Truth to Power

I love The Low Anthem because I love America

I spent last Wednesday getting kicked around on Daily Kos for daring to ponder how the emperors new clothes fit. Now, I wasn’t expecting anything different- those folks would vote for Obama (or Clinton, or Kerry, et al) even if their campaign poster had a severed baby head on it. The regulars there apparently believe that anything not vouched for on the nightly news is a conspiracy theory, at least, if you’re speaking about Democrats. Their reaction, while not unexpected, was just another helping of the nonsensical, grotesque reaction this nation had to the supposed murder of Osama bin Laden. Cheerleading death is never tolerable to me, not to mention my inability to believe anything on the subject since oh, about 10:30 AM on 9.11.01. But as they said in Liberty Valance: “When the legend becomes fact, print the legend”. The legend has indeed been printed.

Thankfully I had something to take my mind off murder, at least for a while. Had the good fortune to see The Low Anthem play a tiny club in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For those not familiar, The Low Anthem are a band from Rhode Island who create the most intoxicating, organic music in America today. Four performers, dozens of instruments, they truly sound like nothing else you’ve ever heard. Sitting in a small room under the New Mexico night, I felt the tension leave me as song washed over me and I had a satori. Despite being labeled “… a conspiracy-theorist with abject hatred for his country and its government.”, I realized as I listened to the haunting, beautiful musical creation occurring before me, that I love America- because only here could these four people come together to invent something so wonderful, so magical, so American. Amid the wheezing chords from the WWII vintage organ and bowed banjo lives the true America. Not the blood-soaked hands of the couch commandos whooping “We did it!” when Osama was taken out, but the America of passion and heart, with talent beyond measure, born far from the plastic American Idol mediocrity of the masses, far from the partisan world of competitive politics, far from the gross distortions and unbelievable horror of America abroad- and at home. The Low Anthem are America, in all of it’s quiet, curious places. They speak to our dreams, our fears, our desires. The band rotates from instrument to instrument, one moment on clarinet, the next hammer dulcimer, followed by pounding garage rock. They adapt on the fly, they play a saw with a bow, they are, as Greil Marcus once said of the music of generations passed, “The old, weird America.”

This is the America I love, and I love it for many reasons. Only America could have invented rock and roll, destructed it, and rebuilt it a million times. No Predator drones or Navy Seals needed, no million viewers in sports bars barking in unison. This is the America worth fighting for, worth cheering. The America of creativity, of art, and taking chances. It is the America that provides hope despite our national depression, that can create a solace in sound that lightens our heart, and gives us a glimpse of genius amid the fools and know-nothings of a Daily Kos, or The Low Anthem are America to me.

I hope you can find yours.

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