My morning routines are like clockwork. I get up at about 5:00, put the dogs out, make a pot of coffee, and read a couple of chapters from the Bible. Right now I’m reading my way through the Old Testament prophets. If I didn’t already know they wrote and railed against society’s ills a long, long time ago, I’d swear they’d written or railed a couple of days ago. Every once in a while I ask myself, “Don’t Hosea, Amos and Habakkuk live somewhere south of the tracks?”
After some coffee and stimulating morning conversation with Nancy, we take the dogs for a walk around the neighborhood. We’re usually done by eight and then I’m on my way the Recreation Center. As soon as I get there, I spend a few minutes talking to Barb Rourke and her crew and a few more kibitzing with some of my buddies.
With the formalities concluded, I make my way upstairs to walk around the track for about an hour and a half. I tune my I-phone to Pandora (my favorite stations are Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, or Van Morrison) and off I go. One morning might feature the gritty wisdom of Leadbelly. The next it might be the burning anger of Phil Ochs.
Some people think I’m just walking aimlessly around in circles, but I beg to differ. I find the detachment from the world quite refreshing. It gives me time to think and make as much sense of the modern world as I can. Some examples follow.
Our local politicians and pundits were aghast when the most recent election results showed that less than 14% of Lyon County’s registered voters cast ballots. Actually, I’m surprised the turnout was actually that high, given the nature of our political beast. Myself? I voted, but it was only in keeping with a habit I’ve developed over the years. I harbored no expectations or grand illusions that politics will make things better. Author P.J. O’Rourke once observed that when an election is over, it won’t be long till the politicians will start forming committees that design horses who look and act like camels. I’m sure that in time my low expectations, and O’Rourke’s, will be rewarded.
Why aren’t people voting? It’s not that hard to understand. As the Almanac Singers put it back in the early 1940’s, “Take the two old parties, Mister, no difference in them I can see.”
Now, it’s bad enough to have the politicians fleecing us, but the cops are really getting out of hand. I’ve been writing about the problem for some time. So have a lot of other folks, but the cops don’t seem to be listening. Things have gone from very bad to even worse. It’s so bad that “wannabe’s” are getting into the act. Just a few weeks ago, Robert Bates, a 73 year old reserve officer from Tulsa, Oklahoma, shot and killed Eric Harris, an African-American after a brief chase. According to Bates, it was all a mistake. He said he meant to shoot Harris with his stun gun, but “accidentally” drew and fired his 357 Magnum instead. As soon as he fired, he realized what he’d done. “I shot him. I’m sorry,” he said.
So, Harris is dead and Bates is free on bail, currently on a court approved vacation, sunning himself in the Bahamas. I guess that the best cure for trauma must be a Caribbean vacation.
As I observe this madness spinning out of control, I find that the Recreation Center track is an escape hatch of sorts for me. Yesterday I was listening to Haywire Mac sing about the “Big Rock Candy Mountain.” Like him, I found myself longing for the time when the “cops all have wooden legs and the bulldogs all have rubber teeth.” This morning, it was Blind Alfred Reed, a 1920’s Blues singer, raging like an Old Testament prophet:
“There’s no sense in shooting a man ‘till he shows flight. Officers kill without a cause. They complain about funny laws – Tell me, how can a poor man stand such times and live?”
So, I spend my mornings walking, reflecting, and sometimes longing for good news. There are other days when I long to hear what the poet laureate of my generation called the “sound of thunder that’s roaring out a warning” or the “thousand drummers whose hands are a-blazin.” But, the more I walk, the more I sense that the warnings are being drowned out by the meaningless drumbeats of politics and power. We live in a world where “hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten. Where black is the color, where none is the number.”
Tomorrow’s another day. As it was with today, the ritual mayhem will go on. Me? I’ll continue to walk, reflect, lament, and draw inspiration from the voices of the past. It’s the only way I can make sense of things in this world. Our institutions and politicians may fail, but those timeless voices will keep me on the straight and narrow.