Jon Lord, Deep Purple, Legacies

I said I’d do a longer piece on Jon Lord, so.

In the aftermath of his death, I bought a couple of old Deep Purple cds I never had. By old I mean from the Sixties. The Book of Taliesyn, Shades of Deep Purple, Deep Purple. These three albums, the band’s first, were recorded with what is known as the Mark I line-up, which did not include Ian Gillan, who became the most recognizable voice of the band in the Seventies, during their most successful period.

What is fascinating now, in retrospect, is just how much a shift they made after they fired Rod Evans (vocals) and Nick Simper (bass).* The original Deep Purple was very much headed in the direction of what we now call Prog Rock. Not just in the wild sound effects they employed, but in the really intricate song-writing. The whole aesthetic approach of this early manifestation of the band embraced the novelty and innovation that defined bands like The Nice, Jefferson Airplane, Yes, and early Genesis. The break when they reorganized around Ian Gillan’s greater range and angrier delivery and Roger Glover’s far more fluid and, yes, heavier bass work is striking, not only for the differences manifest between songs like The Shield or Hush and the next-period thunder of Speed King, Hard Lovin’ Man, or Fireball, but also because of the album that came between the last Mark I Purple and In Rock—namely, Concerto for Group and Orchestra.

This album goes directly to what I consider the most significant aspect of Deep Purple, namely the incredible musicianship of Jon Lord. This is a Lord composition and it is a mature, fully-realized bit of what we call Classical Music (given that we tend these days to lump all the various schools of such music into that one bin—Baroque, Rococco, Classical, Romantic, NeoClassical, etc) that also incorporated rock motifs, elevating what at the time was still, despite the work being done by many gifted writers and performers to raise its stature, regarded as “kid’s music” or, more generally, “pop” or, less kindly, trash. Going back to the the first three Purple albums, you can hear the forerunners here and there throughout in the experimental elements and classically-tinged keyboard work of Mr. Lord. It is historically an astonishing piece of work, rendered even more so by the fact that after that, the new line-up of Deep Purple dove head-first in the hardest of hard rock, the music pitched at a roar and scream.

And yet, here and there throughout the next four albums—In Rock, Fireball, Machine Head, Who Do We Think We Are?—we hear that same sensibility flavoring the stew. Lord’s solos, while full-blown blues-idiom statements, would shift into energetic renderings of Bach, Vivaldi, Rachmaninoff, inserting passages of refined musicianship that fit in with, augmented, and yet stood apart from the thunder and shouts around them.

As good a set of musicians as Deep Purple comprised, it was the sensibilities of Jon Lord, I think, that made them stand out.

(I have to admit here that I never really loved Ritchie Blackmore’s guitar work. It’s fine for what it is and I’ve changed my mind about his actual abilities, especially after listening to the Taliesyn album. He could keep up with Lord, truly. I just didn’t care for his approach. But it was another distinctive voice within the Purple mix. I confess that both Tommy Bolin and present-day Steve Morse play more to my liking (especially Morse, whose work with the Dixie Dregs and later with Kansas established him as one of the best in the business), but there is also no arguing that Blackmore’s style is almost instantly recognizable. But I listened more in spite of him than because of him.)

Deep Purple became a bit of a cliche by the end of the Seventies. Smoke On The Water was so overplayed as to become its own parody. But despite periods of never listening to them, I always return, drawn to the power, yes, but always to those keyboard runs and the above-average musicality, which I identify with Lord’s continual influence.

What brought me finally to the realization that this was one of the finest composers on the planet was the series of albums he did all of his more or less straight classical compositions, starting with The Gemini Suite, which in many ways was a second try at the Concerto. The format is the same (modeled on, I believe, Bartok’s Concerto For Orchestra) but the music is all new. Lord did a number of these and after his retirement from Deep Purple in 2001 or so he devoted all his time to composition and recording his symphonic music. In albums such as Boom of the Tingling Strings, Durham Concerto and others, he has left us a set of musical experiences quite apart from the driving rock he also did with great ability and obvious passion. (He said of his later works that he composed music, not labels.)

