Fiddling While America Burns

My plan here at The Pondering Pig is to resolutely continue to fiddle while Rome burns, even though it didn’t work out that well for old Nero.  I’m trying  to hold the hopelessness feeling at bay one more day.

You know the feeling?  It whispers at you like this: “It’s too late for democracy, too late.  The will of the people has been corrupted, they can’t see beyond the end of their nose any more.  The super-rich with pockets deep as mineshafts influence (buy) our representatives to do their corporate bidding.  Our economy is dependent on waging war,  Dwight D. Eisenhower’s nightmare about the rise of the military-industrial complex came true.  Our educated class never studied the Constitution and can’t defend the Bill of Rights because they don’t know what it says.  Our telecommunication industry slathers for profits that will come from spying on citizens for the US government.   Our well-spoken Democrat golden boy candidate – the one so many put their last hope into – voted to exonerate the telcom execs who violated the Bill of Rights by spying on citizens without a warrant.  And on and on.  I could do this for days once I get going.  I haven’t even started on our besieged planet.  It’s that hopeless feeling!

Where’s Abe Lincoln?  Could someone tell him to come up front?  He’s wanted onstage.  Or better yet, where’s Jeff Smith, the idealistic boy scout leader who took truth, justice and the American Way so seriously that he managed to bring down a state’s corrupt political machine through the force of his belief.  (If you’ve never seen Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes To Washington,  or if you saw it a long time ago – it speaks to the moment, believe me.  Worth a fresh look.)

Here is one of Jeff’s key speeches , which, courtesy of IMDB, I quote in its entirety:

Jefferson Smith: [His voice very hoarse] Just get up off the ground, that’s all I ask. Get up there with that lady that’s up on top of this Capitol dome, that lady that stands for liberty. Take a look at this country through her eyes if you really want to see something. And you won’t just see scenery; you’ll see the whole parade of what Man’s carved out for himself, after centuries of fighting. Fighting for something better than just jungle law, fighting so’s he can stand on his own two feet, free and decent, like he was created, no matter what his race, color, or creed. That’s what you’d see. There’s no place out there for graft, or greed, or lies, or compromise with human liberties. And, uh, if that’s what the grownups have done with this world that was given to them, then we’d better get those boys’ camps started fast and see what the kids can do. And it’s not too late, because this country is bigger than the Taylors, or you, or me, or anything else. Great principles don’t get lost once they come to light. They’re right here; you just have to see them again!

Go look for them yourself, and let me know what you find.  Meanwhile, tomorrow we’ll be back with more on Mick and His Mates or somethng equally inane.


6 thoughts on “Fiddling While America Burns

  1. Thinking about fiddling led me to thinking about songs. Thinking about songs led me invariably to Muddy Waters and the original incarnation on “Satisfaction”. “I Can’t Be Satisfied holds some lyrics that relate well
    here, if you stretch the analogy a wee bit:

    “Woman I’m troubled, I be all worried in mind
Well baby I just can’t be satisfied

    And I just can’t keep from cryin’.”

    Blues, being nothing but a good man feeling bad, lends itself well to the burning of Rome, to me anyways.

    Well, I was thinking and searching for something erudite and wise to say here and stumbled onto a website of interest, . It’s disparate politically minded people united for a purpose above
    their differences. It’s Democrats and Republicans and Independents more concerned with clean and uncorrupted politics than the things that divide them. Maybe not the perfect answers there, but well worth the look.
    My real ramble here though is about songs and fiddling and lyrics that address the issues of the hopelessness of liberty in the face of greed and avarice. I don’t have any witty repartee or clever comments or silly
    Wiggens-esque inane babble. Sometimes the songs speak for themselves.

    I was reading Greg’s post on Jerry’s birthday and I recalled a Bruce Coburn song that Jerry used to do with his band, “Waiting for a Miracle”:

    “Look at them working in the hot sun
    The pilloried saints and the fallen ones
    Working and waiting for the night to come
    And waiting for a miracle

    Somewhere out there is a land that’s cool
    Where peace and balance are the rule
    Working toward a future like some kind of mystic jewel
    And waiting for a miracle

    You rub your palm
    On the grimy pane
    In the hope that you can see
    You stand up proud
    You pretend you’re strong
    In the hope that you can be
    Like the ones who’ve cried
    Like the ones who’ve died
    Trying to set the angel in us free
    While they’re waiting for a miracle

    Struggle for a nickel, scuffle for a dime
    Step out from the past and try to hold the line
    So how come the future takes such a long, long time
    When you’re waiting for a miracle”

    Sad, for certain. Sad, but not hopeless. Not as upbeat or hopeful as “Let’s Get Together”, but not completely without hope either.

