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Monday, August 02, 2004

As a general rule, I don't put other people's writing up here. This is supposed to be my place to bloviate, after all. (Well, here and in the pulpit, and at DailyKos, and in my other blog...)

But every once in a while something catches my eye. For example, this post from a friend from DailyKos who goes by the handle "TomtheAeronaut," from his love of building model airplanes:

Don't know what's happening in your town, but our PBS station (KCET) is having its summer fund raiser starting this weekend. Yours may be doing the same soon.

I just wanted to recommend a show they've had on the past three fund-raisers, that I have resisted watching (more fool I).

The Peter, Paul and Mary documentary. There was this segment of he 60s left who had their heads up their ass and said that any "political group" that sold out (i.e., did something commercial) had forfeited their right to be considered "real" and should be further ignored. This was particularly prevalent among the upper class "socialite socialists" of SDS, and somehow this middle class boy bought into their bullshit, and managed to drop Peter, Paul and Mary from his list of "relevant musicians" for the "crime" of doing commercial hits like "Leaving on a Jet Plane," etc. Never mind how many times this "artist" (me) has "sold out" for such mundane things as paying the mortgage, the rent, the cat food bill, etc., etc. - any creative person who doesn't grab onto something they did that can make Real Money is an idiot who should be thrown off a bridge for being a Fool.

There's always part of me that knows when I have done something "wrong" and then I go out of my way to avoid seeing it, so I don't have to admit it, and this show is one of them.

Well, I was an idiot. (A status that I am not unfamiliar with.)

Watch the show. Buy the new CD.

I think perhaps my willingness to stop being stupid on this had something to do with my most recent birthday - the one I didn't celebrate, didn't look forward to, didn't like, don't think I have anything in common with, etc., etc. My 60th birthday. There. I said it for all to see.

Funny thing about this birthday. When I turned 40, over the course of the next year I discovered that suddenly I could write better, more deeply. It was in retrospect that I could see what was what: I had survived long enough to have enough experience to finally be able to figure people out - I understood "character motivation." Life was far less a mystery, and became less such the further I went.

A month ago I would have had nothing to say about the most recent milestone. Unfortunately, becoming a better writer in your 40s and 50s means you become more self-aware and other-aware. So all of a sudden I have seen the change in point of view that has happened. It's true! Old people get "wise." I wouldn't call it that, I'd call it "enough experience to finally be able to comprehend perspective." Anyway, I suddenly do see things more clearly.

So, back to Peter, Paul and Mary: all my life I have enjoyed being in the presence of "real people," i.e., people willing to act on their beliefs and suffer the consequences, people willing to live in harmony with their integrity and accept the consequences of so doing. Didn't realize that was going to happen, just decided to watch the show because nothing else was on. Well, watching these guys teach "If I Had A Hammer" and "We Shall Overcome" to 5 year olds, and watching them relate to those kids because they are only old chronologically and physically, was an eye-opener. I suddenly started to get some self-awareness of why I feel "young."

And hearing them tell of what happened to them in the 1980s, when they went to El Salvador and came back singing songs in favor of the FMLN, and how they were picketed by wingnuts with "If I Had A Hammer (And A Sickle)" posters, and lost their passports and all the rest that happened to them, when all I was doing was going to HollyweirdLiberal parties and giving money...

The thing about people who live their lives in integrity with a willingness to suffer the consequences is - for the rest of us - their existence challenges us with the question "What the hell are you doing?" They're the kind of people that in the Catholic Church are what are meant by "saints." I'm sure P,P&M would laugh me out of the room to call them "saints," but when you see their whole work in that show, it has that effect.

Listening to their new songs, "Jesus On The Wire" (about Matthew Sheppard) and "Invisible People" (about what my "heroic" ancestors and yours did to the people who were here before we arrived), really did me in. Made the pledge. Bought the CD. And I am sure playing it in the coming 90 days will have value to kicking me in the butt to do what we gotta do to take the country back.

Watch the show. It "fires up the base." It'll inspire you. They're good.

I'm even going to watch it again on Saturday, followed by "A Black And White Night" - if your station plays that, it's the BEST rock'n'roll show PBS has ever shown - Roy Orbison doing his greatest stuff, backed up by some Serious Talent. Filmed back in 1986, when Yours Truly made major contributions to PBS and through my friend (and fellow writer) Tom Petty's lighting and staging director, I was one of those sitting in the shadows in the audience of the best rock 'n' roll show I ever saw. If you can catch it, record it.

Saints indeed.
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