Mister Banker

Mister Banker

Mister please, how much does money mean
Won’t you reconsider mister
Won’t you do this thing for me
Ain’t got no house
Ain’t got no car
All I got, Lord, is my guitar
But you can have that mister banker
Won’t you bury my papa for me
Oh mister banker please
Listen to how that sound

I would not be here on my knees
But hey mister banker
It means so much to me
Oh won’t you reconsider mister
Won’t you do this thing for me

I told you mister
I ain’t got no house
Ain’t got no car
I got me a 1950 Les Paul guitar
Won’t you take it mister banker
Won’t you bury my papa for me
Oh mister banker please[1]

It’s a little before my time and maybe it only ever existed in the movies, but I distinctly remember that it was a sin—a sin—to let a man (I can only hope: or a woman) go without a “Christian burial.”

I’m leaving aside, for now, any issues with religious association and internment practices. Because these aren’t really at the heart of that particular notion of sin. Instead, we have an obligation to a dead man (or, maybe, I hope, a woman), perhaps even one who received little respect in life. They have to be buried (or something). We don’t just leave bodies in the desert for the vultures and the buzzards to pick at.

I was listening to that Lynard Skynyrd song, “Mr. Banker,” the lyrics to which open this essay, tonight as I drove home.

When I got home, I took a final crack at email. And there was the Wall Street Journal editorial page being hysterical about “socialists.”

There’s a self-righteousness to the so-called “center.” Mainstream politicians of both major parties run more or less on a promise that Donald Trump merely made explicit: a claim that they [pause for effect] alone can [fill in the blank]. And as neoconservative—and therefore neoliberal—policies became the governing consensus,[2] they became patriotic.

Which was to marginalize everyone who isn’t wealthy and white. The rest of us—all of the rest of us—live to some degree in the shadows, the frontiers between respectability and the ordinary—or worse, the cheap. And all of it in material terms, such as money.

When money is the object, we are inherently alone. The project for each of us is an accumulation, most obviously at the expense of others.[3]

And then there’s Ronnie Van Zant, in character, belting out those blues with no one to pay for his poppa’s burial. How alone can we be?

  1. [1]Edward C. King, Gary Robert Rossington, and Ronald W. Van Zant, “Mr. Banker,” AZLyrics, n.d., https://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/lynyrdskynyrd/mrbanker.html
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  3. [3]David Benfell, “They must pay,” Not Housebroken, February 21, 2019, https://disunitedstates.org/2019/02/21/they-must-pay/

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