The Disgruntled Dylanologist

All the truth in the world adds up to one big lie.

‘Shot of Love’: Joe Wilson or Barack Obama— who’s the real Judas in this Dylanesque smack down?


Don’t need a shot of heroin to kill my disease,
Don’t need a shot of turpentine, only bring me to my knees,
Don’t need a shot of codeine to help me to repent,
Don’t need a shot of whiskey, help me be president.

It’s been a brutal summer for health care. Yet despite the barrage of lawyers, guns and money that have been thrown atop this increasingly combustible pyre, the debate rages on.

At the center of that debate is Barack Obama, the man whose central campaign plank in the recent presidential election was to bring affordable health care to all Americans. Judging from amount of animosity the discussion has engendered, if anyone needs a shot of love right now it’s Barack Obama.

Appearing before a joint session of Congress last Wednesday, President Obama laid out his case for universal health care. It was the first time the country has had an opportunity to hear the president get into the nuts and bolts of his proposal. And considering it very well may be his last, there’s little question Obama chose his words with infinite precision.

The same, however, cannot be said for Joe Wilson, the Republican Congressman from South Carolina, who impetuously yelled “You Lie!” when Obama said extending health care to all Americans would exclude the insuring of illegal immigrants.

And while Wilson’s contempt for Obama may have caught America by surprise, those diligent Dylan fans in observance were struck by something else entirely— the eerie resemblance to the infamous 1966 concert in Manchester, England, at which a disgruntled folk fan called Dylan, “Judas!” for ‘betraying’ the movement.

And while Keith Butler’s comment certainly struck a chord in the otherwise unflappable singer, Dylan’s indignant, ireful response was pitch perfect— “I don’t believe you. You’re a LIAR!!” he snarled before quickly turning to The Hawks and defiantly instructed them to “Play fucking loud!”

It was in that moment that the folk singer became a rock icon.

In the aftermath of last Wednesday’s incident, the press has had a field day. Sadly, however, the debate over health care has gotten lost in the weeds.

Perhaps this was Wilson’s plan all along. As a former immigration lawyer, Wilson knows all too well that while the president’s bill expressly forbids insuring those who are in this country illegally, just because illegal aliens don’t have a health care option available to them doesn’t preclude their employers from purchasing it for them—driving up the costs for all Americans.

But by vilifying Wilson in the press—effectively casting the South Carolina congressman as Judas—we have all been misled.

In the end, it just may be Obama—not Joe Wilson—who ends up playing the role Judas as a result of this unfortunate incident.

Our 9-month love affair with the poised 44th President of the United States has made us susceptible, vulnerable and over-trusting, not only of him personally, but it has forced us to turn a blind eye to the lurking, malevolent agenda of those who will soon be an integral part of the larger health care debate.

Obama very well may have the best interest of the millions of uninsured Americans in this country. The vultures, however, are circling. And the moment we give Barack Obama the unconditional love he so desperately craves by passing his legislation without thoroughly vetting it, the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies and the malpractice lawyers will descend on us like the Roman guards in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Joe Wilson may no longer have a place at the table as a result of his ruefully inappropriate comment. His ‘betrayal’ of the president, however, has taught us all a valuable lesson:

It’s one thing to admire the men and women who lead us; falling in love with them is, however, the kiss of death…

Doctor, can you hear me? I need some Medicaid.

I seen the kingdoms of the world and it’s makin’ me feel afraid.
What I got ain’t painful, it’s just bound to kill me dead
Like the men that followed Jesus when they put a price upon His head.
I need a shot of love, I need a shot of love.

September 13, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Let Me Die In my Footsteps’: Ted Kennedy steps out from his brothers’ shadow


The meaning of the life has been lost in the wind
And some people thinkin’ that the end is close by
“Stead of learnin’ to live they are learning to die.
Let me die in my footsteps
Before I go down under the ground.

Of Rose and Joe Kennedy’s nine children, only three were ever truly destined for greatness. But with the death of Joe, Jr., the chosen child lost at sea in 1944, and the senseless slaying of John in 1963, and then brother Bobby five years later at the hand of an assassin’s bullet, the mantle of greatness was laid at the feet of the most unsuspecting Kennedy.

