A friend of mine was telling me some time ago about a friend of his whom makes you tube videos showing cool old analog and early digital synth keyboards. He had little popups and crawlers going through each short video, which did not distract too much from the short, interesting demonstration of the old keyboards. My friend told me each of these little micro ads paid a fraction of a cent or so for each click on the video, and by the volume of hits it was lucrative for both the producer and the advertisers. This is a cool internet thing which allows a guy to do something he loves and for the rest of us to be exposed to some cool old instruments we might not otherwise get to see and experience. Fast forward to now, and the fifth estate, blogging, internet “news” sites with no editorial oversight or control; have created entire belief systems for many who feel disenfranchised, marginalized or just lost in the deluge of information, disinformation and depersonalization from people with axes to grind and rabbles to rouse, while getting paid for each hit, thus encouraging the writing of some wildly outrageous stuff. If you want to call bullshit on this, remember before you do that no one showed up in the past eight years to take your guns, move you to a FEMA death camp or impose Sharia law on your street. Yet these claims among many others have certainly gained enough traction to make an enormous amount of voters decide the better alternative was to fill every position in our government with billionaires who have little practical experience in government, other than buying it. In the midst of this, the time honored fourth estate has become an object of derision, often dismissed as “fake news” when it does not agree with the narrative one wishes to put forward. I think the fifth estate has forced the fourth estate so far out of its operational element that it has lost track of what real journalism is, so as to try to keep up with the outrageous click baiting sensationalism of blogging and micro takes which are fraught with non-factual agenda based claims. At the risk of sounding crazy, the very survival of our society as we know it might well be reliant on the fourth estate redoubling its effort to be an honorable, respectable truth seeking entity as it once tried to self- regulate itself to be. This would require a great deal of non –sizzling, non-click generating, non-viral and non-award winning painstaking research for inane but undeniably credible facts, seemingly inconsequential in their singularity but when applied clearly to the overarching story an irrefutable basis for factuality. Research, verify, get a second verifiable source and report, over and over, story by story, and trend by trend. It would require the belief that the value of the truth to the public is worth the inconvenience, ostracism, disrespect and threats, veiled and unveiled alike, from those who wish to tailor each story to fit their own agenda, within the news organization as well as outside of it. Most critically it would require the belief among the fourth estate that there is a calling above TV ratings, clicks and print sales, ie making as much money as humanly possible, to fill a role as vital as and more incorruptible than any of the houses of government. I mourn the loss of a fourth estate which saw its purpose as a truth teller and sentinel to hold our elected leaders accountable to the people of our society. Our elected leaders should have a healthy respect for the fourth estate on their best days and should be scared as hell when they are bad. While I hold out hope for this model of the fourth estate to return, faint though it may be, I can only hope when and if that time comes there will be enough of us left with the ability and willingness to both read and apply critical thinking to make that return a saving grace.