    Much of what I’m finding is that the solutions are personal and local and individual. Not that solutions to greed and influence peddling problems can’t be affected on the large scale. On the contrary. It’s just that the
    realization that things are right and well with the world start with me or you or Jefferson Smith and the boy’s camps making that little bit of difference.

    That woman, Liberty, is indeed Utopian, but not completely out of reach, just a lofty ideal. Our cotton and tobacco and hemp growing forefathers knew that well. They did their share of influencing in their time, but
    they didn’t lose sight of the ideal of liberty either. They collectively staked their lives on that pursuit. We occasionally lose sight and society looks to be in a shambles, as it very well may be, but we do get by and we
    do survive.

    Closing, I recall a song by Nick Lowe, Cash’s former son-in -law. Recorded by Lowe, later by Elvis Costello and most recently by Bill Murray in the film “Lost in Translation”, it asks the eternal question…

    “As I walk through
    This wicked world
    Searchin’ for light in the darkness of insanity.

    I ask myself
    Is all hope lost?
    Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

    And each time I feel like this inside,
    There’s one thing I wanna know:
    What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding? ohhhh
    What’s so funny ’bout peace love & understanding?

    And as I walked on
    Through troubled times
    My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
    So where are the strong
    And who are the trusted?
    And where is the harmony?
    Sweet harmony.

    ’cause each time I feel it slippin’ away, just makes me wanna cry.”

    I guess where I’m going is that affecting change requires action, most effectively on a local level. Maybe it’s boy’s camps. Maybe it’s fighting the tyranny and shredding of our rights out in the streets. Maybe it’s just
    turning our backs at the right time and doing it in public.


  2. How dare you complain, you pathetic old pothead. Your generation wrecked our families in pursuit of orgasms resulting in a whole generation of fatherless black men in jail. Your fatuous, self-congratulatory “War on Poverty” resulted in nothing but wrecked cities and a 13 trillion dollar debt that my generation will have to repay. You spent our future so you could feel good about yourselves.

    At least the “over 30” people you didn’t trust left you with intact families and a pretty small bill. Maybe you should have listened to them a little more.

    Your generation sucked.


    • Putting your insults aside for the moment, I agree with you to a point. We should have done more, and I hope your generation, whichever it may be, will do better than we did. But that’s what our parents hoped for us. It’s hard to do better. Change comes from millions and millions of individual decisions. By the way. the War On Poverty wasn’t “ours”, it was LBJ’s, a man born in 1908. But it might have worked if he hadn’t tried to pursue the war in SE Asia at the same time. Guns and butter didn’t work, and George W. Bush should have learned that lesson from LBJ’s debacle. I do agree with you about our parent’s generation, though. They fought their way through the Depression and WWII, and did a helluva job.


      • That’s a cop out. I seriously doubt you argued against all of that social spending. LBJ was followed by others of your generation who endlessly increased the size of government and fought against any limitations on your bodily pleasures. If the military industrial complex had been the problem, then things would have gotten better at the end of the Vietnam War and especially at the end of the Cold War. They didn’t, which is what you’d expect if the problems were cultural and not financial.

        You wrecked the family when you rejected traditional morality. The prison population is overwhelmingly from broken homes as are child abuse cases as are school dropouts and all other social pathologies. You threw away traditional morality and replaced it with the government and free love and drugs and abortion. Our collective music, yours and mine, still reeks with the stench of this decay.

        So now you’re getting old, looking back on Haight-Ashbury and wondering what went wrong. You’re not willing to make the proper connections and instead you still want to blame the military. Meanwhile, I’ve got to pay the social and financial bills that you ran up. In fact, I’ve got to pay yours and mine because your prime earning years are behind you.

        You talk a lot about making a difference. Your reply was kind and thoughtful. I’d suggest that if you really want to enact change, you start by exploring what traditional morality had to offer.


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