Black Boys on Mopeds: Politics and Parenting

Today needed a little music and this song has been fueling the fire for me for 20+ years. I actually sang this to my son as a lullaby and he sings it to my granddaughter.

Here are the lyrics with links/footnotes:

Margaret Thatcher on TV
shocked by the deaths that took place in Beijing. 
It seems strange that she should be offended
The same orders are given by her.
I’ve said this before now
You said I was childish and you’ll say it now
“Remember what I told you
If they hated me they will hate you”
England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill black boys on mopeds 
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving
Young mother down at Smithfield
5 am, looking for food for her kids
In her arms she holds three cold babies
And the first word that they learned was “please”
These are dangerous days
To say what you feel is to dig your own grave
“Remember what I told you
If you were of the world they would love you”
England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving.

Footnotes: I was in Salt Lake City at the time of the June 4th Massacre. I was living in University Housing and teaching English idiom to a friend/neighbor who was teaching me Mandarin. When the protests happened all student visas were cancelled and Chinese students were expected to deport themselves home. The news was confused, misleading as the US government didn’t want to criticize China for murdering peaceful students in the street. Activists and anyone who might support such “counter-revolutionaries” were disappeared. Communism wasn’t what was being protested. Corruption in the conservative communist leadership was. Liberal Communist reformers and those who supported the protests were silenced and even the biographies of Communist Leaders who supported reforms or condemned the June 4th Incident are still banned. A friend, a poet from Beijing, told me a decade later that to write about it even obliquely means both publishing it outside China (often with a pseudonym) and having alternate interpretations available if questioned.

That was the summer both my grandmothers died. The rage and grief of the year (both globally and locally) was devastating. It hollowed me and left space for some bad things… abusive women, overwork, passivity to theft and betrayal, illness. My baby was everything to me. But what was my responsibility to him, to the world?

The fear for and of raising a white male in a society that worshiped them and trained them to be sociopaths and overlords, colored everything. What was my role in that? What was women’s role in supporting the bosses, lovers, institutions which enslave them? What was my responsibility as a white, first-world, well-educated woman? I sent money illegally to Chinese dissidents (even though we were behind on our rent) and when they passed the hat in Irish bars raising money for Sinn Fein (the IRA, Irish Republican Army, or more accurately “one of the IRAs”) I paid with the same apathy or vigor as when the collection plate is passed in a church. It was tithing. I supported liberation everywhere. It seemed better to do the wrong thing than to do nothing.If the struggle was between the armed police and the unarmed populace, I would arm the public.

Ironically, I’ve never owned a weapon (although I’ve fired one once or twice) and I fought fiercely for the banning of handguns and nuclear disarmament. I wouldn’t allow military toys in the house. I, who banned nothing on principle, took an unshakeable line against G.I. Joe cartoons and what I believed/still believe is the desensitizing of violence and brainwashing through play toward an unthinking patriotism, racism and violence based on “us=good, them=bad”.

It was better to do the wrong thing than to do nothing.

The Sinn Fein is the Worker’s Party of Ireland now. My son is a parent. (A doting father: thoughtful, overprotective.) He turns 30 this year. He is a sometimes vegetarian who keeps threatening to go hunting with friends just to see what it’s like. I’m an inactive activist (benched by recent surgery and lingering disabilities) . Sinead’s music stirs my blood but that doesn’t move me far from the internet at the moment. The lyrics are true as ever. But in my life there is more loving than grieving these days.


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