Could a musician save America?

Posted 05.10.13

SHAWVILLE, QUEBEC | Any of our readers who travel often in the US, or follow American media, are aware that the United States is a fractured nation. The political arena seems toxic and the idiocies that come from many politicians and candidates are, frankly, unbelievable.

The country seems torn between a far-right movement that wants to shut down the entire American government (various Tea Party factions), allied with the wealthy one percenters and the neo-cons who see the USA as the world's latest empire, and not- lefties (those people are in jail -- many have been shot, as the Black Panthers almost all were) but plain old liberals.

"Liberal" is a very dirty word down there in many circles. Liberals want public health care, a food stamp program, and public, schools -- incredibly radical positions!

The media has become largely "hate radio" or newspapers carrying the messages of the huge corporations -- everyone is shouting and accusing, but, of course, no one is listening. Everyone is crafting "the message", à la our Harper, uninterested in what might be the best way to proceed or what might be the wishes of the majority.

The US is growing into a dysfunctional democracy with its corruption, dragging much of the free world with it.

With such circumstances, it's tough to see how our neighbours might heal themselves and at least get back to talking and negotiating with each other. If they don't, we are going to find ourselves as "collateral damage" -- the neo--con messages and political machinery have already arrived here in Canada with the old Reform Party.

We can fight that off. But who can save the Americans from themselves? It will have to be another American. And I want to suggest the weirdest possible healer, singer-poet Bob Dylan.

Dylan was made famous by his counter-cultural lyrics and raw voice back in the Sixties. He is still going -- at 73 this year, he is performing almost once a week across the world. He was originally vilified for his anti-war politics and his support for what some deemed loose living. But over his career he has earned an Oscar, a Pulitzer Prize, multiple music awards, and a Presidential Medal.

This man's career has been constantly changing -- he left politics for religion, and then to Western movies, all the time keeping his interest in old-time blues and love-sick ballads. His themes are clocked in nostalgia. For his generation, he seemed to focus on the big steps in all our lives.

And the guy's voice! Gruff and off-key, as much talking and mumbling as proper singing. That voice carries a powerful message: "Do not get sucked into the vacuum of the sweet and the smooth." This is reality speaking, the real world of wind and rumblings, a world every American has experienced over and over.

Here's a singer making no political claims or demands who has gone through the American Experience, in its utter triviality to its profound freedoms. Here's a singer who can speak the American experience. Could he speak to Americans, when no one else down there seems able to do so?


Copyright © 2014 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/05.14