Monday, October 20, 2008

My next, next, last, last commentary - Jimi Hendrix "The Star Spangled Banner"

The other morning I was listening to some of my favorite music and came across a couple of patriotic pieces I love: "America the Beautiful" by Ray Charles, and Jimi Hendrix' "The Star Spangled Banner." I also listened to several pretty moving versions of "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" by Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Jim Nabors, Elvis Presley, Lee Greenwood, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Mannheim Steamroller, and even the Leningrad Cowboys! The Leningrad Cowboys sang it with the most gusto of any. Joan Baez and Judy Collins' versions were plaintive and contemplative. Jim Nabors, remember Gomer Pyle on Mayberry RFD?, sang it with clarity and respect.

With all the mud flying Barack's way, I thought a reminder might be in order of what this country is all about - "Liberty and Justice for All." I saw later in the day that McCain/Palin are stepping up their smear campaign with "robo-calls" exploiting Senator Obama's tangential relationship years ago with Bill Ayers. Last Night, Fox News added their pseudo "journalism" regarding the radical politics of the Black Panthers and the Weathermen during the 1960's trying to tie that history to the smear campaign against Obama. Let's not forget that Obama was eight years old at the time. More and more Republican leaders are asking McCain/Palin to stop these calls and stop the mud slinging; many traditionally Republican newspapers are now endorsing Barack Obama. John McCain says he can "reach across the aisle"; but first, he apparently needs to mudsling, smear, character assassinate, and stoop to the tactics of the lowest common denominator. Even Gen. Colin Powell has had enough.

Why McCain/Palin think picking at all the wounds of the Vietnam War era is helpful is hard to figure. It's sad to see McCain sink to the mudslinging level of Karl Rove and Rush Limbaugh and the pseudo journalism of Sean Hannity. The enormous price our troops paid then for another misguided war begun with lies and phony pretexts only reminds me of the terrible price our soldiers are paying for our elected leaders' lies, mistakes, and bungling of virtually everything they've done in Iraq.

I still believe America, for all its flaws, can be that City on the Hill, and a beacon of hope, and a better place; but the McCain/Palin politics of personal smearing won't get us there. Their divisive tactics smack of small minded tawdry desperation.

Two weeks after John McCain voted to give $700 Billion dollars to banks to keep them from failing, he's attacking Obama for his "socialist" tax credits to poor people. I think it was Richard Nixon who came up with the idea, in fact. If ever there was a crystallized example of "trickle down" versus "bottom up" economics, this is it. $700 Billion to banks is okay, but tax credits for lower wage income earners is "socialist"? Give me a break.

What's not to admire about John McCain's military service to America? He followed his orders, was captured, imprisoned, tortured and refused to be released until those captured before him were released. But what about his orders? I believe that history has shown there was no victory to be had in Vietnam. We keep hearing that Victory in Iraq is just around the corner. I believe, now, that there is no victory to be had in Iraq, either. We won the war in Iraq in a month; we subsequently unleashed tribal and religious animosities which led to a civil war lasting years and claiming hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives. Over 4,000 American soldiers have died there trying to insert themselves heroically between the warring factions. But enough is enough. We've done enough. It's up to Iraqis now. America is strong enough to correct her mistakes; America is resilient.

So back to Jimi Hendrix -- as I listen to his Woodstock performance, I can hear the depth of his personal despair and the genuine emotional attachment he has to America's dream. To me it is a profoundly perceptive and patriotic rendition - there's a complexity and depth and resonance and heartfelt sincerity and respect for America. That Woodstock idealism was not a weakness. Idealism is one of the strengths of America. Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and many others, including for me, Barack Obama. were and are able to tap the idealism beneath the commercial facades of America.

Barack Obama keeps trying to elevate the conversation and be inclusive; McCain and Palin continue to sink deeper and deeper into their divisive rhetoric, mudslinging, smear tactics, and character assassination.

So God help us through the next couple of weeks.



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