By Chris Mosser
(LSM Jan/Feb 2011/vol. 4 – Issue 1)
I had the great pleasure of attending the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” in Washington, D.C., in October. As is the case with most trips I take, this was in large part an excuse to do some drinking in the cool places that a cool, strange town has to offer. I’ve had lots of folks look down their noses at me when I say that, for me, tourism is often touring the interesting bars of a new city, but it’s the truth — and there is certainly no shortage of such places to experience in D.C. We hit Café Saint-Ex, which was completely lacking in television screens … a fact I didn’t clue into until after sitting there for an hour, thinking, “This is one cool-ass bar.” Later in the trip, we visited the Columbia Room, which was an enclosed, semi-private exotic cocktail laboratory tucked into the back of a raucous hipster joint called The Passenger. It was at the Columbia Room where a mad-scientist bartender/alchemist concocted concoctions that I think might press the limits of legality — and certainly those of conventional cocktail physics. Absolute heaven. (Side note: While I was sitting there in a haze, LoneStarMusic honcho Zach Jennings phoned from New Braunfels to tell me he had enjoyed that evening’s “Phoenix Sessions” performance by Possessed by Paul James, a similarly transcendent act that I came across during a similarly serendipitous occasion at the Hole In the Wall some months back in my very own hometown.)
But, as usual, I digress. The entire point of the trip was the Rally, an exercise in civic expression that was meant to say, ENOUGH. Enough with the idea that the person who differs from me politically or culturally is my blood enemy. Enough with the notion that we are ours, and that those who are not ours are our destroyers. That me, and those who think like me, are the last bastion and those who don’t represent the demise of all that I hold dear.
It’s complete, absolute nonsense.
There’s been a ton of criticism leveled at the Rally since it happened, mostly from those whose position it imperils, which is not at all a surprise. Back in the day, the folks who were responsible for providing news to the public referred to themselves as “journalists” — an archaic term, I know. Fundamental to this duty was the ability to remain politically neutral, in order to preserve the perceived integrity and lack of bias on the part of the news provider. The American two-party system, coupled with the political fragmentation and polarization of television news outlets and those outlets’ inherent need for eyeballs in order to survive, have produced a new game: TV politics as bloodsport. It’s kind of like what I’ve touched on in columns past in regard to conventional music radio programming being based on the idea that we’re all the expert on what we like personally, and if we hear something we don’t know, we must not like it, and therefore new music sucks. A similar situation comes to bear when news channels become either “conservative” or “liberal,” which only seems to reinforce this line of thinking: “I have my political ideas, and they are right, because I am unwilling to listen to anything that does not fit my chosen mindset. Therefore, I will find a news channel or media outlet which cranks out whatever angle I have become comfortable with, and I will listen, and absorb … no, not only will I listen and absorb, but I will cease to think and listen and absorb whatever my chosen channel chooses to crank forth. And if my chosen channel chooses to brand the channel on the other side of the argument and its viewers as my enemies, then by God, they are. And I hate them.”
The atmosphere of the Rally was anything but serious, but that was the point. This was a tremendous gathering of Americans smart enough to recognize that we’ve got dozens of news channels, but somehow we’re sorely short of journalists. This was over 200,000 people, gathered from the breadth of the continent, saying ENOUGH. Saying it, not screaming it. Pleading for more calm reason and truth, and less biased, manipulative pandering. It was the biggest, funniest, nicest crowd I have ever waded into. We left the Mall after the Rally and headed over to the Jefferson Memorial, where one particular inscription summed up the afternoon quite nicely: “I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.” T.J. was such a badass.
I left this enlightened excursion to our nation’s capital the next morning, hung over but happy, and proceeded directly to … Lubbock, Texas. (Those of you who have spent any time in Lubbock, pause a moment to consider the magnitude of this particular cultural gearshift.) The Lubbock trip was for my grandfather’s funeral. Needless to say, I’ve had serious political differences with my Lubbock peeps. One of my dearest, lifelong friends picked me up at the airport and immediately launched into a tirade about how illegal Mexican immigrants were out to get him. One of my favorite cousins, 10 years my junior, asked me if I was a “dirty liberal,” and I had to say, “Yes, I am.”
Here’s my hope. I deal in the music of Texas. And I know that Texas is a hotbed of exactly the type of political polarization I’m railing against here. So, I want YOU — the Texas music fan — to consider what I’m saying. Be big enough to consider that you may not know everything there is to know about how the world works, or should work. Be big enough to understand that ALL of us have a lot to learn. Be big enough to understand that big-time TV news is only interested in your eyeballs, not in providing you the truth — you must find the truth yourself. Know that there is always an effort to keep you watching, and it rarely has anything to do with journalistic integrity. Pandering and scare tactics are commonplace and sometimes hard to detect, but any outlet bothering to tell you how fair and balanced and spin-free they are is most likely not at all. Listen to the other side. Think beyond your own circumstances. Consider that, while there are conservative and liberal ideas, it’s perhaps a bit simplistic to apply those labels to people. Use those terms — conservative and liberal — as adjectives, not nouns.
Just THINK, people. Don’t let any talking head do that important work for you. They’ll always sell you short.