Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Sniper and other Love Songs (and a Spurrier does us proud!)

The title of this post comes from an old Harry Chapin album. In view of yesterdays events, it seemed fitting.

It has been a very disturbing week. One that has brought back so many memories of a very painful time. The Texas Clock tower shootings came as such a shock to a still naive fourteen year old. The impact was a lasting one, in a way I am sure won't be the same for this generation. School shootings are common place now. They were unheard of then. And the scale of it was so grand. It was the beginning of my loss of innocence. Since yesterday's massacre at Virginia Tech, this song has been constantly on my mind.

The first time I heard Harry Chapin sing SNIPER was a live appearance on the Tonight Show in 1972. It left Johnny Carson and Ed McMahon so speechless that Doc Severnson had to introduce the commercial break. Do yourselves a favor and drop the 99 cents on iTunes and download this song. Pay close attention. It will haunt you.


It is an early Monday morning.
The sun is becoming bright on the land.
No one is watching as he comes a walking.
Two bulky suitcases hang from his hands.

He heads towards the tower that stands in the campus.
He goes through the door, he starts up the stairs.
The sound of his footsteps, the sound of his breathing,
The sound of the silence when no one was there.

I didn't really know him.
He was kind of strange.
Always sort of sat there.
He never seemed to change.
Oh no, oh no

He reached the catwalk. He put down his burden.
The four sided clock began to chime.
Seven AM, the day is beginning.
So much to do and so little time.

He looks at the city where no one had known him.
He looks at the sky where no one looks down.
He looks at his life and what it has shown him.
He looks for his shadow it cannot be found.

He was such a moody child, very hard to touch.
Even as a baby he never smiled too much. No no.No no.

You bug me, she said.
Your ugly, she said.
Please hug me, I said.
But she just sat there
With the same flat stare
That she saves for me alone
When I'm home.
When I'm home.
Take me home.

He laid out the rifles, he loaded the shotgun,
He stacked up the cartridges along the wall.
He knew he would need them for his conversation.
If it went as it he planned, then he might use them all.

He said Listen you people I've got a question
You won't pay attention but I'll ask anyhow.
I found a way that will get me an answer.
Been waiting to ask you 'till now.
Right now !

Am I ?
I am a lover who's never been kissed.
Am I ?
I am a fighter who's not made a fist.
Am I ?
If I'm alive then there's so much I've missed.
How do I know I exist ?
Are you listening to me ?
Are you listening to me ?
Am I ?

The first words he spoke took the town by surprise.
One got Mrs. Gibbons above her right eye.
It blew her through the window wedged her against the door.
Reality poured from her face, staining the floor.

He was kind of creepy,
Sort of a dunce.
I met him at the corner bar.
I only dated the poor boy once,
That's all. Just once, that was all.

Bill Whedon was questioned as stepped from his car.
Tom Scott ran across the street but he never got that far.
The police were there in minutes, they set up barricades.
He spoke right on over them in a half-mile circle.
In a dumb struck city his pointed questions were sprayed.

He knocked over Danny Tyson as he ran towards the noise.
Just about then the answers started coming. Sweet, sweet joy.
Thudding in the clock face, whining off the walls,
Reaching up to where he sat there, answering calls.

Thirty-seven people got his message so far.
Yes, he was reaching them right were they are.

They set up an assault team. They asked for volunteers.
They had to go and get him, that much was clear.
And the word spread about him on the radios and TV's.
In appropriately sober tone they asked "Who can it be ?"

He was a very dull boy, very taciturn.
Not much of a joiner, he did not want to learn.
No no.No no.

They're coming to get me, they don't want to let me
Stay in the bright light too long.
It's getting on noon now, it's goin' to be soon now.
But oh, what a wonderful sound !

Mama, won't you nurse me ?
Rain me down the sweet milk of your kindness.
Mama, it's getting worse for me.
Won't you please make me warm and mindless ?

Mama, yes you have cursed me.
I never will forgive you for your blindness.
I hate you!

The wires are all humming for me.
And I can hear them coming for me.
Soon they'll be here, but there's nothing to fear.
Not any more though they've blasted the door.

As the copter dropped the gas he shouted " Who cares ?" .
They could hear him laughing as they started up the stairs.
As they stormed out on the catwalk, blinking at the sun,
With their final fusillade his answer had come.

