Love That Dirty Water
Janet Cheatham Bell, the memoirist and proud mom of W. Kamau Bell, shares a question being asked in meme form on the interwebs:
I assume by people this meme means just plain folks, the yous and mes of the world as opposed to, say, the Koch Bros. or their legislative coatholders like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK). And there are indeed tons upon tons of yous and mes who truly believe anything having to do with the environmental movement is nonsense, hysteria, and, in a lot of cases, merely a cover for some nefarious socialist or commie plot to take over this holy land.
Like a round Earth, the germ theory of illness, and the sheer impossibility of the Chicago Cubs ever winning a World Series, humankind’s soiling of the environment would seem to be one of those things that we all simply have to agree on. And those who don’t — well, they’ve got to be pretty whacked out, no? If you met a guy who told you, proudly, he’s a member of the Flat Earth Society, you’d smile nicely and begin to sidle away from him, wouldn’t you?
Yet we’re bombarded on a daily basis with folks who say there is no human-caused climate change, the search for alternative energy is a scam, and fossil fuels are the greatest thing to happen to us since the birth of Jesus.
No wonder Mom Bell and others who’ve shared her meme are scratching their heads.
I may have a couple of answers to their question.
See, many, many Murricans see environmentalism as a “blame” issue. That is, they interpret environmentalists as saying America and its people are “bad” for having screwed up the environment.
That contradicts our mythology of American exceptionalism. We’ve told ourselves since the American Revolution that we are special. We’re better than those stuffy old Europeans. We’re smarter than the Africans. We’re more humane and dedicated to freedom than the Russians and the Chinese.
We told ourselves that the westward spread of American culture and settlement was a Manifest Destiny — that is, we were charged by god with taking the Native Americans’ land and, in the process, pretty much wiping them off the face of the planet.
When a people can excuse themselves for the genocide they’ve committed because god sez it’s cool, they can be move forward confidently in the knowledge that all their subsequent actions will be looked kindly upon by that Big Daddy-o in the Sky. So if some owls disappear or millions of gallons of crude oil fill up Prince William Sound, well, golly gee, we’re only imperfect humans executing the will of a perfect lord.
Then, too, there’s the implied indictment of capitalism itself coming from the environmentalists. Oil companies are rapacious, coal mine execs are greedy, SUV manufacturers are selfish louts — the list of betes noires goes on. Now that’s crazy, the conventional wisdom goes. All the aforementioned villains are rich men, and if there’s any belief we Murricans have cherished, it’s that wealth is sacred. If you’re rich, then y’done good, boy. Don’t give us details about how you earned it, just let us sneak a peak into your palatial estate occasionally.
I mean, how else to explain Donald Trump?
Profit is good. And if some clever fellows can make a sweet penny pumping crude or releasing mega-tons of freed carbon into the air, why then they’re good, too.
Now you’re telling us rich guys are the bad guys? You’re nuts. Environmental crazies. Haters of America.
The lesson? You can make it harder for people to breathe. You can fill their drinking water with toxic sludge. You can melt the polar ice caps if you like. Just don’t mess with their myths.
Oh, Oh, Boston….
A couple from Boston wandered into the Book Corner yesterday. They were in town for a weekend wedding and decided to stay a few extra days to take in the sights. They told me they love Bloomington.
We got to chatting, natch, and I learned the man is a writer. His name is Chuck Burgess and he’s penned a couple of books on Boston sports teams. The title of one of them, in fact, is the inspiration for the headline atop the preceding entry.
It’s a line from the mid-1960s one-hit-wonder, Dirty Water. It was done by The Standells who, other than growling through that song, were notable for appearing in an episode of The Munsters entitled “Far-out Munsters” (1965).
Here they are, performing a version of the Beatles classic, I Want to Hold Your Hand, in a clip from the show that, oddly, has been dubbed into Spanish:
BTW: I dig the dancing guy wearing the little fedora with a feather in its band on the right. He is the very definition of cool.
Anyway, the song Dirty Water was the weirdest tribute to Boston imaginable. Its title refers to the then-spectacularly polluted waters of the city’s three main rivers as well as Boston Harbor. It also references a mugging that the songwriter, Ed Cobb, suffered there and the Boston Strangler, and mentions the town’s sexually frustrated college coeds.
Oddly enough, Dirty Water became a theme song for the city and its sports teams. Both the Boston Bruins and the Red Sox beginning in the 1990s played the song after home victories. Weird, huh?
The Standells had nothing to do with Boston other than singing the lyric, Boston, you’re my home, in the song. The were a California garage band who, according to legend, would stand around booking agents’ offices hoping for gigs and so named themselves accordingly.
Chuck Burgess (along with co-author Bill Nowlin) squeezed an entire book out of the Dirty Water-Boston sports connection. It’s called Love That Dirty Water! The Standells and the Improbable Red Sox Victory Anthem. It’s out of print now but you can still get it on Amazon and through other re-sellers.
The Burgesses and I had a great time talking about the book, about Bloomington and Boston and Chicago, too, and about little independent booksellers. By the time they had to leave, we were clasping each others’ hands like old friends.
There’s nothing in the world like working in a small bookstore.
Oh, okay, here it is: