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Saturday, December 27, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 37.0° F  Overcast
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'I got a shotgun': Comparing the dueling songbooks of the Solidarity Sing Along and the Permit Singers
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The Solidarity Sing Along has protested Gov. Scott Walker's right-wing agenda weekdays at noon since March 11, 2011, when collective bargaining was on the chopping block. But some locals from the other end of the political spectrum are raising their voices in song as well. These songbirds, David Blaska and the We Got a Permit Singers, are trying to be the loudest choir on the block, even if they're the smallest.

Whether this is an attempt to divert attention from the arrests of Capitol protesters or an effort to prove that conservatives can carry a tune, it's a telling illustration of the values some of Walker's most ardent supporters hold. The Permit Singers songbook is filled with ephemera from the '60s. The Flintstones and Gilligan's Island theme songs are in there, along with references to God, guns and American flags. The most modern feature is a Twitter hashtag printed on the cover page.

In contrast, the Solidarity songbook tends to feature material from traditional spirituals and gospel songs, modern folksingers and local rockers like the Kissers. The Solidarity singers aren't very subtle, but they're contemporary and creative. Clever, even, as when lambasting the Koch Brothers to the tune of "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing," the song synonymous with Coke.

Here are some of the Permit Singers' lyrics, alongside verses from the Solidarity songbook.

Solidarity Sing Along: 'This Land Is Your Land'

This land is your land, this land is my land
From Lake Geneva to Madeline Island
From the rolling prairies to our lovely dairies
This land was made for you and me

Permit Singers: 'This Land Is My Land, It Is Not Your Land'

This land is my land, it is not your land
I got a shotgun, and you ain't got none
If you don't get off, I'll call the sheriff
This land is private property

Woody Guthrie's "This Land" starts with an ode to America's glorious landscape, from its redwood forest to its Gulf Stream waters. But in subsequent verses, as he sings about "no trespassing signs" and poor people huddled beneath the shadow of a steeple, he wonders if "this land" is truly "made for you and me." Guthrie, the everyman, is just the kind of person the Permit Singers want off their lawn. (Interestingly, the words to his version of the song appear in their songbook.)

Solidarity Sing Along: 'On, Wisconsin!'

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Union through and through
Recall the Senate union busters
Their boss, Walker, too

Permit Singers: 'On, Wisconsin!'

On, Wisconsin! On, Wisconsin!
Champion of the RIGHT!
'Forward' is our motto
God will give thee might

"Oh, Wisconsin" is more like it. The Permit Singers highlight the word "forward," noting that they're achieving their goals because God is on their side. The Solidarity crew looks backward, to Wisconsin's history of union membership and progressive policymaking. And recall attempts. Now what sort of verse might they write about the future?

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