The United States, a country that has gone off the rails
Ah, my morning paper reveals that gun control is dead. Well, let’s look at the bright side. We’ll be getting a new Congress.
Actually I’m amazed at this outcome. Continually distracted by other work, I had gotten only 337 letters posted and expected the debate to go on through next week. And I thought Congress would do something. After all, polls in recent months had revealed that some 90% of the public supported tougher background checks.
But no, and herein lies my hope. This will be the first time in my memory when one special-interest lobbying group, the NRA, has managed to work its will with the Congress regarding a very controversial issue. We have always known about the influence of lobbyists and money and about self-serving politics. However, now we have proof that something major is awry in our democratic system. We’re not going to forget. And maybe the gun rights folks feel like they won this one, but they too will someday be outraged by slight.
And the fact is that this is basically a dysfunctional Congress. It can’t seem to do anything but thwart initiative. There’s a bad dynamic afoot in the hallowed halls, and we need to freshen it up in 2014. The way time is speeding up, that will feel like next week.
Actually I am more restrained over this issue than I would have been if I hadn’t gone to hear cowboy singer Ian Tyson at the Lensic Theater last night. I had never heard of this gentleman before and accompanied a friend who knows all about cowboy music as a result of growing up in Oklahoma.
As we were seated, “Gunfighter Ballads” by Marty Robbins was playing over the loudspeaker, a recording my siblings and I wore to a frazzle growing up in El Paso. I bought the CD recently in an attack of nostalgia and took note for the first time of all the bloodshed in the songs. Of course these were gunfighter ballads, but it’s funny how you can absorb something without noticing.
When Tyson appeared, I was surprised by his age. A little hunched and walking stiffly, left hand curled inward with what must be a form of arthritis, he inspired a flash of concern. Nevertheless, his square jaw, strong nose, and weathered skin under the big white hat were classic cowboy.
He is the real thing, in fact. He learned to play the guitar while recovering from a rodeo injury, and he lives on a ranch up in Canada where he was born. As he sat down with his two other guitarists and began to perform, my apprehension vanished. Tyson is a master, and everything he did and everything he sang evoked the classic appeal of the iconic horseman. I just relaxed and enjoyed being in the imaginative company of a masculine ideal.
His songs went everywhere except into violence. I hadn’t realized that he wrote “Four Strong Winds” and “Someday Soon.” Within the varied program, my favorites songs were one about a Navaho rug, another from the perspective of a hawk, and others relating to Charles Russell the artist, Will James the writer, and Charles Goodnight the rancher who invented the chuck wagon.
Tyson’s perspective was sensitive, the lyrics poetic, and the tone often one of sadness about a landscape and a way of life disappearing. At one point there was a phrase about the United States, a country that has gone off the rails. I think it related to runaway greed, but of course I remembered it when I opened the newspaper this morning.
It was so nice to rest with the Tyson way, and I ordered two CDs this morning, “Cowboyography” and “All the Good ‘Uns” so that I can get back into that space often.
And I have to say that Tyson’s voice is so different from the one I’m hearing abroad among many men in this time. The sound of fear is rampant—fear of President Obama, fear of the government, fear of change, fear of having wealth and possessions confiscated, and fear of losing status and power. There is nothing more dangerous than fear, and I am sick, sick, sick of the sound of it.
And by the way, Ian Tyson is nearly eighty years old. When you have the good stuff, it endures.