Saturday, April 23, 2011
This morning I received an e-mail flyer from the leftist magazine The Nation (not sure how I ended up on their list) asking "What's the greatest protest song ever?" Well, since they asked, I replied. Here's my answer:
I think the best protest song ever was Seals & Crofts' "Unborn Child," proclaiming the dignity of the child in the womb and protesting abortion and the abortion culture. Here's a video of Seals & Crofts performing the song at the 1974 California Jam -- one year after Roe v. Wade:
Of course, one of the great things about "Unborn Child" is the courage it exemplifies on the part of the performing artists, who knew that they were flying in the face of what was then hardening into liberal orthodoxy. Many on the left seem to imagine that the protest genre is only pertinent to claims of injustice that bear the imprimatur of left-liberalism. Jim Seals and Dash Crofts were willing to confront the left with the truth about a profound injustice that---with notable exceptions, including Nat Hentoff and (at the time) Jesse Jackson---it was itself sponsoring and providing ideological cover for. Very often, the importance and success of a protest song consists in its bringing into focus a victim of injustice whom those responsible for the injustice have succeeded in shuffling out of view. (Consider, for example, the miner in Billy Ed Wheeler's classic "Coal Tatoo.") That is precisely what Seals and Crofts accomplished in "Unborn Child." The song became a galvanizing anthem of the pro-life movement and helped to sustain it through the difficult early period of its life. Today more Americans idenitfy themselves as pro-life than pro-choice---a development that few would have predicted back in the early 1970s. Many in those days confidently believed that abortion would be broadly accepted and integrated into American life, as it has been in so many European nations and in Japan and elsewhere. "Unborn Child" helped to sustain a grassroots resistance movement in the U.S. that, far from fading, has only become stronger over the years.