Used to be, a lot of folks sang the blues, listened to them, too, because they spoke soul to soul about the troubles they were seeing and would see again the following day and possibly always.
I grew up listening to the blues, they’ve always spoken to me, and even though I don’t hear them as much now as I once did, I listened to them a lot while I was writing my last two books because those books were about troubles and bearing heavy loads and making things right. I hear Ma Rainey singing in my dreams, whether it’s “See See Rider” or “Boll Weevil” and really those songs are lullabies.
The Presidential election has created a great upheaval, folks shouting and fearful, yelling at friends, becoming argumentative, thinking all is lost no matter which candidate they voted for. There’s not a lot of comfort out there when things are so polarized you have to keep silent unless you agree 100% with what an other person says.
Good people voted for both candidates, but most folks don’t see it that way. Those who like Candidate A say you’re evil if you voted for Candidate B. Those who like Candidate B say you’re evil if you like Candidate A. I think we have to keep working toward consensus on the important issues, focusing on programs rather than fiery labels, and focusing on respect rather than assuming the worst in everyone else.
I swear to goodness, people need the blues so they’ll feel somebody out there knows how they feel, whether it’s the Mother of the Blues (Ma Rainey) or one of a hundred other people who converted their feelings into music that resonated with everyone who needed a lift up or a reminder they aren’t alone.
As it is, a fair number of people have retreated into their quiet living rooms or their like-thinking groups of family and friends. Perhaps that’s a reasonable start. But it isn’t a reasonable end. “Us vs. Them” is a poor way to live. There’s no respect in it, no giving others the benefit of the doubt, no chance for agreement.
The blues make a man or a woman human rather than the shouting member of a mob or the defeated person who cannot cope or consent to live the best they can no matter what life throws at them. We need more humanness today, more time to come to terms with whatever sorrows we hold, whatever troubles we’ve seen, more compassion for those we don’t understand, and a chance to keep doing right and honorable things without expecting a gold medal for it, and a way of thinking that leads us to assume those around us are good and trustworthy without their having to wear slogan-covered tee shirts or safety pins or a shrill and self-righteous cynicism on their sleeves.
My prescription: Go to YouTube or iTunes or Amazon and find some blues and settle down for the night with nothing but the music–and possibly a Mason jar of moonshine–and let put the world on hold. Let the blues run through you like a sweet hot knife through willing warm butter. You won’t need to call me in the morning because you’ll be all right with the world–come what may.