Patriotic Music

Today we celebrate the declaration of freedom of one group of white, male, landowning imperialists from the tyranny of another group of white, male landowning imperialists. (I’m writing this on 4 July, but you won’t see it until the 5th, since everything goes live at midnight. As usual, if you just read your email you won’t see/hear the music links, so click the title and open the page.)

Samuel Johnson has been quoted (by Boswell) as saying that “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.” Our current president hugging and kissing a flag immediately comes to mind.

AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana

In the 1960s, the people who were the equivalent of Trump’s base today had a bumper sticker that said, “America: Love it or Leave it”. Soon another bumpersticker appeared reading, “America: Love is not Enough”. The triumvirate concluded with, “America: Fix it or Fuck it”. I wrote an essay in high school in which I chose the third and concluded, “In my life, I want to be the fixer.” The elderly version of me would say, “I don’t trust any philosophy that can fit on a bumper sticker.”

I have seen other blogs listing “patriotic music” we should listen to today. As I rambled through 50 miles of countryside this morning, a few patriotic tunes ran through my head, so here is my contribution to the day. First, a potential alternate national anthem. I am far from the first to suggest that.

Much music has been written for “important” people. Aaron Copland decided it was time for a fanfare for the common people. (The imagery in the video seems to have been chosen by someone who had a totally different idea of what Copland meant.)

When I heard Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee perform this song I had a new appreciation for the song and the harmonica, and of the benefits of growing up in a college town so I could see and hear them.

Even presidents who accomplished great things in their tenure can ultimately fail. I always liked this intro, even though the song had nothing to do with LBJ. With a band name like “The Electric Flag” (with the subtitle “An American Music Band”) I had to squeeze them in, with their rendition of this Howlin’ Wolf tune.

Bob Dylan had to make this posting, and this one, while always timely, seems especially so again, with a new generation taking the lead.

Too often in Dylan’s shadow, Phil Ochs was a genius in his own right. It’s hard to pick one song, but this is one that those who don’t listen closely can misconstrue (kinda like “Born in the USA” by Bruce Springsteen).

Richard and Mimi Fariña sang of (not) testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). A live version was recorded at the Newport Folk Festival. I have it on vinyl (the posthumous album “Memories” – beware – the CD version is not the same) but all other versions I can find are a vastly inferior recording, so this is the original studio version, since digitizing my album is beyond my capability. The album was a Christmas present from my sister, who heard it playing at a record store. She told me that if I didn’t want it, she’d keep it. No way was I going to let her have it. It grew on me quickly and I still have it 53(?) years later.

Antonin Dvořák showed that European classical composers can be influenced by the US, not just vice versa. And who can resist a piece that opens with viola?

Much is made of the American Dream. I grew up learning about America as a melting pot; a rich stew enlivened by new additions. But the longer the stew steeps, the smaller the influence of those additions. My kids learned a song in elementary school that told them “My town is not a melting pot/My town is a salad bowl” – that our identities are lost if they are melted together. Folksinger Charlie King taught me that America truly is a melting pot – “The scum rises to the top and those on the bottom get burned.” (One might conclude that we have to stir things up every now and then.)

We tend to forget that “America” includes a huge land mass stretching from about 70 degrees north latitude to about 55 degrees south latitude. The United States is but a small part of America. In Spanish there is a term for people from the US – “estadounidense”, roughly “United Statesian”. English lacks such a term which encourages us to forget the rest of America and think of ourselves as Americans and everyone else as Other. And we conveniently forget that people were already here when it was “discovered”. Not to mention that many think of American as meaning “light-skinned and of European origin”.

Whose version of that dream will be realized? Whose version is snuffed out too soon? Los Lobos asks the question.

Early readers will miss the next link. I forgot it yesterday when I got home. Leadbelly sang of hypocrisy and segregation in “Bourgeois Blues”.

Before hip hop there was Gil Scott-Heron, who taught us that “The Revolution Will Not be Televised”. Sitting back and watching is not enough.

