By Dale Henry Geist, Publisher
I love country, folk, blues, r’n’b, rock’n’roll, bluegrass, jazz, gospel, soul – I love, deeply love, the entire rainbow of American vernacular music. I truly believe that American music was the most vital art form of the 20th century and that its vitality is undimmed today.
What makes it so powerful? It’s a cry of freedom; liberation of the soul. Art of undeniable genius that sprang, miraculously, from the most humble, most downtrodden, most desperate of circumstances. Art of such singular joy and color created by people who seemingly had so little to live for.
Irving Berlin was a Jewish immigrant. Woody Guthrie really was an Okie who fled the Dust Bowl. Hank Williams was raised by his mother, who ran a “rooming house.”
And that’s just the white guys.
Muddy Waters literally grew up on a plantation. Louis Armstrong was sent to the Colored Waifs home, which was exactly as terrible as it sounds. Ray Charles, The Genius, was raised by a single mother in the most desperate of conditions.
And that’s just the Black men.
Ma Rainey. Bessie Smith. Billie Holiday. Mary Lou Williams. Nina Simone. All created art of the highest caliber. All came from the lowliest of circumstances.
I invoke these names for a reason. These people, flawed and damaged as some of them surely were, channeled the essence of the American ideal: that no matter how you suffer at the hands of fate, no matter how mean your circumstances, no matter what barriers have been thrown up against you, you can break through them with the undeniable power, the righteous power of the human spirit in its pursuit of liberation.
This idea saved my life at a time when I was lost. I believe in it with all the conviction in my heart.
This is the ideal I hold forth for America. This is the idea that animates this modest enterprise. This is the hope I have for my children. This is what is worthwhile in the American project: liberty and justice for all.
And once again, it is facing the threat of violent suppression.
A lot of people in this country subscribe to a belief system that puts white, cishet, “Christian” men at the top of the pyramid of society, and believe that this structure is divinely ordained. Any movement toward greater justice or freedom for anyone who is non-white, queer, non-Christian, non-male is experienced as a mortal threat to the belief system that underpins these people’s very lives. And it must, they believe, be defended against by any means.
This idea (“white supremacism” for short) has been with us since before the founding of America. You might argue that it arrived with the first boatload of African people who were kidnapped and enslaved; or with the first broken treaty with Native Americans.
Often this white supremacism has dominated local and regional politics; less often it’s been the dominant force in national politics. Every now and again, a white man from privileged circumstances with a lust for power and no conscience will appeal to the worst instincts of uneducated white folks, stoke their fear and anger, and ride it to high office.
We live in such times.
Perhaps it goes without saying, but this white supremacist world view runs counter to everything I love about America. And right now, in this moment, the grand democratic experiment that has given rise to America’s finest flowerings is in mortal danger.
History tells us that if an authoritarian uprising is not quelled immediately and decisively, it will return stronger than ever, and, eventually, prevail.
Anyone who has supported the current insurrection, explicitly or tacitly, must be held to strictest account without delay.
And Trump must be removed. Now.