Am I ?
There is no way that you can hide me.
Am I ?
Though you have put your fire inside me.
Am I ?
You've given me my answer can't you see ?
I was !
I am !
and now I Will Be

Even before yesterday's news, I was suffering from this sort of hollow, kinda haunted feeling. My daughter heard that this week was the anniversary of Sirhan Sirhan's conviction, and decided to rent BOBBY. Now, I have wanted to see this movie for a long time, but also knew that it would stir up an emotional can of worms. I can still remember the events of that morning like they happened yesterday.

It was still the heyday of 50.000 watt clear channel radio stations, and I had fallen asleep with a transistor radio under my pillow, listening to Pittsburg's KKOW. The Pirates were playing the Dodgers, and Don Drysdale was going for a record sixth striaght shutout. I woke with a start about 4;30 to the sound played before a news bulletin. Richard C. Hottelet came on and announced that Bobby Kennedy had been shot. My dad had just left for work, but I couldn't wait and woke up my mother. My parents were by no means Kennedy fans, but after the MLK assassination, even my folks understood that Bobby had become the glue holding the nation together. My mom and I sat listening to Detroit's all news station WWJ, and staring at the peacock test pattern on the tv, waiting for the local NBC affiliate to come on the air. By the time the Today Show came on, it was clear that Kennedy's life hung in the balance. The nation came close to a standstill, everyone watching the tv waiting for news. I didn't come till about 10 pm eastern time, when it was announced Bobby had passed.

As for the movie itself, it was excellent. A tremendous ensemble cast, with incredibly strong performances from Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, Christian Slater, and Freddy Rodriguez (from HBO's Six Feet Under).

But, in the end, the film left me depressed with the same old questions. How much different would this country be had it not been for one crazed guy with a gun? No Nixon, no Watergate, no neocon hijacking of the Republican party. No Reagan. How different would the world be? Sigh.
I have never been a big Steve Spurrier fan, even though we share an ancient ancestor. Until now. But my opinion of him changed Saturday when he uttered seven simple words. "That damned flag needs to come down" said the University of South Carolina football coach, pointing at the Confederate flag flying over the Capital building.

That Spurrier would say that in the heart of the Confederacy, knowing he was gonna piss off a lot of wealthy alumni, took balls. But he is right. Not only is that flag the symbol of racism and slavery, it represents the single biggest act of treason in the history of America. It has no place in America, it is a source of shame, not pride.

Whether or not Spurrier said that out of moral conviction, or because he knows it hurts his ability to recruit matters not. It took massive size cajones to say that to the audience he did.

He has my new found admiration. Not to mention a big dose of family pride!

This post dredged up a LOT of memories!
Steve is DEFINITELY your relative!
I agree about Spurrier. I've never been a huge fan because I thought he was a bit egotistical. But, maybe that was exactly what this cause needed. It needed someone who wasn't afraid of what other people thought or how they might react.

Too many southerners who are not racists have stepped lightly on this issue that shouldn't have. It's time to call it like it is. Those that celebrate the confederacy and everything it represented are straight-up racists. Kudos to Spurrier.
Odd you mentioned the Texas tower shootings. I thought about that too, and the strange song written about them, The Ballad of Charles Joseph Whitman by Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys (there was a rumor about a tumor...nestled at the base of his brain)

I have no words really, about what happened in Virginia. It's just so tremendously, tremendously sad.
Oh, the Confederate flag has something to do with race now and secession is treason?

Wow, do they even bother teaching history in schools anymore?
unless you live in a fairy tale world, yes, the confederate flag has always been about slavery and racism.

And when an American rejects his country and takes up arms agianst it, that is pretty much the definition of treason.
No, they don't teach history in a LOT of schools. :(
but they teach emnough history that one should know THAT!
Man, what a disturbing song. I can understand why this affected you so much. No matter how routine these school shootings are and could become, I don't think I'll ever get used to them. It is frightening and sad on so many diffferent levels...

Anyway, feel free to beat me up, but I have no problem with the Confederate flag. I used to work in a flag shop, and people were very apologetic about buying these flags, but it seemed that for most of them it was a symbol of Southern pride and resilience rather than racism or war. That's not to say redneck psychobillies don't like it, too, for entirely the wrong reasons...I just think it means different things to different folks.
The founding fathers of this country thought secession was patriotism, not treason. Patriotism not to a lump of land, but to the principles that Great Britain was built on. Those who seceded in the South and fought in the War for Southern Independence (not a civil war, as a civil war is when two sides want to rule over each other. The South simply wanted to go their way in peace) felt the principles this nation was built on were also being ruined by the North. No not slavery, but federal tyranny through the tariff on southern goods.

