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Jazz, Baseball, Politics and the Beltway Blues: Our American Dialogue, Part II

By Published: December 20, 2012
The U.S. is unquestionably spending more dollars than it is collecting in federal taxes, then borrowing whatever is needed to pay the bills at the end of the month. That approach is called insolvency. It can't last much longer. But in the process of rebuilding a collapsed economic engine to achieve productivity again—i.e., an engine capable of being solvent—we also need to responsibly enable the engineers, protect a citizenry undermined at every turn by a corrupt banking industry that whipsaws world currencies and uses inequitable IRS tax laws to perpetuate itself.

To repair all that, we need honorable leaders committed to finding solutions by listening closely to each other. The Good Guys vs. Bad Guys model is a ruse, and doesn't work. We've seen quite enough of the sordid Hatfields and McCoys act. The venal campaign contributors and special interests with their quid pro quo extortion schemes have produced nothing but politically expedient corruption and a policy of deceit. The resultant bitter enmity will either end soon, or kill us all.

Chris Christie and Barack Obama are a pretty odd couple. But here's a concept for you. Remember the idea of a Loyal Opposition, that critical component of democracy that British parliament member John Hobhouse used to describe his dealings with King George IV? Remember the famous presidential working relationships like Everett Dirkson and JFK? Tip O'Neill and Ronald Reagan?

This might be a good time for our elected leaders to revisit the idea, and grow up, take their own sanctimonious advice and eat their vegetables, especially the spinach. There's going to be a lot of heavy lifting. It might work.

Maybe. The sound of wolves at the door could soon encourage them to communicate instead of arguing, cooperate instead of trying to dominate. But it probably wouldn't be that simple. It would be simpler ... simpler to just take the uncomplicated advice Miles Davis gave to a young saxophonist in his band, John Coltrane, who told his boss that he had so many things he wanted to play during his long solos—so much he needed to say—that he didn't know how to quit once he got started. Miles' suggestion: "Try taking the horn out of your mouth."

Perhaps the folks in Washington just need to be shown how that's done.

Jazz Democracy—How It's Done

Much of our existence on this blue little planet truly is a battle between hurricanes and governors. But not all concerns—commercial, social, political or otherwise—and not every minute of everyday life, need to degenerate into the chaotically squalid street fight that American politics has become, as described earlier in Part 1 of this essay—that incessant contest between bullies and cowards, aggression and retreat, truth and lies. Fortunately, even though many contests really are a matter of life and death, many are not. Any game can make you crazy. Some games are immensely entertaining and enjoyable to play. A few are fun, even therapeutic to watch—as theatrical re-enactments of life's daily badda-bing-badda-boom, or as aesthetically pleasing, non-lethal microcosms that mirror and illuminate this blood sport called life.

A live jazz performance is a useful example. Someone calls the tune, and everybody in the band agrees to play according to its rules and limitations. They sort it out until they do, the big stuff immediately, and the rest as they go along. When everyone knows what compositional form it will take, what the required key(s) and time signature(s) are, they just do it. Somebody counts it in and the game is played: together or separately, improvised or note-for-note, the professional standard is harmonious interaction and beauty. If somebody is assigned a solo, another player's job is usually to accompany it without unnecessary interference. The soloist, who has been elected into the group because of proven ability, is given free rein to fly like an eagle or crash in the rocks with a thud—either way, when it's his turn to play, it's time for everyone else to lay out.

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