This song shouldn’t still be relevant. When Tracy Chapman made a rare television appearance this week, performing on the eve of Election Day for Late Night with Seth Meyers, she selected a song she wrote over thirty years ago and first released on her multiplatinum, spectacularly good self-titled debut album. “Talkin’ ‘Bout a Revolution” was a prescribed treatment for the ailment of the Reagan Revolution, eight years of willfully destructive policies and callous dismissal of millions of citizens, all gussied up as patriotic optimism. Chapman reported on the people “standing in the welfare lines/ Crying at the doorsteps of those armies of salvation” and announced hopefully, “‘Cause finally the tables are starting to turn.”
Decades later, the tables are still grinding in their rotation, slowed by power brokers in both political parties. But the revolution is happening, led by the organizers on the ground who responded to blatant voter suppression efforts by working harder to get people registered. It’s led by the young people who grew up with active shooter drills and bigoted blowhards demeaning their very identities, knowing all the while that they deserved better. And, thankfully, it’s led by a few wonderful people who are already elected representatives, using their social media feeds to counter the usual nonsense about Democrats needing to run from progressive policies that actual help citizens and using their white boards to expose the lies of greedy ghouls stealing from the hardworking citizens of the U.S.
In the middle of a pandemic that has already killed well over two hundred thousand of their fellow citizens and left countless others with lingering physical debilitations that, for all we know know, may never heal, millions found a way to vote. Up against horrible harassment from red-hatted zealots and at risk to their own health, election workers toiled nobly at helping people vote and getting the count right. It’s reasonable to be alarmed at the astonishing number of voters who looked at the wreckage of the current administration and opted to sign up for more of that, but I prefer to focus on the fact that a record number of citizens declared decisively that the madness should end. Let the tantrum throwers wail. The rest of us have work to do.
The revolution still sounds like a whisper, but listen close. I swear it’s getting louder by the second.