We all feel a bit grumpy lately. The Supreme Court. Donald Trump. State courts. Out-of-control state legislatures. Governors who want to take away rights and hold onto power however they can. It can seem a bit daunting, can’t it?
This week on Connect! Unite! Act!, I thought maybe we could sit back and think about times when things looked bleak and the good guys managed to come through and get things done in the end. You may have recently seen a string of videos through TikTok or Twitter that use The Hunger Games song, “Hanging Tree.” This week I want to talk a bit about Susan Collins and the song in connection to where we are right now with women’s rights.
If you’ve read the books, you know a bit more of the details. If you haven’t, I want to take a moment to get into why this song resonates with the moment we are in right now. What defines the moments we live through are the language we use to share them with each other. The right-wing has used terminology to define people who seek reproductive care in the harshest of terms, and to define doctors and women as “murderers”. Compare this to the stanzas of the song from The Hunger Games.
The lyrics start in this way:
Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where they strung up a man they say murdered three
Strange things did happen here
No stranger would it be
If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree
This first stanza contains a lot to unpack. One of the most important lines is simple: “Where they strung up a man they say murdered three.” The song originated from the rebellion, it is discussed, and the emphasis I have put on “say” is because within the universe of the song, the ones who would say he had done the murders would likely be the capital or those opposed to the rebellion.
The tactic is pointed out in the book as the mother is so upset when she hears the song she demands it not be sung again, as the song itself is banned throughout all of Panem. The song’s next stanza contains this lyric:
Are you, are you
Coming to the tree
Where the dead man called out for his love to flee
Originally, you’d think the dead man was someone who was murdered. Instead, the person who called out for his loved one was someone hanging in the tree for committing murders. What, exactly, was it that constituted murder?
This is where the Supreme Court and the right-wing decision comes in. As the right wing moves to criminalize reproductive care, we get to see the song from another perspective. The right wing loves to talk about who they say committed crimes, and they would love to demand prosecutions against health care providers and pregnant people.
Fetal personhood, anti-abortionist’s argument that the fetus deserves the full rights and protections as people, are at the heart of these fetal harm laws and other traditional murder laws being applied to pregnant people.
Strange things indeed. I’ll tell you that I still think the song from the film and Jennifer Lawrence’s performance of it is fantastic, but it is also a song that fits the current moment. Come November, it is on a lot of us to volunteer to try and save democracy in any way we can by getting people to vote and helping others to register. Whatever inspires you, take it with you to try and get things done.
What inspires you? What helps motivate you to get up and keep fighting? Sometimes I need humor. Sometimes I need joy. Sometimes I need a touch of anger. Or maybe something unique. Here are a few of the songs that work for me:
A great cover of a fantastic Paul Simon number, but it is the song that explains that America is a work in progress to me, and the view of someone experiencing it:
“The Boxer” is a different type of Simon & Garfunkel number. I always think of this as the song that tells the story of what it means to understand defeat, to fight back, and to overcome.
I’d rather die than give you control. You got my money, Trent.
Finally, appropriate for the moment:
Mary got pregnant from a kid named Tom that said he was in love
He said, “Don’t worry about a thing, baby doll I’m the man you’ve been dreaming of”
But three months later he say he won’t date her or return her calls
And she swear, “Goddamn, if I find that man I’m cuttin’ off his balls”
And then she heads for the clinic and she gets some static walking through the door
They call her a killer, and they call her a sinner and they call her a whore
God forbid you ever had to walk a mile in her shoes
‘Cause then you really might know what it’s like to have to choose
What tribute do you have? How can you connect protect rights in your area?
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