No Pasarán

First, a friendly confidential to Ms. Clare Ford:

Thank you for weighing in, and I’m sorry that it happens in this ugly season.  In all honesty, I did not even listen to Obama’s (by all accounts, nobly statesmanlike) address.  If I met him in person, I’m not sure I could even look him in the face.  For the past eight years, he has endured unimaginable slanders, betrayals, and openly treasonous and hateful behavior, not only from (trigger warning, Phil: here follows the sort of ragefilled, ugly rhetoric that upsets you) the sort of idiot thugs that are feeling ever more empowered here in the U.S., those who are now painting swastikas, threatening women, gays, Blacks, Latinos, people who can read, people who have 46 chromosomes, “coastal elites” in general, and—perhaps worse—from members of the press (or, recte, the “press”) and even high-ranking elected officials.  For me, all of this makes the nobility and restraint of the Obama family almost unbearable.  I don’t like saying this, but I do find myself wondering if Michelle Obama’s comment, “when they go low, we go high,” hasn’t passed its sell-by date.  How to put this?: my ethical and philosophical background and upbringing did not incline me to allow others to take on my suffering.  Not an admired national leader, not underlings taking guff meant for me, not even (ahem) a religious figure. I cannot offload my responsibility for feeling whips and scorns, or for responding to particular kinds of treatment, to another—real, historical, or mythical.  The “look how noble he is; can you not be more Obama-like in your responses?  What would Obama do?” goes in a direction from which I turn away.  I am a citizen of this country, and I have to take responsibility, on some level, for what happens here.  As I have no gun and am long past the age of effective physical combat, I need to use my voice, pen, and keyboard.  This follows the greater principle of “If you see something, say something,” I suppose.

Now, back to a brief comment on our dust-up:

Phil’s SHTF post seems to agree with most of my substantive points while disliking my ugly rhetoric…so I’m not even going to bother.  My parents often objected to my rhetoric, many of my teachers certainly disliked it, and under the present circumstances I’ll be damned if now, when not 24 hours have passed and it’s already harder for middle-class people to buy homes, and the clown is taking aim at the ACA and the NEA (medical care and the arts being, apparently, major threats), I’m going to constrain myself to talk nice about his supporters.  Charles Schulz gently but unmistakably called this out more than a half-century ago:

“Look out!! Ha! Now you’ve done it! Now you’ve broken a lamp, and you’ve got no one to blame it on but yourself!”

“Maybe I could blame it on society!”

Nope.  And now, having done the damage because they were credulous, manipulated fools who are already beginning to suffer buyers’ remorse (while still clutching their guns and bigotries), they are entitled to neither respect nor understanding.  They have done me and my country inestimable damage, and it is clear how effective “reaching out to them” has been.  Save the tears; not interested.

I am not in a frame of mind where solutions are presenting themselves.  When the neediest people vote to destroy their own access to medical care, or don’t vote at all, I’m out of ideas.  I work in arts education, though, so: as Melania’s husband takes aim at the arts, in the form of the NEA, I’m interested to see what artists do.  A rebirth of the protest-song genre?  Guerrilla art?  I hope that it takes internet snarkerei to an effective level, beyond dark entertainment.  A song like the Pete Seeger/Joe Hickerson “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” had a seismic effect, culturally.  Punk-genre rage songs remain with us, but they don’t stick, or spread.  Same with Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care of Our Own.”

The anthem that miraculously hits the right resonance.  To paraphrase my favorite quote from The Untouchables, “What are we prepared to do?”

About jonathanbellman

Professor of Music History and Literature and Head of Academic Studies in Music at the University of Northern Colorado. Author, *The _Style Hongrois_ in the Music of Western Europe* (Northeastern University Press, 1993), *A Short Guide to Writing About Music* (2e, Longman, 2008), *Chopin's Polish Ballade: Op. 38 as Narrative of National Martyrdom* (Oxford University Press, 2010), Editor, *The Exotic in Western Music* (Northeastern University Press, 1998), author of bunches of articles and reviews and so on. Likes to play the piano, the mandolin, and even guitar sometimes. A. M. and Jo Winchester Distinguished Scholar at UNC, 2011.
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4 Responses to No Pasarán

  1. Clare Ford says:

    I do agree that ‘saying something when you see something’ is now more than ever an essential duty of every conscientious citizen, and part of the necessary struggle to arrest the appalling trends you describe. Actually, I should add, I tend to think you should call it exactly as you see it, rhetoric and all (sorry, Phil), otherwise how will anyone know how you see it?

    Reporters from Canada who have sallied forth to the ‘Rustbelt’ etc have found that Trump supporters tend not to want to give their last names. Glimmerings of self-knowledge? Traces of shame? Apparently these reporters also found a level of nervousness about their choice amongst these people. America might yet return to sanity – never everyone, but the nation as a whole.

  2. Traces of shame, maybe; more likely fear of trolling and harassment. The more information available, the more threat to the individual. And maybe, just maybe, those folks really know how trolling is done.

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