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Focus on Sanity

By Published: August 3, 2006
So why the rant? Because as a jazz musician, I see our music as one of America's greatest gifts to the world, with qualities that represent, to paraphrase the existentialist poet (and Secretary of Defense) D. H. Rumsfeld, "Old America". There are a few things our administration and congress could learn from us jazz musicians—such as listening and working together democratically, which jazz musicians do nightly; such as living within our means and avoiding deficit spending—we must, as few musicians in any genre enjoy the luxury of wealth; and striving to break down racial and class barriers—let's face it—if you can play, nobody cares how you look, how much money you have or where you come from. Seeking justice, truth and beauty is at the root of what most jazz musicians are about and as an aside, I find it interesting (and perhaps instructive) that the only two American presidents in history not to have a piano in their home are Bushes 41 and 43.

As a working musician, I travel abroad frequently and meet many people who are disappointed, confused and angered by our country's behavior the past few years. They don't blame the American people—at least they didn't before the last (s)election (3.5 million votes weren't counted)—they place the blame squarely with our administration. We're losing the trust and cooperation of our allies, sadly, because after 9/11 we had the empathy and support of the entire civilized world. Most of that goodwill has been squandered by a foolhardy, reckless group of power mongers, hell-bent on dreams of empire. (try googling "Project For The New American Century"). Why is it that after traveling all night, I have to try to explain the insanity of our administration's actions to a hotel clerk in Italy before I can get the key to my room?

Perhaps if our government spent more resources and physical effort educating our children, helping those less fortunate among us and working to ensure a modicum of honesty and governmental transparency and wasted less on prison building, corporate welfare and misleading the American public about an illegal invasion and occupation of a sovereign nation that shouldn't have happened in the first place, the public could be well informed enough to elect a government that wouldn't make such explanations necessary.

Many folks don't feel a need to be politically involved, but it's "we the people" who decide whether we live in a plutocracy, an autocracy, a kleptocracy or a democracy. It's "we the people" who hold our government accountable for its deeds and misdeeds. We must do our best to stay informed, speak truth to power and when it's time, make the changes necessary to (to quote Ornette Coleman) focus on sanity.

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