And while few had expected great things of him, he ended up surprising them all. In fact, he probably even surprised himself.

After the death of his more charming, more charismatic brothers, the last remaining son of Rose and Joe Kennedy could have retreated behind the whitewashed, perfectly mended fences of Hyannis Port. Instead, he stayed in Washington, staked his ground and found redemption by extending a hand to save those who—not unlike himself at the time—could just as easily have fallen through the cracks.

Without question, Ted Kennedy was a complex and conflicted soul— a rake, a womanizer, a drinker, a man who will forever be tainted by the names Mary Jo Kopechne, William Kennedy Smith and Michelle Cassone. But over the course of his half century in the US Senate, Kennedy by-and-large abandoned his aberrant ways and developed into a skilled politician; a child of privilege who became the trusted guardian of the poor, the oppressed, and forgotten.

Ted Kennedy stood up for those who could not stand up for themselves. Like the misunderstood, eternally misplaced Holden Caulfield, Ted Kennedy could always be counted on to stand at the edge of cliff and catch those who needed a helping hand before they disappeared into the abyss.

In addition to being a defender of the underprivileged, he was also an adept deal-maker; a man who made things happen. And if the was one thing Ted Kennedy wanted to make happen in his lifetime it was assuring affordable healthcare for all American citizens.

If there is any question that Kennedy’s passion for healthcare reform was simple political posturing, simply watch his speech at the 1978 Democratic Mid-election Conference. Kennedy’s impassioned plea is on par with any of the better-known speeches made by either of his two better-known brothers.

Moments after the announcement that Ted Kennedy had succumbed to his bout with brain cancer, the following made its way across the popular social media sites:

In lieu of flowers, pass health care reform.”

It’s quaint, it’s cute, it’s unquestionable heartfelt. And in the hours immediately following the news of Ted Kennedy’s death, it was the most re-twitted message on the internet.

And while it would be expected that liberal-leaning sites like ‘Political Packrat’ and ‘Radio KOS’ would jumped on the propaganda bandwagon, it was surprising that NBC Evening News anchor, Brian Williams, bought into the transparent ploy. But that’s precisely what happened last week when he, too, repeated the 8-word mantra as a way to remember Kennedy.

The irony, of course, is that Senator Kennedy would have reveled in the shameless use of his name to advance healthcare reform. After all, not a week had passed after the assassination of President Kennedy before Ted took to the airwaves to tell a nation that passage the pending Civil Rights legislation would be a fitting way to remember his brother’s untimely passing.

The tactic worked. On July 2, 1964, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law.

But whatever role the unabashed evocation of the fourth fallen Kennedy’s memory plays in the looming debate over the president’s pending healthcare reform, Ted Kennedy can finally rest in peace knowing that he has finally stepped out from behind the long shadow cast by his more formidable brothers.

John and Robert Kennedy were two of the most exciting and vibrant politicians of the modern era. But after tolling in the trenches for an issue for close to 47 years (longer, it turns out, than either of his brothers lived) maybe the real takeaway here is that in the end endurance and experience can trump youth and vigor.

It’s not out of the question. Just ask the man behind the never-ending tour. At this pace, he’ll likely outlast them all…

Go out in your country where the land meets the sun
See the craters and the canyons where the waterfalls run
Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, Idaho
Let every state in this union seep in your souls.
And you’ll die in your footsteps
Before you go down under the ground.

August 30, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Everything’s Broken’ in Healthcare: A long, hot summer ahead for US lawmakers


Broken hands on broken ploughs,

Broken treaties, broken vows,
Broken pipes, broken tools,

People bending broken rules.

Broken promises, corrupt politicians, racial injustice, social inequality— when it comes to the issues that have shaped America’s cultural conscience, there’s little he hasn’t commented on. Yet in the last five decades, Bob Dylan has yet to write a song about one issue that touches every American regardless of race, creed and color: healthcare.

The debate over healthcare has become the most heated and incendiary issue in recent political memory. And if last week is any indication, it’s going to be long, hot summer for US lawmakers, indeed.

