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These Leonard Cohen Lyrics Explain Politics Today

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LEONARD COHEN
Matt Crossick/Matt Crossick
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Leonard Cohen wasn't a particularly political lyricist. He was concerned with the human condition, and he spent more than his share of time peeking into the darkest corners of the human soul.

But, to paraphrase Nietzsche, if you stare into the abyss long enough, the abyss also stares into you. Cohen wrestled with monsters, and he learned a thing or two about them.

Give me absolute control
Over every living soul
And lie beside me, baby, that's an order!

("The Future," 1992)

Remind you of anyone? That song also includes the line "It's lonely here, there's no one left to torture," which could well be an assessment of U.S. foreign relations a few years from now.

But when Cohen did turn political, he reflected an anger and a yearning for justice that might ring true to many today.

Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows

("Everybody Knows," 1988)

And if you're one of the (I suspect) many people who are entertaining apocalyptic visions as you await Trump's inauguration, Cohen's "The Future" (1992) more or less paints the backdrop for you.

There'll be the breaking of the ancient
western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There'll be phantoms
There'll be fires on the road
and the white man dancing
You'll see a woman
hanging upside down
her features covered by her fallen gown...

A misogynistic armageddon? Check. A "white man dancing"? You bet he is.

Eventually, though, you calm down and move to the resignation and depression stages of grief. Leonard's there for you here, too.

I missed you since the place got wrecked
But I just don't care what happens next
It looks like freedom but it feels like death
It's something in between, I guess
It's closing time

("Closing Time," 1992)

And, not unlike in our current political circumstances, it's often hard to find a silver lining in Cohen's words. But he understood that in the darkest places, in the darkest times, you can still find the most beautiful things. And those things will endure.

...She shows you where to look
Among the garbage and the flowers
There are heroes in the seaweed
There are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love
And they will lean that way forever

("Suzanne," 1967)

Amen, Leonard. Requiem in pace.

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