Sunday, May 21, 2006

“It may be different elsewhere. But Democratic society – in it – the highest duty of the writer, the composer, the artist is to remain true to himself and to let the chips fall where they may.”

President Kennedy spoke those words in reference to the response of artists during his time. But it could easily be said, and should be said, of all of us, in any occupation, any time, and especially now.

As things continue on their downward spiral in this world while most W-eary Americans grind away trying to make ends meet, I’ve gotten angrier, and angrier, and angrier. Like many of you I feel a bit defeated in trying to do or say anything, because the agenda just rolls along in what appears to be our President’s own personal direction. People around me are baffled by his behavior, but having raised two toddlers, I can say, that’s what he is: a toddler, testing his ability to defy the authority (of Congress), conceiving a world that is solely about him and an economy that exists for his benefit only. I feel so often that the rest of us are invisible at best, unwelcome at most.

I go back and forth with myself about the intent and purpose of this blog. For the most part, I want to introduce to a few people some new music, artists they may not know, or for seasoned visitors well steeped in the traditions and the people, maybe a new way of looking at an artist or a song or an instrument. There is so much. But, at the same time, I have established a public platform. I could use that platform to share niceties about things like how absolutely extraordinary the Tony Rice show was last night. Or, I could take an opportunity now and then to remind readers that, for example, our President (Ok, yours; I didn’t vote for him) is simultaneously propelling our nation higher into debt and trying to make new friends by passing a $70 billion tax cut, which will be taken out of the hides of education, health care, human services, arts and culture. (Just go on now, most arts and cultural organizations have already been warned.) A roster of the most decorated former generals of the United States Army stood up and said Rummy’s gotta go; in his most formidable preschooler voice the President said, “No. He’s not going anywhere. Na-na-na-na boo-boo.”

We have essentially before us six months until a critical election in which many gubernatorial and congressional races will be decided. Don’t sit on your duff if you have time or energy or half a brain you could devote to change. I get that many readers are tired of politics; here’s my response: I’m tired of hearing people whine when they haven’t done anything to solve the problem. I’m tired of hearing people who get paid handsomely whine about the jobs they are lucky to have. I’m tired of hearing how people are getting hit with high gas prices but continue to purchase and drive SUVs. (Before it starts: Yes, I drive a station wagon. It’s paid for with my poor dead mother’s money, and with it I haul bicycles, kids, guitars, friends, luggage, recycling, plants, and someday, probably a dog. And I’d trade it for a Prius today, but I can’t afford a car payment so I’m stuck with eliminating vacations and reducing the number of unnecessary errands I run.) I’m tired of people talking about how expensive everything is when half the crap they buy they don’t need anyway. There are exceptions: One is food prices, which are skyrocketing, and show no sign of slowing. That is likely tied in no small way to fuel prices, and the freight charges are being passed on to us. I’m no longer embarrassed to admit I clip coupons – and use them. Another clearly is energy prices, and I’m not just talking petroleum. You explain to me how my natural gas bill can still be so high when the gas recovery rates and demand both have gone down after this mild winter.

Another big one for me: religion. I am sick and tired of being sick and TIRED of hearing politicians on any side of the aisle use God to justify ANYTHING. How about doing the right thing because it’s the right thing? So to all those theocrats all worked up about The War on Christianity: how many times has our President used the word, “CRUSADE”, in describing his attacks on the Muslim world? Are the members of that entire administration really so stupid as to imagine the rest of the world shouldn’t hate us? PUT THE PRAYER BOOKS DOWN AND SHUT UP ALREADY.

That’s just politics. Think of all the other things wrong with the world because of our nation’s corporate greed, our racism (why isn’t more being done in Darfur? I bet that $70 billion could go a long way to feed a hungry African child or move AIDS research along, don’t you think?), and our institutional inability to allow that our ideology might not be the best for advancing humanity. Look what’s it’s done for us.

So. There’s really quite a lot that needs to change. And frankly, any artist who doesn’t use his or her platform to advance change is denying part of the responsibility that goes along with fame. I know a lot of people make the conclusion that people of any sort of fame use their platforms as publicity stunts. When I saw a segment on Bono the other night, I fully expected the blogs to roll with bitching about how yet another famous artist was using the world’s plight as his gain. But as far as I’m concerned, if you’re in a position to do something, ANYthing, that might win over our media-obsessed society and get them to pay attention for five minutes, you sure as hell had better try.

My experiences and observations of and within the bluegrass and traditional music community have taught me that it is a community of diverse political and social views. I want to offer a forum here that helps the music we all love reach a wider audience and become more practiced. At the same time, I have a hard time believing the world is going to be a place where anyone has time to make or enjoy music if things continue on in their present course. So our paths may divide here to a point.

But before you give up on me, visit Music Row Democrats. Remember when big fat greedy commercial radio pulled the Dixie Chicks (and many of Tim O'Brien's sweet royaltied songs to boot) off the air because they spoke truth to power? That is precisely the kind of anti-democratic behavior we'll get more of until we kill the fear. Here's a clue for those who disagree: how long until someone doesn't like what you have to say? Go ahead and pull the plug, you fat bastards. We're not shutting up, and down the road, like it or not, you'll thank us.

When you go to the site, click on the "play" button on the box that looks like this:

Scroll down the list of tunes and click on Republican Blues. That oughta get your toes tappin and your heart feeling light.

Not what turns your screws? Try another, or visit the forum, or read some of the articles.

And decide what you'll do this week for change.


At May 22, 2006 6:00 PM, Blogger littleblackcube said...

Wow, powerful words but well spoken. It is frustration with apathy that leads to inaction, but I am glad you are there to give a little jolt. Working in the clogged heart of a massive buearucracy I appreciate even more how efficiency and thoughtful action can make a little difference, even when nobody else wants to play along.

At May 23, 2006 7:11 AM, Blogger Mando Mama said...

Hey! Glad to see you powered up that new notebook! Thanks for stopping by. I hope things are going well!

Much of the time, I just sort of quietly go through the day making the little choices I do, as we all do, like not shopping at monster stores or buying things that are Uber-packaged, or buying anything at all. But now and then I think it's important to look around and see what is really happening. I think most Americans are pretty overwhelmed right now but if they'd just take ten seconds and think about the choices they make and the fact that they have control over some of those choices, things might change slowly.

Americans need to quit whining like victims and start acting like leaders.

I am so glad to hear from you. You give that clogged heart a little soul. I better zip over and get the update!


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