Of course being jeered at, sneered at, even flat out shouted at is hardly new to members of Congress. But getting your hand slapped by a posturing colleague on C-Span in the wee hours of the night when no one’s watching is one thing. Getting an earful from an irate constituent—someone you actually have to listen to—is entirely different. And that’s precisely how members of the House and Senate are spending their summer vacation:

  • Close to 1,500 people came to the Tampa suburb of Ybor City last week hoping to hear Democratic State Rep. Betty Reed and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor state their positions on healthcare. The event quickly regressed into a near riot.
  • In Michigan, a ‘town hall’ meeting hosted by Democratic Rep. John Dingell underwent a similar metamorphosis when the forum turned into a shouting match as supporters and detractors of the pending healthcare reform bill butted heads and traded verbal barbs.
  • In Mehlville, Mo., a gathering organized by Democratic Rep. Russ Carnahan and billed as a meeting on aging turned violent when St. Louis police arrested six people, some on assault charges.

Political protest has a long and hallowed place in our country’s history. And while the furor ignited by the current debate over healthcare hardly seems on par with Civil Rights, the Vietnam War or the other issues that defined Dylan’s generation, how we take care of our sick and elderly is no less important, and will have no less impact on the future of our nation.

Chances are, however, Bob won’t be turning up at any of the healthcare town hall meetings singing “We Shall Overcome,” “Blowin’ in the Wind,” or “The Times They are A-Changin’” to demonstrate his allegiance for a populous that is rapidly agin’.

Instead, we’ll have to rely on the media to stir up the fervor and infuse the emotional resonance into the debate. And if you’ve been watching the nightly news over the last few days, you know they already have.

According to reports, many of the protesters have said that they’ve been urged to take action by conservative activist groups like the Tradition Values Coalition (TVC), a Washington-based conservative group who is letting citizens know when and where their US senators and representatives will be holding town hall meetings, and encouraging ‘concerned’ citizens to attend.

In response to charges that the TVC is taking advantage of those old, gray and in the way, Andrea Lafferty, the organization’s executive director, defends the promotion of the events as an opportunity for Americans to voice their genuine concerns.

“It’s summer,” Lafferty maintains. “Most kids haven’t returned to school yet, and this will be a valuable civics lesson for your children, your grandchildren, friends, and family.”

It’s ironic that the White House has shown such disdain for the demonstrations against those Democratic legislators who have suffered the slings and arrows of discontent. After all, the fact that Obama is even in the White House is largely due to his ability to mobilize over 13 million disenfranchised voters between the ages of 18 and 35 using many of the same techniques now being employed by ‘agitators.’ Funny how the fundamental, underlying right of American to assemble and speak freely becomes such a travesty when the tables are turned.

But whether the demonstrations are manufactured or an organic, grassroots reaction to the point that voters have to shout to be heard, both the White House and the media have missed the point of the protests entirely.

The issue here isn’t whether these demonstrations have been organized by special interest groups, concocted by conservative political action committees or orchestrated the pharmaceutical companies (let’s be honest— chances are all have likely played a hand in the disturbances). The issue is that the disturbance of the status quo has done exactly what it’s supposed to do. It’s pissed people off.

The issue of reconfiguring healthcare has struck a nerve in the American electorate. And that nerve is only going to become more inflamed as the debate drags on. The fact that we are dealing with an issue that is far too complex for most lawmakers, much less a majority of Americans to understand, only compounds the problem.

Certainly, no one—not Republicans, not Democrats, not the media—is condoning violence or advocating the use icons that conjure up images of hate and intolerance, though these techniques have been used at more than a few gatherings. But until the media starts doing their job and really “keeps them honest” as one cable outlet so piously professes on a nightly basis, the most reliable source in the healthcare debate will remain the public, no matter how unruly they become.

There’s no question healthcare is broken in this country. And while the town hall meetings might not be the best place to have a measured, reasonable discussion on how to fix this fractured and failing system, the politicians should be thankful that their kangaroo courtship of the voters has brought their constituents out in droves.

Now they’ll be able to see firsthand how truly out of touch they’ve become…

Broken dishes, broken parts,
Streets are filled with broken hearts.

Broken words never meant to be spoken,

Everything is broken.

August 9, 2009 Posted by | Disgruntled, Dylanologist | , , , , , | Leave a comment