Tag Archives: Martin Luther King

Hootenanny Wind

Hey!

You millennials!

Don’t trust anyone over 30.

That was the advice proffered by my generation in the sixties. That would be the 1960’s, though after a morning of pulling weeds, it feels like a hundred years before.

My friend, Jim Sherburne, wrote an interesting novel concerning that generational advice; RIVERS RUN TOGETHER. In it, he describes a 30-something writer in Chicago in the summer of 1968, during the Democratic presidential nominating convention. The protagonist’s heart was pining to be part of the protests happening behind police lines in the parks in Chicago, while his carbon-dated time on the planet consigned his bag-o-bones to the streets nearby. I recommend the book…especially now.

I’m over 30.

Dammit.

So…don’t trust me…but read this…it might help bridge the gap when next we meet.

In the early to mid-sixties, I was politically born.

On an August day (no school that day), Martin Luther King revealed his dream to the largest crowd I had ever seen, in Washington. It was on TV and I could not look away.

Earlier that year, a new music show had appeared on TV. It was called “Hootenanny” and it featured folk music.

That same year, radio station WBKY (now WUKY) had a late Saturday night show hosted by Ben Story featuring even more obscure (to me) folk music.

I was twelve.

What’s folk music?

Who’s Martin Luther King?

Why’s he black?

Does that mean something?

Is somebody doing something to him they shouldn’t?

What does Pete Seeger mean when he asks “Which side are you on?”

Sides? There are sides?

I was twelve.

Patrick Sky reached for a laugh in his now-forgotten classic “Talking Socialized Anti-Undertaker Blues”; “Formaldehyde and alcohol, we’ll pickle you, and that ain’t all; black or white, to us you’re all the same.” Where’s the laugh? It plumb evades me. What’s black or white got to do with it?

I was twelve. I had to look up “formaldehyde.”

Phil Ochs’ sad musician-turned-wino in “Chords of Fame” complains in an alley; “Reporters ask you questions. They write down what you say.” Why would they do that? Aren’t reporters supposed to be covering real news in 1963? The Cold War? Polio? Cuban missiles?

I was twelve and still eating sugar cubes and mastering the scary yoga of “duck and cover.”

Tom Paxton and Pete Seeger were asking “What did you learn in school today?”

Well… I really was taught things like;

“I learned that policemen are my friends
I learned that justice never ends
I learned that murderers die for their crimes
Even if we make a mistake sometimes.”

I was twelve. It had not yet occurred to me that all that might not be OK until Tom and Pete suggested I cipher on that a little more.

I listened as Judy Henske and Judy Collins and Joan Tolliver sang about the problems in the coal fields using the words of Billy Edd Wheeler. Mountains being stripped, towns abandoned, rivers poisoned? In Lexington, we didn’t have rivers or mountains.

But Mr. Wheeler’s words have stayed with me for over five decades.

All their words have. I learned much from these foreign-to-me teachers.

Mostly what I learned from these singers and preachers and yes, my Sunday school teachers was to always do the next right thing. Picking sides, recognizing colors and genders, knocking down mountains, fighting diseases, corrupt authorities……….just do the next right thing.

Mortgages, and insurance bills, and utility bills, and 401K’s have distracted me.

Stormy Daniels, and the Ukraine, and Confederate flags, and face masks are thrown at me now to continue to distract me.

I learned better in 1963 and what I learned still holds true.

Stay focused on Rev. King’s dream.

It’s the next right thing to do.

Trust me on this……no…wait……don’t trust me…go vote……do this yourself.

A Tale of Two Conventions

Four years ago, about this time, I was watching the political conventions. I’ve been fascinated by these events since 1964; Huntley, Brinkley, Cronkite, Vidal, Buckley…and balloon drops. Part of me died in 1968 in the parks of Chicago…but I hit pause on my demise while I enjoyed the balloon drops.

Little did I know four years ago that I might be enjoying my last political conventions as we know them. These unreality shows appear to be evaporating in the stark reality of COVID19 and social media.

But enjoy them I did. I grabbed my popcorn and I watched.

And I had thoughts…

I you will, “return with me now to those thrilling days of yesteryear” (apologies to the Lone Ranger).

******************************************

After watching two weeks of political conventions. My head is not spinning. I have a passel of thoughts but they seem pretty clear.

  • It was the best of conventions: it was the worst of conventions. I confess I plagiarized and paraphrased that.
  • I enjoyed seeing Paul Simon and Carole King while flinching at hearing them. Gettin’ old sucks.
  • The Trump family is lovely to look at – sans pere.
  • One of the things I enjoy about traveling is hearing languages and accents I rarely hear in Lexington. It humbles me a bit (always useful in my case) and reminds me I’m part of something bigger than the blissful bubble Janie and I live in and cherish.
  • In his late eighties, my grandfather was taken hunting one afternoon by one of my cousins. When they emerged from their hunting ground, they were confronted by a game warden waiting by their car. He asked for my grandfather’s hunting license and in the ensuing confusion about the existence of such a document (not to mention any relevant emails, birth certificates, or tax returns), the warden said he would need to have my grandfather’s gun/rifle/bazooka/whatever. My grandfather responded by cocking his gun/rifle/bazooka/whatever and saying “I don’t think so.” I think my mom had to bail him out on that caper.

I relate this to point out that I, like many of us, come from a culture of personal weaponry that is not even in the same area code as rational thought. I, like most of us, would like to see some improvement in the number of weapons of mass destruction currently in the hands of dangerous people (toddlers and terrorists alike). But I also think this is one of the two “third-rail” issues in US politics today. This issue will be tough for Democrats.

  • By the way, the other “third-rail” issue is Social Security. Republicans might want to tread warily here. This geezer would respectfully suggest they get offa my lawn. Or, to quote my grandfather; “I don’t think so.”
  • A wall. Really? A wall? Didn’t Russia try that in Berlin? If we’re gonna build something, let’s RE-build our infrastructure. Bridges, roads, and airports – yes! Wall – I don’t think so.
  • I’ve witnessed history-making things in my lifetime.
    • Humans bounding on the moon.
    • Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech.
    • John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
    • Barack Obama’s election to the presidency.
    • Hillary Clinton’s nomination for the presidency.
  • I’ve also seen a good many balloon drops in my lifetime and I always like’em. Yesterday’s Democratic Convention balloon drop was the best.

Finally, I’m watching a couple of films by Danish director Carl Theodore Dreyer. In his film Gertrud, one of the characters advises;

“Two things have been and still are more important to me than anything else. These two things are love and thought. You’ve spoken about love. As far as thoughts go, we should have courage to think good thoughts for the good thoughts bring us to the summit of truth, and truth is the only thing worthwhile.”

Michelle Obama might have said that more succinctly; “When they go low, we go high.”

No, my head’s not spinning…I’m goin’ high.