Culture wars Politics

Pop Corn Politics

“I’m walking’ on sunshine, whoa-oh, and it’s starting’ to feel good!”-Katrina and the Waves

It’s been an exhausting 4 years of toxic narcissism and an overwhelming 2 months of realization of how rooted it’s become. After an aggravating day at work, I sat down in front of the tube to catch up on Inaugural hoopla.

It was surprisingly ‘normal’- whatever that is now. The day began as I had my coffee, with tRump muttering something to a few die hards before dinging the taxpayers for one last free plane ride to a golf course. I did see part of the live whip around of pop stars around the nation, and though most of the acts were not to my taste in day to day listening, none were insipid; it was clearly heartfelt. It’s probably good for me to at least get a quick survey of the heartbeat of what we used to call Top 40 music. One veteran arena rocker made the inspired choice of the ultimate feel-good pop anthem, “Here Comes The Sun”. Another sang in front of what Vox called “two billion shit-tons of fireworks”.

Vox pointed out the corniness of the whole thing, but it sure beats the ugly sounds of gun-psychos in the halls of the Capitol. If we are to be a nation of pyromaniacs- it’s in our anthem-let it be in the service of idealistic pop, not jaded conspiracy.

There was blues, country, hip-hop and grunge, all filtered through mainstream pop, a reminder that in America, however successful the radicals are at changing the conversation, most legislative progress gets sifted through the middle.  It was also a nod to the creative spirit, in that dance incorporates forward motion, and singing is breathing itself. I firmly believe that however justified the rhetoric of outrage, only art and community can get us out of this mess.

It was all so hopeful, and many on both sides seemed to get into the act, from McConnell’s good humored jibe at Pelosi, to Kamala Harris, dressed in the semi-official color of the day (battleground purple), tickled pink to be the first person of color to be sworn into her office. No promises on either side, I get that, but a nice opportunity to just EXHALE and re-start the conversation with the platitudes of pop to ease the process. At the roots of American exceptionalism has always been, along with all that gun-totin’ puritan manifest destiny crap, American naïveté. But there’s nothing wrong with celebrating the end of 4 years of unrelenting bile and corruption. 

Somewhat lost was Biden’s choice for a first legislative push (other than COVID), which is apparently immigration. Bold, in that it squarely confronts the ugly truth of racism, xenophobia and America exceptionalism, first thing. It challenges the GOP’s fascists to either double down on their vitriol or get on board with needed change. As one commentator I read noted: bland reassurance is nice for the start, but ultimately, Americans want change. Most politicians hate it, but the skillful ones- Biden is that- know that engineering change requires both boldness and subtlety. Buckle in, America! 

I had expected the safer choice of Infrastructure, which would provide economic relief, as well as a vehicle for elements of a green New Deal, and I’m glad to see the bolder path was taken. I don’t expect it to meet with favor from the extremes of either right or left, but change, in our system, requires the engagement of the middle, so this one has a chance to get the ball rolling, if people get behind it as they seem to indicate in the polls. 

Martin Luther King said that only light can drive out darkness. On a day of filtered sunshine, I’m feeling some filtered joy.