Jon Lord was only 71 when he passed away, from complications of pancreatic cancer. His voice still speaks and I would urge everyone with any serious interest in music to go find his later recordings and be amazed.

As much as I love his classical works, though, I think this is how I will always remember him.

___________________________________________________________________

* Rod Evans, in these early recordings, displayed a common approach among a certain kind of rock’n’roll vocalist that was a sort of homage to Elvis. His exaggerated stylings can come across almost laughable in certain instances, but he was a credible singer within a certain range. He later became a founding member of Captain Beyond in league with a couple of Iron Butterfly alumni where his vocals leveled out and he displayed his qualities to much better and more honest effect. With the collapse of that band, Evans soon retired from music.

Nick Simper fared less well, though he worked more steadily, in and out of a variety of bands that never quite “made it.” The longest run after Deep Purple was a band called Fandango. Simper still gigs, though.

A Need To Notice

Selective blindness is something everyone suffers.  Depends on priorities.  It becomes a major problem when an entire society experiences it, which happens too often.  So, just a little reminder…

 

Granite Bed

Red Queen’s Race

I was amused this morning listening to the Market Report on NPR when I heard a commentator suggest that it “may be time to dust off the Glass-Steagall Act” to deal with the ongoing banking fiascoes which have caused us naught but grief since…

Well, this time around since 2008, but frankly since about 1982 when the first of a long series of financial sector deregulatory actions began under the misguided assumptions of Reaganomics and the hypnotic appeal of the Laffer Curve.

Don’t know what the Laffer Curve is?  Well, it was the brainchild of a man named Arthur Laffer, an economist, who came up with it and presented originally to President Ford.  Basically, he made a graph that showed a line of tax rates between 0 and 100 and how revenues would rise on the left side of the curve as tax rates were lowered in descending order toward zero and would likewise diminish on the right side as tax rates increased.  We’re talking tax revenue, now.  This was the basis for the whole “cut taxes and increase tax revenue” faith that has been the core of conservative policy ever since Reagan adopted it with a convert’s enthusiasm.  This is also what Reagan’s vice president, George H.W. Bush, called “Voodoo Economics.”

Bush Sr. was right.  There is a certain short term applicability to the Curve, but it fails to take into consideration many factors which have all subsequently made it, er, laughable.  After 32 years we can just look at the numbers and see that it flat out does not do what was promised and it has cost us.

But my word it was appealing!  What politician doesn’t want to be able to run on a lower taxes platform?  And to then assert that lowering taxes will automatically increase government revenues?  Why, that’s just icing on the cake!

Very simply, in combination with the fervor for deregulation, supply side has cost the working and middle class dearly.  Trickle down economics does not benefit those who cannot afford to play in the big leagues.

And frankly, I don’t think it works at the top level, either, because, clearly, if it did, the big banks would not have needed bailing out.

Glass-Steagall was a suite of four laws put in place in the 1930s that, among other things, separated the functions of banking and put a firewall between investment banking and regular, pedestrian commercial banking.  The reasoning was very simple.  Investment banking, no matter how you dress it up, is gambling.  It’s placing a bet on the success of markets and industries.  When things go well, the pay off is huge.  But when they don’t, the cost is equally large.  Glass-Steagall, among other things, said that a bank could gamble, but not with regular client money.  Namely, yours and mine, in a savings or checking account.  They can’t use our money to back their bets.

That’s how the great stock market crash of ’29 happened which ushered in the Great Depression.  Banks and other institutions gambled with everybody’s money, they had too little in reserve, and there was no safety net to stop their fall.  Everyone paid.

In the fever to increase profits in the 80s and 90s, Glass-Steagall was repealed, the firewall was taken down, and 2008 happened.

Except this time the federal government was there to catch the falling banks before they crashed on the pavement.  Everyone is bitching about Obama spending a lot of money, but this is where a lot of it went, and frankly if he had not, we’d be in a worse fix than we are.

