November 4, 2004

Jack Johnson as Consolation
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Tuesday was a sad day for America. I will try not to exaggerate the issue, but I feel sincerely afraid of what might happen in our world during the next four years. For the moment, I can find no energy for protest. There is something so alarming about what I see occurring in my country that I cannot confront it directly.

In times like these, I escape to music. At its very best, music can do something that I cannot: It can simultaneously condemn the ugliness and celebrate the beauty in the world. On a day when Americans in 11 states have decided to vote homophobic bigotry into marriage law, I don't need music to remind me of the injustice that surrounds us. Today I need music for hope, or at least consolation. Here hip-hop can't help me, and instead I turn to the simple poetry of surfer guitar player Jack Johnson.


Jack Johnson "Times Like These"
Liberals are inclined to talk about the president's re-election as if it marks the end of the world, but the slow, cyclical life of the Hawaiian surf has taught Johnson not to overreact to bad waves. From his perspective, the endless back-and-forth power struggles of politics, filled with "those for peace and those for war," are as meaningless as they are inevitable.

His words are simple, but his subtle wisdom is reassuring: "In times like these/ In times like those/ What will be will be/ And so it goes." All I can do now, Johnson seems to say, is ask God to grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. From the beaches of Honolulu, the politicking in Washington, D.C. seems distant and relatively unimportant to Johnson. When listening to Johnson, I'm not trying to forget or ignore the dirty politics in D.C.; I'm trying to remember the beauty that exists everywhere else.


Jack Johnson "Cookie Jars"
The problem is not George Bush. The problem is the 59 million Americans who voted for him. Johnson sings, "We only receive what we demand/ And if we want hell then hell is what we'll have."

Why are so many middle-class Americans willing to support a president who does not support their interests? Because the television media coverage of the election was so poor that most voters were woefully uninformed. I understand exactly how Johnson feels when he sings, "I would turn on the TV, but it's so embarrassing." The right-wing bias of Fox News doesn't bother me as much as the general incompetence of television news. Jon Stewart rightfully criticized the political hacks on Crossfire for hurting America by turning politics into some sort of entertainment spectacle. "You're doing theater when you should be doing debate to inform citizens so that they can be knowledgeable," Stewart said.

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