The North was JUST as racist as the South at the time. Lincoln himself was an admitted white supremacist. And yet were suppose to believe they gathered up an army and killed 600,000 men for a race that they hated? Come on. That's like buying Bush's line on MWDs for war in Iraq.

Sure the flag is used by countless uneducated rednecks today to show their hate, but that's not what it means to quite a few people who know more. Personally, I wouldn't care if it was banned or taken down, I'd just like to see some of the ideas that it was created for make a come back. :)
Gotta partly agree with Scott: Racism was a marginal issue in the war, at most. Lincoln believed men should not be bought and sold, but he certainly didn't believe in any kind of equality. He scoffed at the idea.
TODAY slavery stands out to us as the predominant issue of the Civil War, but sadly it didn't back then. Some of the most powerful and effective opponents of Southern slavery, like Wilberforce, were British.
My gosh. How different the world would be if the Kennedys were alive. Bobby had some massive juevos. The more I read about him, the more I respect him.

I think I like your friend Scott. I don't have a problem with the Confederate flag. The North was benefiting from slavery, and so was England.

And yes, there are times you have to take up arms against your own nation - when your nation becomes a tyranny. Was the South justified? No.

It was a war about tariffs. Jefferson Davis planned to outlaw slavery in 1869. So if the war really was about slavery, was it worth 600k+ people dying for four years? I don't have the answer to that. I do think 600k+ people dying for tariff disputes wasn't worth it.

For the record, in Southern gun shows, I've seen a lot of Confederate flags. Have the folks with the flags had problems selling me guns and ammo? No. They smile when they do, and we sometimes have good discussions about guns and freedom. Quite the opposite of what a lot of white folks who never lived in the South would expect.
It was a war about tariffs. Jefferson Davis planned to outlaw slavery in 1869. So if the war really was about slavery, was it worth 600k+ people dying for four years? I don't have the answer to that. I do think 600k+ people dying for tariff disputes wasn't worth it.

Well the succession was about the tariff, the war was about the secession.

Were 600,000 deaths worth a tariff? No, of course not, but I don't think the South was looking for a war anymore than the colonists were when they seceded. Thing is though, political leaders don't like to loose a large portion of their tax base without a fight. Especially if they have big plans for funding big business railroad and canal builders with welfare like Lincoln did.
GWB- What a tragety, once again. Your memory amazed me. When Bobby, was murdered, I was maybe 13, what I recall most of that specific event, was his funeral train. And just crying going on for days.I had gotten to shake his hand just a few months before, right in front of the JJ Newburys store, in down town Owego NY. Bobby had been there for some sort of doings at local VFW. But every one knew this man was so very important. And can not even say why or how. And Harry Chapin, my husband and I were newly weds, he was at the Binghamton Arena, we were going to go see him, but sick child prevented that from happening. And he was in an accident not 3 weeks later and was gone. You made me remember some other stuff, that I will mull over. Am VV sister, and vist some of her blog friends that I can relate to. Thanks for stirring memories. p
Ihad tickets to see him 3rd row center stage at Holiday Star Theatre in Merrilville IN. He died 10 days before the show.

funny what a small world it really is!
Where u at? I keep checking back and there's nothing new. *sigh* Are you and Tshsmom kicking back in a canoe on a river somewhere? Is that why neither of you has posted anything lately?
no, it's just that the canoe blog has taken up way more of my time then I ever imagined.
GWB - One of these days, I'll post my canoe joke.

In the meantime, an update to this blog would be nice. hint, hint.
I am old age 53 amd the main thing I know is that life is precious and sacred, no matter how they trivialise death.

As Oscar Wilde said (while in jail) "All of us are in the gutter, but some of us are looking up at the stars"
We'd love to see some more canoin' pics. Harry Chapin's a cool guy, but I'm getting a bit sick of seeing him around here! ;)
Lost track of you for a while. Lost my husband also...the bloody hospital killed him...am slowly coming back to read stuff... anything rather than think about hat I would like to do to the filthy bastards we call doctoors these days...
he was killed by them 17 may...and I will get some satisfaction fpr his suffering come hell of high water. Wasn't a baby boomer for nought.
Ditto what tshsmom said. Remember those days too, especially the funeral.

As usual, the Chapin song is sad and deep.

Scott's right about the Civil War, which in recent times (due to a lack of quality teaching, I guess) has become incorrectly associated with slavery/racism (maybe those who don't think too clearly will cling to any justification, however twisted). My summary is that it was states versus federal rights (to secede). Why the #$^%^ anyone would start war over something like that, heaven only knows.
Are you still about Great white bearie?
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