By the Way
What Do John McCain, Public Enemy and MLK All Have in Common?
By PJ Tobia
on Fri, Oct 24, 2008 at 12:40 PM
While cruising YouTube last night I came across one of my favorite songs from the early '90s. It’s called “By the Time I Get to Arizona,” by Public Enemy, and was written after the Republican governor of that state repealed Martin Luther King Day as a state holiday in 1987. The song, written by Chuck D, is essentially a political essay in praise of King, but also about the irony of a sunny state with smiling faces being led by powers that are wedded to the “good old days” that weren’t so good for everybody.
The video shows Public Enemy and their paramilitary wing--the S1W's--assassinating the political leadership of Arizona with car bombs, poison and bullets, while interspersing reenactments of '60s era civil rights protests. The final frame juxtaposes an image of the Arizona governor’s car exploding with a dramatization of King being shot on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. It’s pretty heavy stuff, especially for 1991.
The reason its relevant now is that John McCain initially supported the move to repeal the holiday, telling the Washington Post in 1987 that he felt governor Even Mecham “was correct on rescinding the holiday.” A few years later—after a media shit-storm erupted—McCain reversed course and supported the state holiday, but still voted against the federal day off.
Last April in Memphis, McCain apologized for his early opposition to the holiday, saying, "I was wrong and eventually realized that, in time to give full support for a state holiday in Arizona. We can all be a little late sometimes in doing the right thing, and Dr. King understood this about his fellow Americans."
Good thing the S1W’s didn’t blow him up before he came around.
Another political note about this song: Sister Souljah's voice is used at the beginning of this video. You may remember her "moment" from the first Clinton campaign.