The post was originally published at Ongoing History Of Protest Songs.
Most countries have holidays and observances that celebrate aspects of their founding and heritage. For many, it is an opportunity to display patriotic pride, but for others, it is the time to somberly reflect on dark chapters of their nation’s history.
This is the premise of “Forever Half Mast.” Indie singer-songwriter Lucy Dacus wrote the song in connection with American Independence Day. It is part of a series of songs about holidays, and it grapples with how a citizen should view the shameful parts of their history.
“There is a daily dissonance one endures as an American wherein much of our joy is counterweighted by shame, where much of our pride lives in tandem with injustice and suffering,” Dacus said in a press statement. “‘Forever Half Mast’ is about confronting this unavoidable culpability as an American citizen and consumer.”
“Instead of allowing this guilt to paralyze us, we should try to let it influence us in positive ways.”
The lyrics address those who try to whitewash the atrocities of the past. “They were wrong when they said, ‘forget the past.'”
The arguments of “forget the past” are used to argue against reparations for past slavery or to dismiss centuries old wounds of the native population.
Failure to address the past only furthers the racial divide and makes it impossible to move forward. Acknowledgement is an important step in reconciliation. You cannot learn from the mistakes of history if you pretend they do not exist.
This July 4 (or July 1 for us Canadians) is the perfect opportunity to reflect on our nation’s history, warts and all.
Many people passively benefit from systemic oppression. By reflecting on the painful lessons of history, we can be motivated to embrace hope and compassion and take a stand for positive change.