A musician waxes-poetic on politics

Last week I shared the Gospel. This week I’m talking politics. Later on today I’m visiting Jerry Falwell’s grave.

It’s been five, six, seven years that I’ve been giving my heart to this “making of music” – and a good 15 that music has been the “apple of my eye” as they say. That said, I have and continue to spend the vast majority of my time listening, writing, reading, and so on about notes and tones, rhythms and form, dynamics and melody, improvisation, etc. I, of course, expect my hours to reap rewards on a variety of practical musical fronts, but aside from that, music continues to teach me a bit about the world outside of itself. Really what I’m saying is I’m going to talk about politics. I tried to fool you and and more importantly Last Level Boss Val (who in recent days has leveled up her powers) by a clever, wordy intro BUT what it comes down to is that I’m going to baptize myself in the political discussion (by way of the cinema).

Unfortunately for me the RVANews team is in love with movies. Ross really just likes anything on a screen, so that counts him in. Susan, as you know, prattles on weekly about the latest and greatest (i.e. Tropic Thunder over and over and over…) and it’s Val’s favorite topic as well, aside from babies – but movies about babies, don’t get her started!! There’s also former contributor, rabid g-chatter, passionate movie viewer as well as skeptic of love Justin. The point is that I hang out with these folks and inevitably this conversation occurs (usually at Ipanema)…

Ross, Last Level Boss Val, Suze, Skeptic of Love Justin: OMG movie XYZ was so fantastic blah, screen writing blah, great editing blah blah, he was also in blah, Scarlet Johansson not so blah, MattWhite what did you think?!?

Me: Uh, I haven’t seen it, don’t know who that is, Teo Macero really did some great editing on Miles Davis’s’ work, and I only love Charlize Theron more than ScoJo, but I don’t really have an opinion about the movie I guess?

These multi-weekly conversations got me thinking, and in an entirely too short summary this is the fruition of my thoughts…

It is very difficult for me to discuss other fields – all arts, religions, and politics etc. because as a musician, I have spent five, six, seven years digging hard to know more and grow more and learn more and I have truly seen fruits in my labor. I make different musical choices now that I certainly wouldn’t have made seven years ago. I play differently, write differently, analyze and process differently, and I am – I think – a significantly more astute and wise musical decision-maker than I was a few years ago.

The hindsight that this affords handcuffs my personal assessment of movies, theatre, dance, visual arts, religion, and politics. Of course, my personal set of aesthetics and experiences combine to form a personal opinion about many of the aforementioned topics, but since I have spent virtually no time (in comparison to the time I have spent with music) with any of those things, I am quite certain that my personal opinion should carry little weight and, if my musical path is any indicator, is probably wrong.

We are, of course, in an election year. In two months we will know who the next president of our country will be. The political landscape is, in short, complex. I am voting for Barack Obama. I also have no idea what I’m talking about. I could certainly be voting for the wrong candidate. History is convoluted and sometimes has surprising answers to questions we thought were easy. I spend a few hours a week reading about the election – probably more than the average American. But in reality, I am quite ignorant. I have never seriously studied American Political History, International History, Ethics, Economics, Foreign Affairs, or Environmental Science. I have (as Jim Rome says) a “take” – but one that has mostly been informed by the last year’s worth of political insight and certainly propaganda from both sides.

Really, I am complaining. I am complaining about folks that somehow have a monopoly on political insight. Folks that couldn’t possibly be wrong. Folks that approach the political sphere without a sense of humbleness and trepidation that the uncertain tide of history should have carved in all of us. I am complaining about having to hate John McCain and Sarah Palin like I hate Kobe Bryant and Peyton Manning. Not in any sort of rational way, but in a blind fit that discounts all positive contributions that this man may have made to the world. Believe me, I do hate Kobe Bryant as well as Peyton Manning with a totally irrational and blind rage, but that is the beauty of sports, not politics. The polarity that the whole process brings about is, amongst other things, disconcerting. Maybe the elusive swing voter actually exists – the one who is seriously weighing the issues and the personalities and trying to give each its appropriate due. I, however, have met few (if any) of those creatures. Maybe this is a dialogue about my insulated and thoroughly polarized world, and if so, I apologize for an extended, funded personal catharsis.

The point is that if music has taught me anything it’s that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I do at all times. In addition, there is no other answer to growth and greater understanding other than work, work, work. As applied to politics it means that although I have an opinion it could very easily be wrong, and since I haven’t put in loads and loads and years of hours, I don’t have too much business casting my judgment on others.

The only casting that I need do is with my very own vote in ye ol’ ballot box.

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Matthew E. White

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