STLT#169, We Shall Overcome

My first instinct this morning was to talk around the history of this song to get to a discussion of grammar – namely the meaning that shifts when we go from singing ‘we will overcome’ to ‘we shall overcome’… there’s something there, but god help me I just can’t be bothered to dig in. And really, if you are interested in the history, Google is your friend.

As soon as I started writing, I thought about what actually awakened me with a start this morning, and that’s this thought: with the testimony of the Director of the FBI, clearly stating there’s an investigation about 45’s ties to Russia, and Rep. Adam Schiff’s eloquent litany of the circumstantial evidence, I worry this morning: are we being played?

Will this result in nothing, like a tantalizing distraction, while morality, ethics, justice, and compassion are thrown away like yesterday’s candy wrappers? Are we really placating ourselves with these snippets only to find ourselves being crushed and destroyed as a country, as a democracy, as human beings?

And if that’s the case, shall we ever overcome? I know it’s our duty as humans to overcome, but will we? And how will singing a song together at marches and rallies and services make a whisper of a difference?

 We shall overcome,
we shall overcome,
we shall overcome someday!
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
we shall overcome someday!

We’ll walk hand in hand,
we’ll walk hand in hand,
we’ll walk hand in hand someday!
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
we’ll walk hand in hand someday!

We shall all be free,
we shall all be free,
we shall all be free someday!
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
we shall all be free someday!

We shall live in peace,
we shall live in peace,
we shall live in peace someday!
Oh, deep in my heart I do believe
we shall live in peace someday!

This is so aspirational, so confident. I feel so little of that this morning. I am scared to death, and on a day like today I feel paralyzed. Singing this song, alone with my thoughts, did nothing to assuage my fears.

Perhaps it would be better if I was singing with others, or in a place of action. Sitting in my sister’s living room is most assuredly not that place.

But as am scared today. Maybe I’ll be better tomorrow, and maybe tomorrow I will see a way out of the paralyzing fear, but today, I’m not so sure we shall overcome.

image is from a 1966 rally organized by SNCC in Virginia.

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