Thursday, February 23, 2017

Sweet Cana Land

Scholars believe that many spirituals, in addition to being expressions of religious fervor, were also a highly sophisticated code for communicating dangerous information among the enslaved.  "There's No Hiding Place" warned that a refuge was unsafe.  "The Gospel Train" is probably a reference to the Underground Railroad.  "There's a Man Goin' Round Takin' Names" let people know that a sale of slaves was imminent.  "Down By the Riverside" is a good route to take if you need to evade bloodhounds.

After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, the ultimate refuge was "Sweet Cana Land," i.e., Canada.  To get there, people were enjoined to "Follow the Drinking Gourd" (the Big Dipper and the North Star).  I don't know how these people arrived at the U.S.-Canada border on a cold, sunny day in February 2017, or where they were born, or what documents they carry.  But the expression of the policeman holding the child is what I would like to see if I had fled my unspeakably war-shattered home and found a place of rest.  No longer "Mother of Exiles," America is now -- again -- a place for the tempest-tossed to flee.  Shame, and eternal shame.

Thank you, Mr. Trudeau, merci beaucoup.  There's a statue in New York harbor that, I'm thinking, would look just right in Halifax or Vancouver.  We only use it as a prop in the background for car insurance commercials.  Make us an offer.  Everything is on the table.  Going, going...  


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