Reinstating Glass-Steagall should have been the first thing Congress proposed.  Instead we have the rather awkward and not nearly as effective Dodd-Frank Bill.  The reason no one proposed reinstating Glass-Steagall is simple—big money doesn’t want it and they’ve spent a lot of money to make sure it doesn’t happen.

Why? Because they’re high-rollers and the only way for them to sustain themselves is by continuing to play.  Glass-Steagall would remove from their access a huge pool of capital with which to gamble.

Our capital.

It amazes me that so many people seem not to grasp this.  We have tried supply-side economics for three decades, both Republican and Democrat (Clinton signed the repeal of Glass-Steagall) and the result has been a tremendous boon to people with a lot of money and a slow disaster for everyone else.  We have somehow been convinced that reinstating regulations that worked very well for 60 years will result in people who have lost losing even more.  They’re willing to back the supposed “rights” of people who have been leaching off the common wealth of the United States for thirty years at the expense of workers, the middle class, and the common good, because they’ve been traumatized by slogans which explain nothing.

I was surprised to hear someone actually say the words, “reinstate Glass-Steagall.”  I agree, it should have been done in 2009 or 2010.  I doubt it will be, at least not in the near future.

I propose a new slogan.  Back in the 1960s and ’70s there was a popular phrase, a bumper sticker slogan, that declared “Federal Aid Hell, It’s Our Money!”  How about  “Private Capital Hell, It’s Our Money!”

The banks are too big.  They cannot sustain themselves.  The only way they can is by pillaging the general wealth.  They need to be broken up and the quite different functions of investment and commercial banking need to be separate again.  We’re running faster and faster in a Red Queen’s Race and soon our legs are going to give out.  Stop voting to give all our money to those who have shown repeatedly that they have no interest in the well-being of this country.  Looking out for the needs and desires of shareholders is not the same as looking out for the security of all the people.

who did we think we were?

Jon Lord died yesterday.  He was 71.

Don’t know who Jon Lord was?  Pity.  But, then, you probably do, even if the name doesn’t evoke anything.

Jon Lord was the keyboardist for Deep Purple, the hard rock band that made music history in the early 1970s for their loudness, their energy, and their instrumental dexterity, especially Jon Lord’s who regularly threw in passages from Bach or Beethoven or Scarlatti in the middle of heavy, driving blues-based rock tunes.

Then there were the songs themselves—Hush, Wring That Neck, Kentucky Woman, Child In Time, Highway Star, Space Truckin’, My Woman From Tokyo…and of course Smoke On TheWater.

But then! Oh, surprise surprise, the man had musical chops that far exceeded what anyone might expect from a rocker.  Concerto For Group and Orchestra was a full-blown orchestral suite with the London Philharmonic and Deep Purple.  Later there was the Gemini Suite which was a similar idea.  Other blends of rock instrumental and orchestral composition followed until, late in his career, Lord retired from the band to do nothing but compose and the results were amazing pieces of late Romantic symphonic work of deep complexity, exuberant melody, and a lush tonal palette.  He was a composer’s composer.

I will do a longer appreciation of him later.  For now, this is a place marker to note that this was one of the artists who set my aesthetic goals in music, someone I “wanted to be like when I grew up”—at least musically.  He was an amazing talent.  He left behind an incredible body of work.  Go acquaint yourselves.

Why I Won’t Be Voting For Romney

It may come as a shock to some folks, but—

No, that’s being coy.  I don’t think anyone who knows me would be shocked by my admission that I will not be voting for Mr. Romney this fall.  What always dismays me, however, is the reaction that gets from some people.  They give me a look, an attitude, a combination of disbelief and betrayal, an expression that is the epitome of an exasperated “But…why?”  As if I could not possibly have any valid reasons for such a stance.

Well.  I have to say, it’s not because I’m particularly in love with Obama.

I admit in 2008 I cast my ballot for Mr. Obama with a bit more optimism than my usual cynicism allows.  I actually thought there might have been a chance that something new would come out of this one.  I wasn’t wholly disappointed, but…

I also admit that I understand enough about how politics work that the business-as-usual parts of the last three-plus years do not dismay me.  Merely disappoint me.

