When your emotions are intense but inchoate, thank God if you’re a folk singer. You get to fiddle with the mike, take a long, mournful look at the house, twang a string or two, and warn that “a hard rain’s gonna fall” or snicker “something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you, Mister Jones?”
The house listens with silent awe. No one can say exactly what you’re talking about, but the words seem so right.
John Kass has a lot on his mind. America’s in turmoil, and he’s got deep misgivings. But instead of a stool in a dimly lit coffee house, Kass had to settle for page two of the Sunday Tribune, a venue where the lights are bright and logic comes first.
“On those nights when they were young,” he wrote, “they smoked pot in the streets and listened to Dylan in the car and dreamed of the risks they’d take.” But they’re much older now, “and they rush toward the warm embrace of big government and promised security.” In Kass’s vision, the boomers grew up to be a generation of nervous Mister Joneses, and so many of them they can turn their fears into laws and governments.
That might work as a song.
And now big government has sunk its fangs into the financial industry, and when bureaucrats are running high finance the dreamers with big ideas won’t stand a chance. “The entrepreneurial mind isn’t willing to settle and wants to make more than $250,000 in salary or whatever the federal government deems proper,” said Kass. “They don’t want proper. What they want is to take risks and reach the American Dream. [But] when they get close to victory they’ll get whacked with tax increases and the rug will be pulled out from under them.”
There could be a song in that, an angry, foot-stomping “Ballad of Joe the Plumber.”
The column was a cry from Kass’s heart. “Will our children speak of liberty, as we once did before we forgot?” he asked, in clear torment. “These days, liberty isn’t in vogue. It’s so, so olde.” He closed with a parable about catching a wild pig. It’s such a powerful parable that I believe it’s earned Wild Pig a song of its own, a song that will exhilarate us even though we have our doubts about the metaphor.
Last weekend some people I knew in high school came over for dinner — all of us refugees from one of a red state’s more conservative suburbs. We talked economics just long enough to establish that everyone was getting wiped out, and we also talked about race. It isn’t fear that’s made us want to vote for Obama. My freshman year was the first year the black kids in town got to go to the white schools. Obama was someone we never expected to see in our lifetimes.
So I sympathize with Kass — the election has also stirred up feelings in me that are a little too much for words to express. And however much a guitar would have helped him put across his personal suffering, Kass’s column alone has made an enormous impact on readers. Follow this link to read it online, and then browse the hundreds of comments that follow.