Now that I’m home and can look things up, this list could keep growing. I realize women are under-represented. But I will stay true to the theme (this being a bike blog, not a music blog) of what I thought of and sang on today’s ride – with this one exception. What if we had a president who sang along with the Freedom Singers instead of retweeting White Power? (Oh yeah, we did once.)

I don’t know which should close – Gil Scott-Heron or Sam Cooke – but it’s gonna be Cooke. He started as a gospel singer, became famous to white folks as a pop singer, but I think this was his greatest achievement. It continues to send chills down my spine.

A real American – an oak tree on this morning’s ride

What’s the score?

My local newspaper (the handling of which is deemed a low-risk vector for infection) interviewed a medical ethicist (whose work I know and respect) about the allocation of resources in a time of scarcity.

In other words, if there aren’t enough ventilators to go around, who gets one? How do we decide? I suddenly feel old. My mind totes up the score. I’m over 65. That’s bad. I rode my bike across the country at 65. That’s good. I have asthma. That’s bad. My asthma is well-controlled; requiring no medication in years except for once last month. That’s good. I work in health care. That’s good, for being someone who should be saved. That’s bad, for being someone who can stay home and stay well. I’m not just resting on my laurels as someone who rode across the country a couple of years ago. I rode the Horribly Hilly Hundreds last last year and am scheduled to ride the Death Ride this year. That’s good, isn’t it?

In other words, I don’t want to die yet. Most of us don’t. While I accept death as part of life and as something that will happen to me, not just everybody else, I don’t want it to be now, as part of this pandemic.

But this keeping score is scary. I don’t want to think about whether I deserve to live more than someone else. What’s the difference between a person with diabetes, coronary artery disease, and COPD; and a healthy person with no chronic diseases, but paraplegia? What about someone with quadriplegia who already uses a ventilator? Disability is not the same as chronic illness. Living with one or the other is not the same as dying.

There is a disability rights movement called Not Dead Yet. They have grappled with these questions for years. Their website contains a link to a paper from the Disability Rights and Education Fund addressing the question of rationing care. Not Dead Yet lists two primary goals: 1) opposing the legalization of assisted suicide and; 2) ensuring that withholding or withdrawal of life-support is truly voluntary.

On the other side of the assisted suicide debate are Death With Dignity and the Hemlock Society (which no longer exists. The death of the organization is chronicled by its founder here). They look at the notion of being able to choose the time and manner of our own death if we have a terminal condition. Not Dead Yet is concerned about the slippery slope of assisted suicide becoming euthanasia, and about the idea that some have more right to live than others.

While these questions are separate, they are often seen as intertwined. By “these questions”, I mean: 1) prioritizing care, 2) assisted suicide, and 3) euthanasia. Peter Ralston talks about the word “confused” as “fused with” (“con” from the Latin word for “with”, and “fuse” “to blend as if by melting together”). While I find no evidence that this is the literal root of the word, it is useful, when we are confused, to see if we are melting together things that we could tease apart and look at separately.

“I can’t think for you, you’ll have to decide…”

Some questions are easy to answer. If the disease has a choice between taking me or taking one of my kids, take me. I may have more to offer the world, but not as much as they do, with potentially 40 more years to do it in than I have.

Some questions already have rubrics. We have a scoring system in place to decide who gets a new liver when one becomes available. We may not always like the outcome, but it seems to work. In the same way, ethicists can design a rubric to decide who gets the ICU bed or the ventilator. We just don’t have the luxury of time in which to figure it out.

“Cross contamination” – what does that look like? Check out this Facebook video.
This is even better if you listen without watching.

Since I had trouble finding his name, I want it out there: J-L Cauvin.

Exile

My wife works from home. As her work is confidential and involves talking, I am exiled for the day. I was forced to go for a long bike ride. A popular route since I was on training wheels is to the town park in Paoli. Usually I refill my water bottles there. Not today. I wasn’t going to since I didn’t have a way to disinfect the handle, but that wasn’t an option.