Obama said he would get us out of Iraq.  I approved.  As far as I’m concerned, it was a boneheaded act of petty vengeance combined with a big dose of insider opportunism that put us in there in the first place.  It provided nothing but an opportunity for Bush to wave the flag and pretend to be Doing Something while Cheney’s cronies dipped their collective beaks in the public trough to drink of billions of still-unaccounted-for money.  Even if the nuttiness of the invasion had been handled better, it was clear what was going on when all the people in Iraq who might have made the whole thing work to the benefit of all concerned were summarily pushed aside and pissed on so KBR could get all the no-bid contracts and face absolutely no local resistance to the milking they gave both Iraq and our treasury.

Obama got us out of Iraq.  He did say he’d have us out of Afghanistan by now and that has yet to happen, but we’re drawing down.

He said he’d go after Osama bin Laden, no matter what.  He did that and got him.  He pissed off Pakistan.  Oh my.  Pakistan has been the seething pit of all this nonsense with Al Quida and the Taliban all along, so I’m not inclined to lose any sleep over their hurt feelings, but I am very irritated at our drone program and all the unnecessary and ill-advised killing that has resulted.

Obama said he would go to bat for the middle class and the working class.  He saved the American auto industry.  Bush saved the banks that caused the depression.  (Yes, I say depression, and I further say we’re not out of it yet.  Everyone else is afraid of the D word, but let us face reality.  Despite the “official” unemployment rate, actual unemployment is well north of 15%, I suspect close to 25%, but as usual we don’t count actual unemployed, only those still drawing unemployment insurance.)  Obama of course is being blamed for TARP, which was a Bush program, and I’m not sure I would not have felt a lot better if he had torpedoed it and let the damn banks flounder.  But I am not en economist, so what do I know?

I am very irritated that he kept many of the same people who put us in this economic fix for his own economic team—Summers, Geitner, et al.  (Yes, they were part of Bush’s team, too, and some were on board with Clinton for his ill-considered gutting of our regulatory laws, cheering us on into greater profits for fewer people.)

He has kept much of the Patriot Act, which I believe to be a wholly unConstitutional infringement on American rights and liberties.

Yes, he saw a health care reform through, and many of its components are pretty good, but it is not what we really need and he did not, in my opinion, really push for it, but I suppose that’s a quibble.

There are other things I’m not terribly pleased with about Mr. Obama.  But the truth is, much the same can be said by any reasonable person about any president.  Still, I would prefer certain priorities to change.

So with all that I am displeased with my president, why, it may be reasonably asked, would I vote for him again as opposed to Mr. Romney?

There are very simple reasons.

Mr. Romney is an advocate of trickle-down economics.  He may not call it that, but from everything he has said that’s his focus.

Top down policies have not worked.  We can imagine that by cutting the rich a break and giving tax breaks to large corporations might benefit us all by allowing them more money to invest, and on paper it sounds great.  But seriously, look at the last three decades.  That is not what has happened and we keep doing the same damn thing.  Deregulate, more tax cuts for the top in the hope that they will spend it on this country.  We have more unemployment, working and middle class wages have been stagnant for thirty years, our infrastructure is decaying, the bottom half is getting worse off.  It simply has not worked.  I will not vote for him because he advocates a failed policy.  Period.

Mr. Romney claims he intends to repeal “Obamacare.”  He modified this claim by saying he wants it repealed and “something that works” put in its place.

He has not said what that would be and I find the hypocrisy both unsurprising and galling.  Many of the features of the Affordable Healthcare Act are the same as those he signed into law in Massachussetts and now repudiates, including the individual mandate.  (As a minor point, I find the Republican harping on “Obamacare” annoying.  Technically, Congress wrote that law, if we will all recall, not Mr. Obama.)  But more to the point, I simply don’t believe him.  Big Pharma and Big Insurance did not want health care reform.  They’ve been making plenty of money on things as they were and had absolutely no incentive to change anything.  They fought tooth-and-nail against the Affordable Care Act, they torpedoed single payer, they will certainly be right there at the table making sure that nothing gets put in its place if repealed.  The GOP has made it clear that they want no government controls over private enterprise whatsoever.  So I don’t believe Mr. Romney that he would do anything to put a better, or even a different, law in place.  He will sign the repeal, if it happens, and we will revert to accelerating costs and insurance premiums spiraling out of control.

