folk music and liberalism

I just got an e-mail asking of Defiance, Ohio wanted to do an interview for a zine called Even If Your Voice Shakes which is put out by some folks involved with the Riot Folk collective.  It made me think about some of the discomfort that I have with folk music and that moniker being applied to music I help make (though I also need to think about why I’m more comfortable with the term Punk, maybe just because it feels like more my own, less inherited from a generation I associate with parents and power structures).  One issue with discomfort is regarding associations between folk music and race.  I wanted to learn a little more about this so I found Aesthetic Identity, Race, and American Folk Music, but didn’t yet get a chance to read it.  In the abstract for this article, it talked about folk music being adopted by social movements in the 60s and suggested that while those movements were multiracial, or at least attempted to be, with music being a part of it, that folk music was eventually whitened.  I think I associate folk music with being this very white, safe, established thing, just as some of the more visible remnants of movements of the 60s and the generation that was alive then seems that way.  This made me think about how I categorize the liberalism that I tend to demonize, and this is what I came up with:

Liberalism, as I think about it, is less about a specific set of political ideologies or positions and more about having an affinity to an ideology without being a stakeholder in the realities that underly political or policy questions.  For instance, there are many people in the US who are opposed to the war in Iraq, but I would argue the majority of those people are not necessarily soldiers or family members of soldiers or Iraqi or family members of Iraqis, or in some other way more closely tied with the war.  I am not arguing that one’s political perspective or responsibility rests on the nature of one’s connection to a particular issue, but I think that there needs to be a lot of self-consciousness, and movement-consciousness about how one’s orientation around an issue affects one’s beliefs and actions.  The 60s seemed to be an interesting time because so many more people became stakeholders in the issues of the times.  White, (upper) middle class people were being drafted to go to war in Vietnam, or faced that looming reality.  Similarly, white, (upper) middle class people faced race riots in their schools as students (as my parents did), seeing their schools, neighborhoods, and communities become desegregated and the tensions that came from those changes.  Certainly, white (upper) middle class people are still stakeholders in questions of race and peace in the present, but I think their orientation is much more static and the connections have been effectively obscured.  For instance, with questions of race, I think most liberal people find it easier to identify and critique racism external to themselves or their communities instead of being forced (as I feel desegregation did in the 60s) to come to terms with their involvement in race and power in the US.