Lizzo, the Flute, and Racist-Sexist Republican Fallout
It would be kinda nice to just blog normal music matters and stay in my lane for once. Alas, everything in music news this week is taken up by the "controversy" of the following incident:
The artist Lizzo, who happens to be black and female, played James Madison's flute.
No really, that is all that happened. The Library of Congress, which currently houses the flute belonging to one of the United States' most prominent founding fathers, gave the flute to Lizzo to play. So this event was entirely between the Library of Congress and Lizzo, nobody else's input was needed. But of course, the right wing has plenty of input to offer anyway.
Republicans Had a Meltdown About Lizzo Playing a Flute
So much so that Rolling Stone had to drop everything and cover it. The reaction reads like a rogue's gallery of loyal Fascists to the Putin-Trump ticket. Matt Walsh complained that letting a black female pop star play the flute was "desecrating American history." Ben Shapiro accused Lizzo of just trolling the public to get attention. Greg Price said that the incident "degraded our history." Darren Beattie fussed that Lizzo playing the flute heralded in the "American Globalist Empire." Andrew McCarthy said that everyone involved "should be deported."
This goes on for DAYS! Everybody who has ever had an (R) next to their name while in office apparently had to tweet about this. Clearly, the issue lies with Lizzo's (a) race and (b) gender, along with the Library of Congress' clear left-leaning bias - anything with "library" in the name is an enemy of the Republican agenda now since they started burning / banning books. Some Republicans even took to fat-shaming Lizzo, as if her weight had anything to do with anything else.
This is what happens when a black or a female American breaks out of the bottom ranks to enjoy a nice moment basking in the freedom and liberty the rest of us enjoy without question.
So let's unpack a few facts…
The Library of Congress Loans Out Instruments All the Time
They clarified the same in this post on their own blog. In a nutshell, the LoC has always had the policy that instruments stored with them need to be taken out and played sometimes, just because that's what instruments are supposed to do. The LoC stores a vast array of instruments, including 1,700 flutes! Most of the instruments which have been donated came with the stipulation that anybody could play them. The LoC chief librarian, Carla Hayden, saw that Lizzo would be playing in Washington D.C. and since Lizzo is a classically trained flutist, she arranged the performance.
Besides which, we will point out that the Library of Congress is a federal, taxpayer-supported service meant for every American citizen to enjoy. In fact, anyone with a card can get in there for academic research, just like you'd expect from a library. Even the general public is permitted to have hands-on experiences with some instruments.
The flute itself was a gift to James Madison by the artisan Claude Laurent, whom had patented the leaded glass flute. Up until then, flutes had been made out of wood, ivory, and other materials, which do not stand up to changes in humidity and temperature. The more durable glass flutes were but a passing fad before we began crafted metal flutes. The flute given to Madison is but one of 17 Laurent flutes at the Library of Congress.
This Was James Madison's Flute, Not the Holy Grail
As we all tirelessly point out to our history-deniers, the United States was founded partly on the premise of leaving behind the imperialist and monarchic governments of the Old World. Again and again, we see where our founding fathers shored up the Constitution with the aim of discouraging us from thinking of a president as a king, to say nothing of treating our historic artifacts as religious icons capable of being "desecrated."
James Madison himself owned African-American slaves, reportedly up to 100 total. This was the common practice at the time; most of our nation's founding fathers owned slaves. Reportedly, he was a benevolent slave owner who saw to their basic good care, but still never emancipated one, not even in his will. Not to mention that he wasn't above fathering a child or two with his slaves.
Far from "desecrating" a sacred relic, Lizzo playing Madison's flute was symbolic of the Civil Rights movement having turned a new page in American history. Madison himself would not have objected.
If You Object to Lizzo Playing Madison's Flute: You're a Bigot!
As the LoC points out, they do this on a regular basis all the time. Yet never before has one of these incidents rustled a single jimmy. In the present day, verily everything you can do can tick off a Republican, including educating kids about vaccines, giving students a break on loan debt, teaching kids about Civil Rights, or casting a black mermaid. Remember when Halle Berry played Catwoman? Republicans were shier about speaking up then.
Let people enjoy things. Especially the Library of Congress, that's our tax dollars at work!