Mr. Romney is one of a long line of people who claim that having been businessmen makes them ideally—or at least better—suited to run the country.  He is, like all of them, wrong.  The country is not a business and bottom-line thinking is a good way to hurt, damage, and destroy people through public institutions.   Right at the moment, he cannot even give a good account of why he maintains offshore accounts.  (This is done to avoid taxes.  No matter what  else is claimed, offshore accounts that are not simply part of a globally diversified portfolio are there as tax havens. I don’t care how you feel personally about taxes, this is a cheat, and I have no respect for it.)

The other reasons I do not intend to vote for Mr. Romney have less to do with him than with his party, which I feel is broken.  They have come out four-square against compromise.  This is insane.  This is a country of 300-plus million people, all of whom have needs that are not universal.  There is overlap, but not homogeneity.  The only way to govern such a country is through compromise.  To refuse to consider it is tantamount to saying that differences don’t matter and people who don’t fit in should receive no regard.  If such a party ends up in control of Congress—which I think is likely—then I want a Democrat in the White House to at least stick his thumb in the dyke of insanity.

How can I say that?

The GOP has conducted a series of campaigns against certain institutions and ideas which I find essential to the kind of country I want to live in.  They’re union busters.  They’re economic elitists.  They’re frankly warmongers and for the worst possible reason—they’re afraid of foreigners.  And they have embraced a constraining view of public morality that I find bizarre, one which as a consequence would see gains in equality for women reversed.

Here and there, but in growing numbers (because moderate Republicans keep leaving the party), they are anti-education.  Texas, as one example, is at the forefront of revisionist history and the purging of legitimate science from classrooms.  And they are more and more stridently theocratic.

Now, many people find nothing wrong with any of that.  There are many people who cannot stand to hear America criticized, so expunging certain episodes from history books seems like patriotism to them.  Many object to the ideas of Darwin, so deleting evolution from science classrooms seems like a good idea.  In the same vein, many think our biggest problem is that we as a nation don’t pray enough.

You are all entitled to your opinion.  I happen to believe truth and fact should trump wishful thinking and “belief.”

But I wanted to explain why I will not be voting for Mr. Romney.  The reasons are very simple.  I do, in fact, wish I had a better choice who I thought had a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.  I am very tired of voting against something by voting for something less than I really want.  But there it is.  Mr. Romney and the GOP have a vision for this country which I believe will be very destructive.  It will be very good for certain people, but not for all the people, and the president in particular has to represent All the People.  I don’t believe Mr. Romney will do that.

I don’t think he has any idea who all the people are.

Sky Sea

On my own this weekend, with the dog, working on rewrites.  For the time being, a little cloud-gazing for you.

 

Cloud Sea, June 2012

Reflections On the 4th of July: A Personal Statement

I am not given to setting out pronouncements like this very often, but in light of the last several years I thought it might be worthwhile to do so on the occasion of the 236th anniversary of our declared independence.

I don’t think in terms of demonstrating my love of country. My affection for my home is simply a given, a background hum, a constant, foundational reality that is reflexively true. This is the house in which I grew up. I know its walls, its ceiling, its floors, the steps to the attic, the verge, and every shadow that moves with the sun through all the windows. I live here; its existence contours my thinking, is the starting place of my feelings.

The house itself is an old friend, a reliable companion, a welcoming space, both mental and physical, that I can no more dislike or reject than I can stop breathing.

But some of the furniture…that’s different.

 

I am an American.

I don’t have to prove that to anyone. I carry it with me, inside, my cells are suffused with it. I do not have to wear a flag on my lapel, hang one in front of my house, or publicly pledge an oath to it for the convenience of those who question my political sentiments. Anyone who says I should or ought or have to does not understand the nature of what they request or the substance of my refusal to accommodate them. They do not understand that public affirmations like that become a fetish and serve only to divide, to make people pass a test they should—because we are free—never have to take.

