A perfect 4th of July, Sarah's Straight Talk
- From: Jerry Kay
Subject: A perfect 4th of July article for you
A local reporter and friend wrote this years ago, but it fits.
I hear America singing
Posted by Wallace Baine on July 1st, 2009
The Epicenter: Culture at the edge of California
A reader called me up this week and told me that she had saved a column I
had written about the Fourth of July from way back in 1993. Could I please
reprint it, in spirit of the upcoming holiday?
My first thought was, “Hey, wait a sec. I was 11 years old in 1993. She must
Well, a second look at my math convinced me that she was indeed correct. So
here, in honor of Independence Day, is that column, edited (mercifully) for
length. Sheesh, I just can’t bloviate like I used to. And forgive the purple
prose; it was all the rage back then … kind of like goatees. Here it is:
There are, of course, many fine and meaningful ways to spend the
Independence Day holiday. Spending time with the family is an admirable one,
as is getting out of the house, and into the woods somewhere – after all,
how can you love a country if you never get out into the country?
But one that resonates deep within me is music. Mount Rushmore is a pathetic
monument indeed compared to the magnificently rich heritage of American
music. Young (and not so young) people much too hip to ever profess love of
their country are moved every day by musical expressions that in some deep
way say something about who we are and where we came from.
So let us, this Fourth of July, declare a new brand of patriotism that has
nothing to do with flags, marching bands and “bombs bursting in air”; that
rejects cheap hooray-for-our-side boosterism.
What then exactly is this new love of country?
It’s the ancient sounds of Mississippi Delta blues. It’s the growl of Muddy
Waters, the wail of Bessie Smith. It’s the primeval sound of Son House, the
electric emotion of B.B. King. It’s Howlin’ Wolf and Big Bill Broonzy.
It’s the wandering loneliness of Leadbelly, the dusty minstrel voice of Pete
Seeger, the mournful keening of the Appalachian fiddle. It’s Utah Phillips
and Doc Watson.
It’s the lost spirit of Hank Williams, the damned soul of Jerry Lee Lewis,
the soft menace of Johnny Cash.
It’s Nat King Cole and Hoagy Carmichael. It’s the rolling piano of Fats
Waller, the Kansas City sass of Count Basie. It’s the doomed artistry of
Monk, Mingus, Coltrane and Bird. It’s the brilliance of Miles Davis.
But it’s also the New Orleans gris-gris of Dr. John, the whiskey-tinged
Texas sound of Waylon Jennings. It’s church-pew gospel and street corner doo
wop. It’s Motown, it’s rockabilly. It’s Elvis and Buddy Holly.
It’s Woody Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home,” Bob Dylan’s “With God On Our
Side,” and Peter Rowan’s “Dust Bowl Children.”
It’s Otis Redding and Marvin Gaye. It’s Aretha and it’s James Brown.
It’s Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart.” It’s a Dead show at the Fillmore.
It’s Hendrix at Monterey Pop.
It’s the rambling songs of Steve Goodman, the beautiful cynicism of Randy
Newman. It’s Duane Allman riding down Highway 41, it’s Kate Wolf on a Sonoma
It’s norteño and tejana. It’s Hawaiian slack-key. It’s samba and salsa. It’s
Navajo wood flute. It’s reggae and ska California-style.
It’s Lou Reed in New York, Carlos Santana in San Francisco, Emmylou Harris
in Nashville. It’s visionary misfits like Neil Young, Frank Zappa and Brian
It’s a white kid in a garage in suburbia with a new guitar, it’s a black kid
on a laptop. It’s a boy with a horn, a girl on a piano. It’s world
influences pouring into America from Europe, from Africa, from Asia.
It’s rap, metal, punk, grunge. It’s on the radio, it’s in the record stores,
it’s on the streets.
America is a noisy place. Walt Whitman recognized that more than a hundred
years ago when he wrote, “I hear America singing.” Yet, that singing wasn’t
always the clipped, efficient unison of the military marching band doing
“Stars and Stripes Forever.” It was a million-throated cacophony of voices.
There is nothing more quintessentially American than picking up a used
guitar and singing Grateful Dead tunes on the street corner for quarters.
There is no greater expression of the personal freedom embodied in this
great nation’s mythology than dancing barefoot on the grass with an abandon
of a child.
Free speech is revered as one of the greatest guarantors of our political
freedom. But free speech doesn’t have to be speech at all. John Coltrane’s
free speech was his sax, T-Bone Walker’s his guitar.
