Little Birch Tree — Will It Fall To Russiaphobic Axe?

A controversy is raging among instructors in a national preschool music education program: should the Russian folk song that is traditionally part of April’s curriculum be taught this year? For your reference, “Little Birch Tree” is performed here by the Seattle Girls Choir in times slightly less rife with hatred for Russia.

The inability of people in the U.S. to reason about the connections — if any — between traditional cultural artifacts and current geopolitical realities frightens me. Ban Russian chess players who express support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, they cry! Guessing they missed The Queen’s Gambit film about chess and Russian influence in that sphere? But that’s beside the point. The point is, which U.S. chess champions were banned for supporting U.S. imperial wars on Syria, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. ?

Don’t teach the authors Dostoevsky or Solzhenitsyn, they demand! Even though both were anti-authoritarian thinkers whose books long since entered the canon of world literature. And are dead. Not to mention that you will not find a book with the depth and breadth of The Idiot to replace it in your syllabus.

Even license plates are suspect these days. Here’s an apologia for a vanity plate I saw on the street this morning:

Meanwhile, back in Maine, the home of the late peacemaker Samantha Smith, spring gardeners are facing up to the reality that nearly all varieties of tomatoes that grow well in our state are, um, Russian. Or descended from Russians. (Full disclosure: we have a lot of birch trees as well.)

I’m laughing at all this so I don’t cry because, really, it is frightening how aggressively ignorant your average corporate news consumer is showing herself to be these days. Check out some of them spouting off in reply to my tweet after President Biden’s gaffe calling for regime change to remove Russia’s leader. (My reference is to a U.S. oligarch defending the right to topple Bolivia’s elected government after he was blocked from mining lithium there.)

They sure told me, didn’t they?

The only one that even bothered to mount an argument either believes the Russian invasion was “without provocation” or chooses to say so despite copious evidence to the contrary. (Maybe because he doesn’t want to be banned from Twitter for failing to spout the party line?).

As one music teacher commented about the attempt to ban the birch tree song for being Russian, “This is how people end up in concentration camps.”

One thought on “Little Birch Tree — Will It Fall To Russiaphobic Axe?

  1. Hi Lisa, thank you for expressing what I have also been feeling. In fact, I may not have any American friends remaining soon, as I’ve lost a few to Trump, and now more who are supporting U.S. intervention in Ukraine. I don’t want politics to define my friendships, most of which go back decades, but it does seem to be working out that way because I’m appalled at how gullible Americans are, and the lack of discernment, critical analysis, and even skepticism.

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