Hope and patriotism

It would be simplest to describe Tuesday night’s Vote for Change concert in St. Paul as a monumental musical night. While true, that only scratches the surface.

I am often pessimistic and cynical about our political process and, with Bush in power, our nation’s future. Knowing these artists are willing to unite and publicly express their hopes and vision of America gives reason for optimism about the process and our future. Yet perhaps more encouraging is simply being in a venue with 19,000+ people and realizing a vast majority of them are there because they also care about the future. Sure, it may be preaching to the choir but given the right’s inundation and intimidation of the media the last few years, it’s reassuring to know there is a choir.

The concert also stood in sharp contrast to the pandering patriotism we too often see from politicians and their handlers. You could not leave without comprehending that these musicians are motivated by a passionate belief in the hope and promise of America and its people. Sure, it was clear they believe America is on the wrong track. Still, the core message flowing from them and their music was a deep love of country, not political expediency or favor. For example, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. made clear that he didn’t care who people voted for as long as they exercised that right. Likewise, Springsteen’s “public service announcement” was about America being a land of great promise and that every American’s goal should be to embrace that promise and do our best to bring it to fruition.

Joan Baez once wrote of Bob Dylan: “You’re a savage gift on a a wayward bus.” Tuesday’s concert was a memorable opportunity to see some excellent artists using their gifts to help right a wayward bus.

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