fighting.