FROM MY CORNER
Come Back, Woody
I went to Arlo Guthrie’s concert in Monterey last night. It was almost enough to make me optimistic again about America, something I’ve not really felt for some time.
Arlo, his daughter Sarah Lee, and his son Abe, brought clearly to mind an idea I’ve been nursing for years: that it is the artists of America who really keep our country’s ethics together. It certainly is not the self-serving, greed-obsessed, profit-oriented consumer culture that corporations have created and continuously nurture.
The audience last night, I noted, were mostly in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, although a fair number of youngsters were also there, cheering enthusiastically as Arlo and his kids fired us up.
There is something about the Guthrie legend, that of Woody Guthrie, Arlo’s Dad, which brings one’s thinking back down to the basics of now fading but once tangible American democratic ideals
When Arlo sang “This land is your land, this land is my land” people didn’t have to strain to feel their hearts pump faster. It was thrilling to hear several hundred voices spontaneously join in. When the song ended, the entire audience stood in applause.
Arlo was visibly moved by the enthusiasm of this audience. So was I. The current belligerent, chaotic, uncreative, fumbling leadership of the country temporarily took back seat to the spirit of the evening.
When Arlo sang “Alice’s Restaurant,” the essentially anti-war epic of the 60’s, its message was not missed by anyone in the crowd – all old enough to understand that America’s economy remains fundamentally based on it’s highly profitable “defense” industry’s international arms sales.
As a former Army Captain, I never deny that defense is still a necessary ingredient in a tumultuous world. But, it has long been clear that the profit motive is what keeps America’s defense industry, more expensive than the next ten nations of the planet, alive and thriving.
While Arlo very subtly reminded us of how the past is being relived in the present, his remarkably talented daughter, Sarah – with a wonderfully attractive style all her own – reminded us what a finely committed female voice can convey about human sensitivity and empathy.
In contrast, Donald Trump recently preached that until the savage competition of nations reverses trend, we must keep spending billions more dollars increasing our already gargantuan defense budget.
Totally missing in his challenged intellect is the concept that he is in the ultimate position of being able to promote to all nations the idea of all organizing to reduce each and every country’s defense spending.
The need is growing for the human race to finally embrace and take seriously the idea of how stupid organized war is as a negotiating tool for our alleged earthly civilization.
Trump’s lack of imagination and prophetic historic vision is appalling. He has the creative imagination of a slug. His narcissistic obsession with himself and with defeating all comers is deplorable.
What does this have to do with Arlo Guthrie and family? Or what has Arlo’s family got to do Trump’s gross inadequacies? It is what I said: Artists are about the only people who seriously address the stupidity of war.
The rest of us pay our taxes and support the multi-billion dollar profits that accrue to all the corporate defense allies. The old bromide that war is simply human nature is no longer acceptable. It is an issue that must be addressed as part of international relations.
The existence of humanity is too fragile to be left to the feeble minds of people whose only incentive is dollars and gold plated bathroom fixtures. And the American middle class, that silent, couch-dwelling, TV-mesmerized strata of the country, ought to think about this.
They also all ought to go to one of Arlo’s concerts. It might remind them of what they believed in about America before they gave up on ideals and got stuck on the couch personally obsessed with just protecting their own economic security.