I am an American.

I am not afraid of ideas. My country was born out the embrace of ideas, new ideas, ideas that challenged the right of kings to suppress ideas. Ideas are the bricks that built these halls. I claim as my birthright the freedom to think anything, entertain any notion, weigh the value of any concept or proposition, and to take refuge in the knowledge that wisdom comes from learning and the freedom to learn is among the most hallowed and sacred privileges we have inherited as a country. The greatest enemy of our republic is the fear of ideas, of education, and by extension of truth and fact. Those who see no harm in removing books from libraries or diluting fact with wishful thinking and teaching our children to accept things entirely on faith and never question will weaken the foundations, damage the walls, and corrupt every other freedom they themselves boast about and then fail to defend.

I am an American.

I do not need to demonize others to make myself feel safe or superior or even right. I do not need to pretend that I am innately “better” than anyone else to prove my own worth. America was founded on the idea that all of us are equal in potential value. I do not need to oppress, undercut, strike, or otherwise impede others so that I can claim the dubious and ultimately meaningless label of Number One.

I am an American.

Sometimes I wear my sentiment on my sleeve, display my emotions at inappropriate times. I often side with unpopular causes, cheer those who aren’t going to win, get unreasonably angry over unfairness. I believe in justice and I don’t have any trouble with the idea of making an extra effort for people who can’t afford it for themselves. Other times I am stoic, even cynical. I accommodate a world-weariness far beyond the scope of my heritage. I do not believe in providence. Things will not just “work out in the long run” and the bad are not always punished and the good too often are crushed. I know the world doesn’t care and has no interest in level playing fields or evening up odds or anything other than its own ravenous acquisitiveness. It’s an uphill battle against impossible odds, but it’s the only one worth fighting, and I have an unreasonable belief that as an American I have a responsibility to help fight it.

I am an American.

I take a childish pride in many of the attributes and details of my heritage. We build things, we invent things, we have moved mountains, changed the course of rivers, gone to the moon, created great art, changed the face of the earth, broken tyrants on the wheel, and made the world yield. At the same time I am embarrassed at many of the other details of my heritage. We have hurt people unnecessarily, killed and raped, we have damaged forests, poisoned rivers, waged war when there were other avenues. I like the idea that I can work my way out of poverty here, but I hate the idea that we idolize the rich when they put barriers in the path of those like me just because they can. It’s not the money, it’s the work that counts, but sometimes we forget that and those with less must school those with more. That we have done that and can do that is also part of my heritage and I am glad of it.

I am an American.

I am not bound by ritual. Tradition is valuable, history must never be forgotten, but as a starting point not a straitjacket. Those who wish to constrain me according to the incantations, ceremonies, and empty routines of disproven ideologies, debunked beliefs, and discredited authority are not my compatriots, nor do they understand the liberty which comes from an open mind amply armed with knowledge and fueled by a spirit of optimism and a fearless willingness to look into the new and make what is worthy in progress your own.

I am an American.

I do not need others to tell me who I am and how I should be what they think I should be. I elect my representatives. They work for me. They are employees. If I criticize them, I am not criticizing my country. If I call their judgment into question, I am not undermining America. If I am angry with the job they do, I do not hate my country. They should take their definition from me, not the other way around.

I am an American.

If my so-called leaders send soldiers in my name somewhere to do things of which I do not approve and I voice my disapproval, I am not insulting those soldiers or failing to support them. They did not send themselves to those places or tell themselves to do those things. My country has never asked one of its soldiers to kill innocents, torture people, lay waste to civilians, or otherwise perform illegal, unnecessary, or wrong deeds. Politicians do that and they are employees, they are not My Country. Greedy individuals do that, and they are not My Country. No one has the right to call me unpatriotic because I condemn politicians or businessmen for a war they make that I consider wrong, nor that I am not “supporting out troops” because I want them out of that situation and no longer misused by the narrow, blinkered, and all-too-often secret agendas of functionaries, bureaucrats, and bought stooges.

