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National Brotherhood Week, by Tom Lehrer (1965)

https://opensiddur.org/?p=49039 National Brotherhood Week, by Tom Lehrer (1965) 2023-02-23 21:02:46 "<a href="https://tomlehrersongs.com/824-2/">National Brotherhood Week</a>" by Tom Lehrer was first released on his album "That Was The Year That Was" (1965). National Brotherhood Week in February was first established in the 1930s by the National Conference of Christians and Jews as a means of promoting the values of inter-religious tolerance and civic interdependence. The week gained federal support from President Franklin Roosevelt during World War Ⅱ as a means of combatting fascist and nativist objections to a vision of democracy built on the foundation of a multicultural civil society. By the time Tom Lehrer lampooned the civic commemoration in 1965, the McCarthyite oppressions of the Red Scare and Lavender Scare during the Cold War, the manufactured Vietnam War, lingering anti-Semitic prejudice and suspicion, the continued struggle for civil rights with its continued lynchings, the assassination of JFK and increasing political violence had all exposed National Brotherhood Week for many young adults as <em>phony</em>, a historical relic that had lost the import of any cultural imperative it might have once possessed. Text the Open Siddur Project Aharon N. Varady (transcription) Aharon N. Varady (transcription) Tom Lehrer https://opensiddur.org/copyright-policy/ Aharon N. Varady (transcription) https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/ National Brotherhood Week 20th century C.E. זמירות zemirot civil rights 58th century A.M. Sardonic poetry contrarianism satire
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Oh, the white folks hate the black folks,
And the black folks hate the white folks.
To hate all but the right folks
Is an old established rule.
But during National Brotherhood Week,
National Brotherhood Week,
See Cassius Clay and Mrs. Wallace dancing cheek to cheek.[1] ”Cassius Clay and Mrs. Wallace,” according to this 1967 performance. In the original 1965 lyrics: “Lena Horne and Sherriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.” Tom Lehrer notes, “This line has been replaced many times by one with different appropriate pairings.” 
It’s fun to eulogize
The people you despise,
As long as you don’t let ’em in your school.
Oh, the poor folks hate the rich folks,
And the rich folks hate the poor folks.
All of my folks hate all of your folks,
It’s American as apple pie.
But during National Brotherhood Week,
National Brotherhood Week,
New Yorkers love the Puerto Ricans ’cause it’s very chic.
Step up and shake the hand
Of someone you can’t stand.
You can tolerate him if you try.
Oh, the Protestants hate the Catholics,
And the Catholics hate the Protestants,
And the Hindus hate the Moslems,
And everybody hates the Jews.
But during National Brotherhood Week,
National Brotherhood Week,
It’s National Everyone-smile-at-one-another-hood Week.
Be nice to people who
Are inferior to you.
It’s only for a week, so have no fear.
Be grateful that it doesn’t last all year!

National Brotherhood Week” by Tom Lehrer was first released on his album “That Was The Year That Was” (1965). National Brotherhood Week in February was first established in the 1930s by the National Conference of Christians and Jews as a means of promoting the values of inter-religious tolerance and civic interdependence. The week gained federal support from President Franklin Roosevelt during World War Ⅱ as a means of combatting fascist and nativist objections to a vision of democracy built on the foundation of a multicultural civil society. By the time Tom Lehrer lampooned the civic commemoration in 1965, the McCarthyite oppressions of the Red Scare and Lavender Scare during the Cold War, the manufactured Vietnam War, lingering anti-Semitic prejudice and suspicion, the continued struggle for civil rights with its continued lynchings, the assassination of JFK and increasing political violence had all exposed National Brotherhood Week for many young adults as phony, a historical relic that had lost the import of any cultural imperative it might have once possessed. I feel very strongly that if anything has been proven by the past decade, it is that antifascist civic values undergirding our democratic civil society require continued, enduring promotion. If Tom Lehrer showed us anything through his jaunty takedown, it is that such civic values need to register as genuine and authentic if they are not to be watered down to the point of irrelevance. –Aharon Varady

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Notes
1”Cassius Clay and Mrs. Wallace,” according to this 1967 performance. In the original 1965 lyrics: “Lena Horne and Sherriff Clarke are dancing cheek to cheek.” Tom Lehrer notes, “This line has been replaced many times by one with different appropriate pairings.”

 

 

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