No rational person can look at America and not see its flaws, its ugly
history, its arrogances and blindnesses. But, for most of us, it’s the only
home we’ve ever known. And it’s worth cherishing.
So, if you’re like me, you’ll cherish America this Fourth of July by playing
or listening to the music you love. If enough of us do that, maybe even old
Walt Whitman will still be able to hear us.
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Sarah's Straight Talk
By GAIL COLLINS
NY Times Op-Ed: July 3, 2009
Truly, Sarah Palin has come a long way. When she ran for vice president, she
frequently became disjointed and garbled when she departed from her prepared
remarks. Now the prepared remarks are incoherent, too.
"And a problem in our country today is apathy," she said on Friday as she
announced that she would resign as governor of Alaska at the end of the
month. "It would be apathetic to just hunker down and 'go with the flow.'
Nah, only dead fish 'go with the flow.' No. Productive, fulfilled people
determine where to put their efforts, choosing to wisely utilize precious
time ... to BUILD UP."
Basically, the point was that Palin is quitting as governor because she's
not a quitter. Or a deceased salmon.
Sarah Barracuda made her big announcement Friday afternoon on the lawn of
her home to an audience that appeared to include only Todd, the kids and the
next-door neighbors. Smiling manically, she looked like a parody of the
woman who knocked the Republicans dead at their convention. She babbled
about her parents' refrigerator magnet, which apparently had a lot of wise
advice. And she recalled her visit with the troops in Kosovo, whose
dedication and determination inspired her to ... resign.
"Life is about choices!" declared the nation's most anti-choice politician.
People, what is going on with governors in this country? Are we doomed to
see them go bonkers one by one, state by state?
The timing of Palin's announcement was extremely peculiar. Not only did she
interrupt the plans of TV newscasters to spend the entire weekend pointing
out that Michael Jackson is still dead, she delivered her big news just as
the nation was settling into Fourth of July celebrations. You'd have thought
she didn't want us to notice.
"I choose to work very hard on a path for fruitfulness and productivity,"
she said in a fairly typical moment. "I choose not to tear down and waste
precious time, but to build up this state and our country, and her
industrious, generous, patriotic free people!"
Palin has a year and a half left to go in her term of office. The political
world had been wondering whether she'd run for re-election. The answer is
no. And furthermore, it turns out that Palin believes that the only way her
administration can "continue without interruption" is for her to end it.
Anyhow, no point in wasting precious time.
One underlying theme in Palin's remarks was that many ethics complaints have
been filed against her on issues ranging from her alleged attempts to get
her former brother-in-law fired from the state troopers to charging Alaska
for her children's travel expenses.
According to the about-to-be-ex governor, fighting all this negativity has
cost the state "thousands of hours of your time" and $2 million "to respond
to 'opposition research.' " But now this is all water under the bridge.
Every single unfair charge has been dismissed. ("We've won!") And now that
the battle is over and the time/money has been wasted, Palin is going to
leave her job in the name of "efficiencies and effectiveness."
"I cannot stand here as your governor and allow millions upon millions of
our dollars go to waste just so I can hold the title of governor," she said.
Perhaps there is some new and interesting scandal that Palin has yet to let
us in on. (If so, I hope it involves a soul mate.) Otherwise, it would
appear that this is all about her desire to start raising money and setting
up operations for a presidential run in 2012. Her fans immediately
interpreted the resignation as a canny move to get her back down to the
lower 48, with as much time on her hands as Mitt Romney. (Mary Matalin
called it "brilliant.")
Palin was the subject of a devastating article in this month's Vanity Fair
by Todd Purdum, who wrote that McCain campaign aides found it almost
impossible to get Palin to prepare for her disastrous interview with Katie
Couric. And there is no sign, Purdum reported, that Palin has made any
attempt to bone up on the issues so that next time around, she could run as
a candidate who actually had some grasp of the intricacies of foreign and
So if she's starting to run, it will be as the same reporter-avoiding,
generalization-spouting underachiever that she was last time around.
Now we know she not only doesn't have the concentration to read a policy
paper, she can't focus long enough to finish the job she was hired to do.
On Friday, Palin said that finishing out her term would be just too easy.
"Many just accept that lame-duck status, hit the road, draw the paycheck and
'milk it.' I'm not putting Alaska through that," she said.
Apparently, she's going to put the rest of us through it instead.