I am an American.

My success is my own, but it is impossible without the work done by my fellow Americans. I acknowledge that we make this country together or not at all and I have no reservations about crediting those whose labor has made my own possible or condemning those who seek to divide us so they can reap the plenty and pretend they made their success all by themselves.

I am an American.

Which means that by inheritance I am nearly everyone on this planet. I am not afraid of Others, or of The Other, and those who would seek to deny political and social rights to people who for whatever reason do not fit a particular box simply because they’re afraid of them do not speak for me. I reject superstition and embrace reason and as a child I learned that this is what should be the hallmark of an American, that while we never discard the lessons of the past nor do we let the fears and ignorance of the past dictate our future.

I am an American.

I accept the rule of law. This is a founding idea and I live accordingly, even if I dislike or disapprove of a given example. If so, then I embrace my right to try to change the law, but I will not break it thoughtlessly just because it inconveniences me or to simply prove my independence. My independence is likewise, like my Americanness, something I carry with me, inside. The forum of ideas is where we debate the virtues and vices of the framework of our society and I take it as given my right to participate. Cooperation is our strength, not blind commitment to standards poorly explained or half understood. Because we make the law, we determine its shape and limits. The more of us who participate, the better, otherwise we surrender majority rule to minority veto, and law becomes the playground of those who learn how to keep the rest of us out.

I am an American.

Such a thing was invented. It came out of change, it encompasses change, it uses change. Change is the only constant and too-tight a grip on that which is no longer meaningful is the beginning of stagnation and the end of that which makes us who we are. Change is annoying, inconvenient, sometimes maddening, but it is the only constant, so I welcome it and understand that the willingness to meet it and work with it defines us as much as our rivers, our mountains, our cities, our art. A fondness for particular times and places and periods is only natural—humans are nostalgic—but to try to freeze us as a people into one shape for all time is the surest way to destroy us.

I am an American.

I do not need others to be less so I can be more. I do not need others to lose so that I can win. I do not need to sabotage the success of others to guarantee my own. I do not have to take anything away from someone else in order to have more for myself.

America is for me—

My partner, my family, my friends, the books I love, the music I hear, the laughter of my neighbors, the grass and flowers of my garden, the conversations I have, the roads I travel, and the freedom I have to recognize and appreciate and enjoy all these things. I will defend it, I will fight anyone who tries to hurt it, but I will do it my own way, out of my own sentiments, for my own reasons. Others may have their reasons and sentiments, and may beat a different drum. That’s fine. That is their way and we may find common cause in some things. This, too, is America.

“All colors and blends of Americans have somewhat the same tendencies. It’s a breed — selected out by accident. And so we’re overbrave and overfearful — we’re kind and cruel as children. We’re overfriendly and at the same time frightened of strangers. We boast and are impressed. We’re oversentimental and realistic. We are mundane and materialistic — and do you know of any other nation that acts for ideals? We eat too much. We have no taste, no sense of proportion. We throw our energy about like waste. In the old lands they say of us that we go from barbarism to decadence without an intervening culture.”
John Steinbeck, East of Eden

“There’s the country of America, which you have to defend, but there’s also the idea of America. America is more than just a country, it’s an idea. An idea that’s supposed to be contagious.”
Bono

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”
John F. Kennedy

“When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect.”
Adlai Stevenson

What Ails Us

Senator Bernie Sanders is a voice of conscience. When he stands on the floor to tell us what ails us, we should listen. A lot of people won’t—they’re too busy trying to prove Obama is a Muslim or not a citizen or that Obamacare is socialism run rampant or some other absurdity that does nothing but distract from the real problems. We have as a nation become obsessed with sideshows. We seem incapable of coming together to actually solve the problems that we have. It’s easier to bitch about what is unaddressable than to do the hard work to understand real problems and deal with genuine issues. Ahead of our anniversary as a nation, a bit of cold water.

Stay cool, folks.