While I was alive during the social and political unrest of the sixties, I was too young to understand any of it on any nuanced level. I am too old to have studied this time in school, in either a historical or social context. I think it is safe to say we are now in a socially polarized setting which is at least as highly charged as that time in the sixties, magnified by the proliferation of instant global social media and the trend for anyone with a thirst for attention and an axe to grind to gain credibility as "a journalist" while inflaming large numbers of ill informed, frightened, disenfranchised or just mean spirited people. This is not unique to a particular political or theological leaning. People on all sides of all issues have engaged in preposterously sensationalized or just plain made up bs, perhaps because they have decided that is the only way to cut through the layers of "information" submitted for our perusal. Political parties are certainly to blame, as they fallen hard upon the political equivalent to the tired theological practice of "Preaching from Revelations...(get back in Luke!)", re pandering to fear and distrust. And it does not matter who started it, all sides practice it more than they try to present hope. The result is horrible name calling, shit slinging, damning condemnation, arguments that consist of hate baiting and constantly moving the goal posts in lieu of being able to admit that there are flaws in any argument that paints any movement, political party or theology with too broad a brush. No matter who gets elected to office this year or any other, they cannot save us as a country if we continue to launch personal attacks at one another when we disagree and are unwilling to find common ground among our own fractured selves. The issues we face are terrible and terrifying to consider, thus it is far easier to generalize the concerns of those who raise questions too hard to easily resolve by choosing to disbelieve, discredit, belittle or rationalize why they are the problem, not worthy of honest empathy or even consideration. Again, on all sides of the social, political and theological palette. If we as a country cannot begin with our interpersonal acceptance and willingness to try to understand the complexities of private life lived under the constant spotlight and microscope of modern, twisted, agenda driven social media, we will continue to fall prey to hate and fear mongering. The things I see posted on facebook every day infuriate and sicken me if they are coming from a particular direction, while I have friends, family and people I care about who are equally outraged by things posted that might reinforce my personal leanings. As distasteful as it seems, we are all going to have to be able to accept and move past, build and stop tearing down. I should be the last person to suggest we just all sing Kumbyah and it will all be okay, but If we and our country are to have a chance at all we have to save ourselves first. Sadly, I cannot imagine how difficult that would be.
Sunday morning, when the shocking news began to circulate that we had lost Lonnie, Kevin Bonner referred to him as a "southern gentleman". This he was, not a traditional aristocratic old money type, but a man of strong core beliefs and a quiet, steadfast love for his people. He would do anything for Tammie. I'm certain in the last instant before the crash, if he had time to take an action to give her a better chance, he did it instinctively. And Tammie loves him. And will forever. They made one another so happy that you could not help being happy just being around them. When I began gigging again after cutting way back when my kids were small it was a different dynamic. I had a home and established family, and most gigs were in a three hour or so radius of my home. The result of this is you tend to play for many of the same people much more than when you are in a road band. This is how I met Lonnie and Tammie. They, like many of the people I feel privileged and proud to refer to as my "Winslow Friends" were there to see and support a 17 year old Winslow native named Jesse. As time passed they became friends to Kelly and I as well, and we always were glad to see each other and catch up. Not to mention it's much more fun to play to your friends. Winfest, BB&BBQ, volleyball on the Thomas hillside (with old geezers taking out the youth with experience and treachery) are fond memories that make me smile. I loved stirring the pot with Lonnie about sports because it would trigger furious and gleeful trash talking bouts. He loved the Red Sox for some reason he never made clear to me. As a moto X rider, he was a very competitive guy, which came out occasionally. Even in fun you could sense the steel behind this quiet fun-loving guy. The first time my daughter's boyfriend Cody came to hear the band play Lonnie gave my wife Kelly a big hug as usual. Cody was sure Lonnie was some sort of bar drunk being inappropriate, which everyone involved thought was hysterical, particularly Lonnie. I shudder to think how far Cody would have flown if his misguided idea to intervene had actually occurred. Lonnie and Tammie are two of the best people I know. They loved each other and each other's people with everything they had. They would do anything for each other and you felt that light any time you were near them. Please, may that light continue to shine on us all as we process this heartbreaking loss. Peace and strength. MM
It's big tires and loud pipes on a 70's muscle car with Boston screaming out the rolled down windows even louder. It's knowing where "Copperhead Road" really is. It's believing Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard are every bit as legitmate bluesmen as Muddy Waters and Son House. It's believing Robert Johnson is as legitimate an American folk artist as Woody Guthrie. It's being pretty sure Jimi Hendrix' version of "Machine Gun" New Year's Eve '69-'70 is proof that there is at the very least an advanced spiritual plane in our galaxy from which certain gifted/cursed individuals can channel terrifying beauty. It's believing we are all better than we appear when we sling political and theological shit at one another. It's a spring fed stream that few know about and fewer have been to. It's trying to remember that all of the above is everything and nothing all at once.