From The Archive: Thoughts On Change

Much of the post-election analysis overflowing the airwaves, newspapers and internet has to do with how the demographics of the United States have shifted. The change away from decisive political dominance by white people was underway long before the first Obama election in 2008. Since, it has accelerated. All signs are that the change will continue. Still, it is hard for many to accept, as a fact of evolving democracy, the shifting makeup of the population in our free land of immigrants and their descendants. I thought about that as I read, watched and listened to the news and the pundits and remembered an anecdote posted on Rifftides four years ago. It may still have relevance. I wish that it had less.

After The Election
November 5, 2008 By Doug Ramsey

When I was in college and involved in the jazz community in Seattle, I helped to arrange a concert in my home town. Some of the musicians who traveled to the interior of the state to perform in that conservative agricultural community were black. One of my closest childhood friends came to the concert. Afterward, I took him to a party for the musicians. In the course of the socializing, I danced with a newer friend, the pianist Patti Bown. When I returned to the table, my old buddy told me, with considerable heat, that he was ashamed I had touched a black woman, although that was not the term he used to describe her.

I had not thought about that evening in decades. It came back to me last night as I listened to the next president of the United States speak to the world. I hope that my friend was watching, too.

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  1. says

    I spent my post Navy service on Staten Island. I was 23 and formed a trio immediately for gigs and a lot of jamming together. I had Jimmy Tyndall, a white drummer and Dick Carter, a black bassist who was blind.

    Dick was the backbone of the trio, in terms of dictating the chord changes and helping to make the repertoire varied and interesting. Only once did I feel the “heat” for playing/mixing with a black man and it was from close family members who didn’t want me to bring him to our house. I was shocked and dismayed and realized how different I was from them.

    I never looked at anybody and thought of skin color; I saw only the person, and if we resonated we became friends.

    Dick passed away many years ago, but I am constantly reminded and grateful for having him in my life during those formative years. I have old tapes of what we sounded like and they still sound great. He’s the one who recommended me to John La Porta for the 1958 Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. (I spoke of that event in a previous post).

    Jimmy Tyndall was the comedian in the group and a great player. He kept us holding our sides in laughter constantly. I miss him too.

  2. Jim Brown says

    For three weeks ending on election day, I joined thousands of my fellow citizens in a “get out the vote” effort of historic proportions. I worked in In Sparks, NV (adjacent to Reno), knocking on the doors of Obama supporters to make sure that they got to the polls to cast their vote. My colleagues in this effort, all volunteers, were mostly mainstream progressive white folks with lots of grey hair, many of us retired, led by a core of paid staff, virtually all of them young enough to be our grandchildren. Among the volunteers were engineers, attorneys, teachers,scientists, businessmen, housewives, and so on — a real cross section of “the old America.”

    The voters we were canvassing were another sort of cross section, young and old, Latino and Anglo, some poor, some not. I spent a lot of time in trailer parks, low rent apartment complexes, and on unpaved streets, but also in nicer apartment complexes and middle class cul de sac developments that had their share of foreclosures. Living in a swing state, these folks had been beaten about the head and shoulders with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of attack ads, and our campaign had been knocking on their doors and ringing their phones for months. And yet, with all of that, several times a day someone I met thanked me warmly for doing what I was doing.

    In the end, on election night, many of the targets of those billions of dollars worth of attack ads emerged victorious, thanks to the efforts of the army of citizens who realized that “them is us,” and fought against those billionaires with their minds and bodies. In the absence of a Supreme Court capable of coherent logic, the antidote for all of that dirty money is citizen involvement. i can’t quantify the scale of that involvement except to note that there were more than 1,000 Californians working in northern Nevada alone for the final weekend of the campaign, and many stayed through election day.

    I also spent two months on the 2008 campaign, splitting my time between Carson City and Hawthorne, a small town in the desert about 100 miles SE of Carson City. There, I encountered my share of racists, whose real objection was color, but who disguised it in whatever rant the Limbaughs of the world were spouting that week, and I voiced my frustrations to my son, then 39 years old. “Don’t worry, Dad,” he replied, “they’re all dying.”

    • ADAM says

      This partisan BS is getting old.

      I don’t support Obama. I don’t care what ‘race’ he is or is not. The man is about increasing governmental power. He is a liar– like most politicians.

      He has continued many of Bush’s policies- particularly in the area of war, and so-called security. Most of you seem to want to pretend or overlook it. Or it’s OK because he’s a liberal. What a load of crap.

      Examine bill H.R. 1540… against “terrorists”. Circumventing the proper channels for war in Libya. Plans for thousands of drones to swarm our own skies in America in just a few years.

      Not to mention all kinds of scandal, and manipulation. He is a politician. Both parties are guilty.

      Bush was railed on incessantly by so-called liberals. But the “liberals” star player is exempt from criticism. What hypocrisy.

      This race card BS is tired. Yes, in some cases there is some of that. But this man has done enough against civil liberties, and enough mistakes to be opposed on real merits. So what if he’s part black or whatever his race– I don’t give a damn.

      Obama came out of Chicago. You should read about the political machine that has made an experiment of the lower class and disenfranchized- the gangs that developed from greaser clubs and street toughs into a storm of death and chaos for one thing. Relocated minorities for the purpose of gentrification… established communities that were destroyed. People of all races left as detritus.

      In the end though, there are plenty of us who realize that the real deal supercedes both these parties. A grand experiment that has played with our liberty and lives. I’m neither a liberal OR conservative– and I for one am tired of it!!!

      Oh- how compassionate, Jim– “they’re all dying”; that is a great outlook to have on the situation that we ALL face. Oh, and continue on overlooking the descent into totalitarian government as you cheerlead your ‘faultless’ side.

    • George Kaplan says

      Jim – There are only 2 ways to run a society: either through spontaneity or through compulsion. Just 2. It is jazz music, by the way, that helps give wing to human spontaneity.

      A society where some voters vote themselves the fruits of another’s labor is a broken society and a slave state. I would respectfully ask you to ruminate upon the 2 candidates and decide which one better advances the cause of human freedom.