The pump don’t work cuz the vandals took the handles.
The handle may have been removed to prevent spread of infection

Social distancing was easy. There was no one out there. I rode past a bunch of loons out on the lake. They are also adept at social distancing. Ducks hang out in groups, but loons are introverts. Only once did I see two close enough to get them in the same frame. After the ride, I went home to get the “real” camera and went back to take pictures. Loons are wily. They dive to hunt and may pop up anywhere. They tended to stay away from me when I had the camera out. If I quietly moved down the path to get closer, one would pop up in the spot I just left. If I focused on one in the distance, another would pop up right below me. After I put the camera away, I swear one popped up directly below me and looked me in the eye.

Social distancing is easy when there’s no one out there.

Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here!

Only a metric century today, done before noon, but clearly not a rest day.

The forecast was for thundershowers overnight. It was windy with scattered showers in the early evening, but I awoke at 3:40 AM to a bright light in the sky. It was too high to be an area light at the school. Crawling out of my tent I confirmed it was the nearly-full moon in a clear sky.

I had breakfast at “Running Bear Pancake House”. It was sunny when I arrived there and got steadily darker. They opened the shades, then turned up the lights.

Leaving the restaurant, I was warming up slowly when a 3 person paceline passed. I swung in behind, warmup over, as they were going considerably faster than my warmup pace, but this was not a day to ride alone.

As we started up a gradual incline before the pass, it started to rain. We saw lightning ahead. The rain got harder. Then it got harder in a more literal sense as it changed to hail.

We crested at 7072 feet during a brief respite from the rain. That is my one picture from the day. No time for anyone to pose touristically. It was cold (42 degrees by my thermometer) and the rain was coming back.

9E27E141-C2F2-417D-A952-82ADB35B434DWe had to control our speed on the descent due to the wet, cold, and low visibility. We arrived at the first water stop at a turnout. I promptly rode off the pavement and put my foot down in a 6” deep puddle. I changed from rose-colored to clear lenses in my glasses at that point.

Strictly for survival, we continued on at 22mph. We were on a US highway with no shoulder. It was sometimes hard to tell which was worse – pushing the wind in front or eating the spray from another rider in back.

A word about pacelines here: yesterday I was thinking, “I didn’t come this far to stare at the backs of other riders”. I rode alone all morning, looking at the scenery. Today I was thinking, “There is safety in numbers.” I stayed all day with Steve from Seattle and Ally and Ed from New Jersey. At the lunch stop we picked up Corey from the Twin Cities area.

I decided that my decisions day-to-day are personal ones, not moral judgments.

Before lunch we turned onto the “Mesa Falls Scenic Byway”. I saw signs for how far we were from Ashton and knew that our remaining mileage was about double that. At the moment it seemed cruel, but the scenic byway was beautiful and I sat up and enjoyed the scenery, scanning the surrounding woods for critters. I didn’t have to scan to see the elk that cantered across the highway just in front of Steve.

Lunch was at the waterfall. The only pictures I have are mental ones. Hot chocolate, hot soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches saved the day.

After lunch we continued on the scenic route. The rain abated and for about 30 seconds on one climb, I could have sworn I felt heat radiating up from the pavement – Corey confirmed it.

I needed a new song:

We rolled into Ashton with it not raining (at least I don’t think it was). It was too wet to hang anything out to dry. I discovered I was dry under my rain clothes (except for hands, feet, and head). I had wrung out my gloves several times during the day.

The sun came out so I cleaned and lubed my bike and brought stuff outside to dry. The sky turned black and lit up with lightning and I hurriedly moved everything back inside.

The storm passed, a near-miss. Tomorrow is over Teton Pass, 8431 feet and a 10% grade. Weather here seems to change by the minute so I’ll figure out what clothes to wear when I wake up. That’s the first order of business every day, before I get out of the sleeping bag.

A future post will talk about my daily routine. For now I’ll just say that I’m pretty active at work; not used to sitting this many hours/day.