Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Last of Summer

(a photo of the Rhythm Devils from their website)

Last weekend I was up in central Michigan, at a wonderful music festival called "Wheatlands." It was the 38th annual event. I'd played at several of the early ones, back in the '70s, with the band that is not to be named. This time I was playing with the Formerly Knowns, and we even sold some of "their" records, having none of our own as yet. Friday night, up on the big stage, a band called the Starlight Six featured a lead singer who said she'd been to the first festival, when she was but a month old, and had attended every one since. That's pretty neat. There were a lot of fine bands and performers.

I was most taken with the Lafayette Rhythm Devils, who play kick-ass cajun music, and whose young fiddler, Chris Segura, is an intuitive genius. If you care to buy their most recent CD, "Devil on a String," check out cut 7, "Je peux pas dormir le soir." You will never hear more remarkable fiddling, at least not this side of Stephan Grapelli at his finest. The Devils also feature the great singing of Randy Vadrine, who is channelling D.L. Menard and just a little of Mac McGaha, and Yvette Landry, who rivets the attention with her joy in music, plays a great bass line, and knows how to sing. Of course the Devils have a website. The seem to play mostly around home. Too bad for us, and damn the oil companies anyways. It's getting very hard to tour by automobile.

The festival itself was a gathering of like minds. People who care about each other, about the land, about the planet. There was a lot of tie-dye. There was a hint of "the chronic." All weekend I was met with the talsmanic phrase, "Happy Wheatland." These folks were getting ready for a Michigan winter. It was a festival of the countryside. We drove ten miles or so on a straight gravel road, through mostly woods, to get to the entrance to the grounds. I didn't see a fast food joint or a grocery store all weekend, and on the last day a stand called "Bob's" gave away it's last ears of fresh picked corn so they could pack up and get going before the bitter end. It was corn so fresh it reminded me of blues tossed out of the skiff and into the frying pan, down on the Banks.

I had to wonder if all these nice folks are going to go out and vote next year, if they are willing to stand against a gathering tide of full-tilt crazy that's coming at the country like gang-busters. I'm afraid a lot of these people are so disgusted by the Right that they're more likely to just focus on local things--put your head down, get up the firewood, grow the corn for the next hog, deal with the day to day, play acoustic music for the dance down at the grange. Keep your head down.

This was my generation's approach to Vietnam and Nixon. It might not be sensible, but disgust is a hard thing. In the liberal blogs I read there are signs of disgust in reaction to the Republican Debates. One person writes of a Republican party where germ theory is now in question. At Digby's place I find the following:

I must say that my reaction to this from out here in terrestrial paradise has been one of motivated anger, yes, but also gut-wrenching fear. At the risk of violating Godwin's law, never before in my 30-year lifetime, not even during the Bush years, have I felt this country was more keenly teetering on the precipice of totalitarianism than it is today. The people on that stage last night, and more especially the people in the audience, have murder on the mind. They have been whipped into a state of near frenzy against their perceived liberal, "freeloader" and "big government" enemies, and the bloodlust is running at a fever pitch. One of the candidates even openly advocated for eliminating social security based on the model adopted by Chilean mass murderer and fascist Augusto Pinochet.

There can be little doubt that if America were in the hands of these people, the country would already be locked in a pseudo-theocratic totalitarian death spiral. That's not the hallucinatory fantasy of a hysterical progressive blogger. That's just reality on its face. If these people manage to gain control of all levers of American power, it could very well mean the end of our nearly 250-year experiment in representative democracy.
[David Atkins, 9/13/11]

That's pretty dire talk. And I think his perceptions are accurate from what I've glimpsed of these debates, though I certainly don't propose to watch any of them, or to even consider voting for a Republican, now or ever, period. Indeed, I'd rather watch a full night of "Sons of Anarchy," a family oriented teevee show about criminal bikers and their doings, and the womenfolk who love 'em. I started to tivo a few episodes they were rerunning, but Libby said I'd put it on the wrong hard drive and she wanted to watch Jon Stewart, so the tivo got nixed. Nothing was missed of course--but that's a symptom of putting your head down I think, creeping up on me from home tired from work.

As I keep saying, all we have here is a two party system, a binary situation, just like on a computer. It's not something the vaunted Founders gave us, but it's what we have. Libertoonians and Trotskyists are merely political fantasists, pretending to vote for something that isn't there. If you don't vote at all, you're actually voting for the wrong guy. That's how it works here.

Roy Edroso is so depressed he ended a piece the other day with the suggestion that we all consider dual citizenship. What a sad state of affairs. And then I have to remember all those nice folks, having fun in the ending summer last weekend. And the Lafayette Rhythm Devils, who play so good you will find yourself dancing with an astonishment akin to David Byrne's "How Did I Get Here?" There is water on the bottom of the ocean.

Update. Re never voting Republican, here in NC our Republican majority legislature just voted to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot next May which, if passed, outlaws same-sex marriage. The point of this exercise is to use and encourage homophobia to get out the vote in NC for Republican candidates. That is to say, this Republican majority is quite willing to scapegoat real people--real families with real children, their fellow Carolineans all--for the sake of votes. I can think of nothing more craven, small, selfish, and downright evil that this legislative action, thought there are plenty of challengers of course. NC Republicans did it. Let them live with it. Indeed, let them all be voted out of office, every damn one. This is exactly what James Hoffa was saying last week, and why.

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