The greatest of these lies is that we are a divided people who can't talk to each other. True, it's difficult to assign all the blame for forwarding this fiction to the electronic news media. The print boys do their fair share, too. There are people in advertising agencies and PR firms who will do anything for a buck, so wrapping a destructive communication in a pretty package is fine with them. And of course, there is that politician who has no qualms about employing any and all of these people and their skills to gain ascendancy. Divide and conquer is the oldest strategy in history. To spare your enemies and use these heinous tactics on your fellows is the filthiest crime there is.
Why? Because we need each other, and we know it. In hard times, we need each other even more, and we know it. We need to pull together. Nearly everyone understands this quite well.
But it's obvious that not everyone accepts the idea, because when times are this hard, someone is making it hard. When the majority of us 314 million Americans are working harder than ever, spending more wisely and focusing our energies more discerningly than we have in three generations, and the situation still refuses to improve, something is deadly wrong. Someonesome ones of usare pushing down even harder than the majority of us are pushing upward. How hard are these few psychos working to stop the thing from getting anywhere? Harder than the combined efforts of all the rest of us to get it working again. That's a lot of push-down. But it's not a class or race or political party or philosophy or type or income bracket or demographic category that is pushing down. It is a person who tells you the solution as a society is to engage in name-calling, subterfuge and division. You vs. All of Them is the battle cry of the insane.
Sadly, in these difficult, contentious times, a person promulgating the concept of a politically divided America is accepted more easily than during the good times. People are looking for answers even more earnestly than ever. The purveyors of chaos and preachers of doom know this, depend on it in fact, because without your acceptance of their simplistic black-and-white dichotomies that pit one generalized philosophy or position or group against anotherYou against the Otherthey'd have no power of persuasion over you, and no "solution" to sell you.
People harbor grudges, of course. Some carry on feuds, vendettas fueled by personal hurts and wrongs, real or imagined. No sane person would dispute that there are indeed a few real enemies in the world, evil beings who demonstrably seek the destruction of all things good and well intended.
Cats and Dogs Sleep Together
But it isn't the Liberals and Conservatives. They are not natural enemies any more than are union workers and non-union workers, small businesses and big corporations, Gentiles and Jews, or blacks and whites. I don't believe I've ever asked someone how they voted in an election, or whether they were Republican or Democrat. I've never had a single friend who condemned or deserted me because of my political philosophy, religious beliefs or work affiliation, let alone sought my destruction for it. I can count the number of times in my life that I've been asked by anyone (other than a pollster or hospital administrator) to place myself in one of these artificial societal categoriesto indicate whether I am Republican or Democrat, gay or straight, Christian or Jew, pro-life or pro-choice, etc.on the fingers of one hand. More to the point, in each of these cases the inquiry was a result of the inquiring person's imperceptiveness or unwillingness to have a real conversation. On the other hand, if you cloister yourself and never associate with anyone outside a small, unchanging circle of like-minded priests and priestesses devoted to your own orthodox ideology, the noise that glass seal on the fire alarm makes when you break it will be nothing compared to the alarm.
In 1972, just weeks after one of the few actual landslide presidential elections in American history (Republican candidate Richard Nixon received 520 electoral votes, his Democrat opponent George McGovern got 17, and Libertarian John Hospers, 1) Pauline Kael, the iconic film critic for the New Yorker magazine, is famously quoted as saying she couldn't believe Nixon had won, because no one she knew had voted for himapparently due to the infrequency of her trips away from Manhattan into any other part of New York, whose voters had helped elect Nixon. Whether it was her line or someone else's, the more revealing quote (according to Israel Shenker's New York Times article of December 28, 1972, covering the lecture she gave at the Modern Language Association) quoted Kael as saying, "I live in a rather special world. I only know one person who voted for Nixon. Where they are I don't know. They're outside my ken. But sometimes when I'm in a theater I can feel them."
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid
I was first exposed to jazz when I was tiny. My earliest memory is watching Ella Fitzgerald scat on a Christmas special when I was no older than four. Like many who are from tiny towns, my first extended exposure was listening to the high school jazz band when I was a kid. For some reason I remember an arrangement of Hey Jude they did. My first real exposure was Stan Kenton in the Smithville, MO high school gym. Kenton and the band director there were old friends, so he would play there from time to time. My dad took me without telling me where we were going and it was the only show he ever took me to. I remember that Bobby Shew played Send In Clowns and I damn near levitated I was so excited. The huge sound and amazing chords floored me. I believe I was 13 at the time. I immediately started practicing and taking lessons. Music became a passion and nearly a career. I also listened to Dick Wright's Jazz Show on KANU every night. I can't even start to explain what I learned lying in bed listening to Dick talk about jazz. I met him once when I was struggling to put together a solo for Joy Spring playing in a combo at KU. Stopped by his office and asked for recommendations. He showed up at my jazz ensemble rehearsal the next day with a tape with example solos. What a kind man Dick Wright was.
My advice to new listeners is to stop worrying about what music is important and focus on music you like. I spent quite a bit of my music life listening to important music I didn't necessarily like. Must say I have quite a bit more fun now listening to music that I deeply enjoy. Some of it is even important.
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