Ten Years After--"I'd Love To Change The World" (mp3)
Pretenders--"Message Of Love" (mp3)
By the time you get through both conventions, even without watching them very much, you can get numbed by all of the party messages, catch phrases, chants, platforms, attacks, and everything else that came out of everyone's mouths for the 8 days of conventioning during the last two weeks.
I'm not much of a convention watcher, but I do enjoy going to a bar called Magoo's in East Ridge with a retired friend of mine every Thursday night. It's our way of keeping our friendship going even though I'm mired in the world of work and he's mired in....well, let's just say his yard is well taken care of.
The beauty of Magoo's is that for the longest time, it has pretended that it is a sports bar. What makes this funny is that they only have about 3-4 tv's, one of them pretty large, and they always run them with the sound off. So even when we were in there for the Vol's National Championship game back in 1999, we were crowded around a large table watching a game with no sound.
Hey, they don't turn the sound on for conventions, either. And that's where my insight (however small) kicks in. If you don't hear the misleading words that come out of people's mouths, if you only watch the people themselves, you can learn a lot.
For example, when you just watch the people in the crowd reacting to Sarah Palin's speech, you are immediately struck by the fact that virtually all of them are the same. I scanned the crowd, looking for differences, thinking that surely there was some diversity. But the virtual sameness of the faces only supported my conclusion, each time the camera scanned the crowd. Now, I know that this insight of mine isn't particularly original to anyone who saw the Republicans in action, but it does bear repeating and reminding yourself any time you ponder one of their positions--the delegates at their party's party do not reflect the make-up of our country.
I was driving back from dropping off a friend at car dealership this afternoon and just thinking about the America that I live in, as represented by about a 4-mile stretch of road through Chattanooga:
*the people driving around me on this main artery of a typical American city do not look like the Republican party I saw on TV
* the people in the 5 grocery stores I frequent regularly do not look like the Republican party I saw on TV
* the owners and the waiters and the workers and the ethnic offerings in the range of good restaurants in this city do not look like the Republican party I saw on TV
* even the well-to-do neighborhood I live in has a more diverse population than the Republican party I saw on TV
* more amazingly, the students at the exclusive, expensive, conservative, Christian school where I teach do not reflect the Republican party I saw on TV
So what gives? Who are these people and how do they think that they are pursuing a political agenda that is good for the rest of us? Don't get me wrong; I have nothing against Republicans. It's just that when I saw the absolute sameness of all those faces, I knew that what their party represents has nothing to do with me. The current crop seems to be even more cookie-cutter than ever before.
Oh, by the way, you didn't think I was talking about how all of the people on television at the Republican National Convention were white, did you? Heck, I am a white person. I'm practically a checklist for the website "Stuff White People Like." No, I'm talking about what I saw without the sound on--I saw mockery, derision, pettiness, sarcastic laughter, condescension, exclusivity. You think you can't see those things without the sound on? Well, you can. I saw the same thing on every face--man, woman, young, old. There was no dialogue, only the silent, open-mouthed chant of a mindless army.
And I thought of the America that exists here on the streets around me, and it was nothing like that. There was sharing, there was disagreement, a friendly wave, a thank you for a driving courtesy. Some were for, some were against--whatever it was. In the stores and restaurants, no one cared what color you were or who you were for, they were generally acting with basic decency and a willingness to give you a fair shake, no matter who you were.
Sometimes you don't need sound. Maybe during this election season, that is truer than it ever was. Because people are going to be saying a lot of things. And, even if you can't hear exactly what they're saying, my guess is that you can still tell, just by looking, whether someone is speaking to you from a position of basic decency. I hope so. Because that's what I think I'm voting for.
The Pretenders' cd, Pretenders II, and Ten Years After's cd, A Space In Time, are both available at Itunes.