The second of Will Butler’s daily songs based on Guardian stories is “Waving Flag.” Whereas yesterday’s “Clean Monday” was about the Greek debt crisis, this one tackles two events in the former Soviet Union: (1) the repatriation of a former anti-apartheid leader’s ashes from Russia to South Africa and (2) Ukrainian separatists celebrating a Soviet holiday. Here’s what Butler had to say for himself:
I was barely alive for the Cold War. I mean, I was alive, but I don’t particularly remember it. I was born in 1982. But I still have a deep American kneejerk suspicion of Soviet communism. What can I say? Though, really, that suspicion is somewhat justified by the horrific history of the Soviet Union.
My initial reaction to reading about the repatriation of Moses Kotane’s body to South Africa from Russia was influenced by my distrust of communism. Was he really a great man? The answer: yes. And then I thought, how horrifying that my initial reaction to reading about a hero of the anti-apartheid movement was vague suspicion. For all their failings, the Communists were the only political entity in South Africa for years that talked about racial equality. They were the only integrated party for years and years. They worked for democracy and to help the poor. So, yes, I am an asshole.
Moses Kotane: nationalist, pro-Soviet great guy.
And then I was reading about the Ukraine separatists, our latest pro-Soviet nationalists, and I thought, man, what jerks. I don’t doubt that there are members of the separatists that genuinely feel like a beset upon minority. But the shape of the conflict is a historically powerful nation invading a historically weak one. Anyways.
This is a song about backward-looking violent nationalism contrasting with future-looking lift-up-the-weak nationalism. And then there’s me, a million miles away in America, watching from a great and blurring distance. Happy Tuesday!
Hear “Waving Flag” below.
Butler’s Wednesday song will be published Thursday morning due to Wednesday night’s Brit Awards.