Whoever said music isn’t political, listen up.
American Congresswoman Donna Edwards quoted the White Stripes to congress last week during a debate over whether or not the American government should be shut down.
“Mr. Speaker there have been a lot of quotes on this floor,” Edwards opened, “so this one goes out to our young people and our seniors and service members and federal workers who stand to be effected by a government shutdown. It’s a lesson for my republican colleagues courtesy of the White Stripes.”
Edwards went on to read lyrics from the rock song “Effect and Cause,” preaching that “You can’t take the effect and make it the cause,” (or stated more metaphorically, “If you’re heading to the grave, you don’t blame the hearse”
And it’s not that Edwards made the song political by presenting it to Congress— the 2007 -released song lends itself to political interpretation. “I guess you have to have a problem / If you want to invent a contraption” sounds all to Foucault-like, despite the fact that the song is about a broken hearted lover.
The speaker of the song is broken hearted, evidenced in the line “I’m reactin’ to you because you left me broken-hearted.” The speaker is informing his former love interest that he’s no longer interested: “I ain’t the reason that you gave me no reason to return your call / You built a house of cards and got shocked when you saw them fall.”
The speaker of the song lets his lover know his love has died, but he’s only reacting to the actions of his lover: “Well, first came an action / And then a reaction / But you can’t switch around / For your own satisfaction.” (I smell betrayal).
Edwards interprets the emotionally abusive relationship between the burned speaker and his lover as a metaphor for the relationship between the American people and the government, with Americans playing the naive and hurt lover and the government playing the abusive partner.
The government shutdown was averted when the Democrats and Republicans finally agreed to a budget for this year, but the video, which currently has 125,667 views on YouTube, evidences the political nature of music and the subversive capacity of interpretation.