A Cautionary Tale: “Washington Is Burning”

A Cautionary Tale: “Washington Is Burning”

By Rabbi Corinne Copnick



My musician son-in-law, Ira Brown, a brain cancer survivor, has just released his digitally re-mastered, iconic statement-song, “Washington is Burning.” It is intended as a cautionary tale, originally written twenty years ago at the cusp of a new century. Hopefully our current, articulate, caring, post-millennial generation, at the threshold of their adult lives, will prevent a societal breakdown from happening in their own time.

When “Washington Is Burning” was first released in 1998, it was played repeatedly on many College Radio stations across the nation, charting in the top ten and rising to Number One on College Radio stations for many weeks.

What Happened in 1998?

For starters, an American President was impeached. Unsparing of the sordid details, radio and television stations and the print media (we did not yet have Facebook, launched in 2004, or the Social Media that accompanied its growth) relentlessly dissected President Bill Clinton’s affair with White House Intern Monica Lewinsky. Paula Jones accused him of sexual harassment. Finally, in December of that year, he was impeached. (The American public, however, still loved Bill because he loved them, and eventually he was forgiven.)

All this was happening against the chaotic, controversial background of the Iran disarmament crisis in the face of Iraq’s refusal to end its nuclear program. Nuclear tests took place in India and Pakistan. There were bombings at U.S. embassies abroad.

At home, nature was also taking its revenge through the devastating winter storms, destructive tornadoes, and floods caused by El Nino in a number of states. Gay rights issues came to the fore after a gay college student was tied to a fence, tortured by his classmates, and left to die. As if this were not enough, a number of killings, mass murders, and plots to kill took place in the U.S.:  an abortion clinic bombing in Alabama in which people died; two white Nevada separatists plotting bio-warfare on the N.Y. City subway system; military grade anthrax threats; teenagers opening fire on classmates in Jonesboro, Arkansas; sentencing for the Oklahoma bombing;  in Oregon a mentally-deranged boy with a semi-automatic rifle killed two and wounded 25, after killing his parents at home. In Los Angeles, there were the riots. And so on.

1998 was a year in which many good things happened too, but they were overshadowed in the public mind. Metaphorically, for most people, Washington, the embodiment of the American dream, was burning.

And now?

Now it is 2018. Sadly, “Washington is Burning” has become socially relevant again. Yes, it’s a cautionary tale, musically brought home. The post-millennials have been bombarded with images of horrible events on their computers and smart phones since they were born. In 2001, as babies, they experienced 9/11 and its aftermath. They began lock-down drills in nursery school. This is not the fearful atmosphere in which my grandchildren’s generation want to build their bright futures. It’s our job as a nation to give them the inspirational support to make a difference in our society.

Topical Artists, the record label launching “Washington is Burning,” was created by husband and wife team, Shelley Spiegel (my daughter!) and Ira Brown to support socially relevant music and art. In this new Alternative Rock version, Ira and his talented, teenage daughter, Rachel Genna, create a seamless vocal performance inspired by the call to action of millions of American voices in the midst of the turbulent political climate. Rachel is an anti-bullying activist in her own right.

Purchasers can opt to make a donation to Brain Cancer Research when they buy a copy of the song (https://washingtonisburning.com).


©️Corinne Copnick, Los Angeles, 2018. All rights reserved.