Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Attitude Adjustment

In no way should the very tall, balding, bearded, bespectacled gentleman have needed to do what he did.

But he did. And it said a lot about who he was, before I even saw him “in context.”

 

I stood at the registration table for the weekend event and noted that my housing assignment appeared to be screwed up. This was long enough ago that I really don’t remember exactly what the issue was; only that suddenly, attending an event that would last from Thursday morning to Saturday noon was looking a little more dicey, since one does prefer to spend evenings in some form of lodging, rather than, say, not.

The tall gentleman happened to be standing very near the registration table, which made it easier for him to detect the waves of “…uhh…” that were coming off me.

In that moment, in addition to staring down the barrel of two nights without an assigned place to sleep, I was the following things:

[] A newbie at that weekend event.  [] Recognizing exactly zero other people attending that event. (Not recognizing anyone yet, as it happened; but in that moment it was the first day of pre-school all over again.)  [] Not even a resident of the state in which I stood swaying gently.

Upon inquiring about my predicament, the tall gentleman looked me up and down, and said, “Well, come on upstairs.”

I trailed along after him, with all my baggage (interpret that however you like), as he ascended a set of stairs and headed down a couple of hallways to a small office. One short and amiable phone conversation later, he’d set things right, by setting me up with a proper dorm room assignment, and my weekend was off and running.

Half an hour removed from that little episode, I mused that the tall gentleman could easily have passed that duty off to one of his lieutenants. I mean, I was a newbie from a whole different state with an issue that quite honestly was probably very small, considering all the other responsibilities he had … considering he was the fellow in charge of the entire event.

But he saw a moment where he could be helpful to someone, knew what needed to be done, and determined that he was in the best position to do it. Regardless of rank or station. (Likely because of rank and station, in this case; but still.)

 

And so, for the next ten summers after that, I made my way north to Plymouth State University, for the New England Band Directors Institute; secure in the knowledge that the event, dreamed up by the tall gentleman and put together by the New Hampshire Band Directors Association that he led, was an event during which all the attendees were viewed as valuable and important, and were taken care of, and were almost instantly seen as old friends. Even the new ones.

A mentor of mine once suggested that “a band is a reflection of its leadership.” And NEBDI was assuredly a reflection of its leader, PSU’s director of bands, Professor Gary Corcoran.

At an NEBDI edition a few summers after my housing-assignment rescue moment, I took time to thank Gary again for his above-and-beyond effort, and he responded exactly true to form: in so many warm and unassuming words, you’re welcome, and don’t mention it, and anyone would have done it, and glad it worked out, and you’re welcome. It was almost as if all of us faithful NEBDI attendees were his kids, and he made sure to take care of us.

(In many ways. When he was addressing the group of attendees, he very often sounded like a gentle father figure … and then he would get a tiny mischievous glint in his eye, announcing the Friday evening attendees’ party at a tavern down the road – and calling it the “attitude adjustment session”.)

Three summers ago was the most recent NEBDI I’ve gotten to, for various reasons. By that time Gary had retired, but was hanging around the summer workshop event – at least partly because the NHBDA board had determined that they should award Gary their equivalent of the lifetime achievement award. He’d been at PSU for an amount of time that, rounded to the nearest whole number, was approximately forever. In that time, he had (amongst other things) built NEBDI up into an event that was known nationwide as a unique professional-development conference for school band directors.

At the Friday-evening dinner (which preceded the attitude adjustment session), the Association formally honored its longtime leader. When summoned to make a little speech, Gary got through a few appreciative sentences before choking up, just a little. And when he finished his remarks, the resulting standing ovation lasted long enough that he sheepishly tried to get us to siddown … and tried again … and again. We just wouldn’t. He was clearly not comfortable with the idea that he was getting this ridiculous, protracted standing-O … but we figured he had it coming.

 

Gary Corcoran passed away this past Friday at the age of 74.

I’m pleased that on several occasions, I took advantage of the opportunity to make sure he knew how much I appreciated his work – both in the larger, sweeping, lifetime-achievement sense, and also in the rescue-a-rookie-from-his-own-administrative-incompetence sense. And every time I took advantage of that opportunity, I couldn’t help but notice that although he only ever saw me three days a summer … so, a total of 27 times ever … he always knew exactly who I was, no re-introduction necessary. And always seemed a little startled that anybody thought he was a big deal.

He was a big deal.

And I hope the New England Band Directors Institute continues for as many more summers as is humanly possible – if only to stand as testimony to how big a deal he really was.

Godspeed, Gary.

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July 10, 2018 Posted by | band, education, teachers | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

On This, All Depends

What’s tomorrow mean?

It means we have to vote.

We have to encourage everyone around us to vote.

Doesn’t matter whether they’re passionate or not.

Doesn’t matter whether they’re holding their noses.

It means we have to get people out to vote, because the more people vote, the better life is.

It means we have to make sure that the Short-Fingered Vulgarian doesn’t get elected.

It means we have to vote properly in the down-ticket elections — for the US Congress, for state legislatures, for state governors, for local dog-catcher.

But it means we have to vote properly for President, because SUPREME COURT.

There’s already one open seat in the row of nine Supreme Court justice chairs. And there will likely be one, two, or possibly three more.

It means we have to vote for a President who will have a remote prayer of appointing one or more justices who will rule in cases on the side of the common guy and not on the side of the corporations.

(As regards the down-ticket races … it means we have to vote properly so as to turn the US Senate blue so the President has a faint prayer of confirming any Justices.)

It means we have to ensure that the Court will vote to overturn Citizens United, which is only a first step toward getting dark money out of politics, but ya gotta start somewhere.

It means that once Citizens United is overturned, billionaires and corporations (who don’t even “live” in the US) will have less opportunity to affect elections, which will mean less influence on one particular issue: education; specifically public education.

It means that once billionaires and corporations don’t have such a chokehold on elections and on influencing education policy, we can get to work rebuilding education (and the morale of educators).

It means that once education is influenced chiefly by people who have experience in it and genuine care for it, we’ll begin to rebuild an educated population.

Because the uneducated (and economically unable-to-commit-time-to-learning-about-important-issues-through-no-fault-of-their-own) population currently is not equipped to cast educated votes.

It means that once Citizens United is overturned, we have a prayer of loosening the death grip with which the National Rifle Association currently holds so many of our elected officials, which will mean less influence on one particular issue: gun control … so that gun control legislation has a prayer of passing.

It means that perhaps we may be able to finally apply ourselves to the horror of military-grade weapons in the hands of any civilian anywhere for any or no very damn good reason.

So it means that this is a Cliffs Notes, quick-hit, flash-learning educational opportunity.

It’s an opportunity for me to suggest to you that if you [a] can’t conceive of voting for the Orange-Hair Jackwagon; or [b] wish you could have voted for Sen. Sanders but can’t and are really disappointed and are just not sure about Secretary Clinton; or [c] are thrilled to vote for Secretary Clinton,…

…it is vitally important that you vote for Secretary Clinton.

I cannot afford to sugarcoat this. And I cannot word this strongly enough.

Be it resolved: that a vote for Secretary Clinton is (but is not exclusively) a vote against the Vulgar Talking Yam, and that’s good for the health of the Republic and likely the survival of the three branches of government, not to mention our country’s reputation around the world.

Be it resolved: that a vote for Secretary Clinton is (but is not exclusively) a vote for the first female President in our history; and while that ought not be the only reason she gets a vote, that’s still good since it catches us up to a number of other major countries (England, Germany, India, …) … finally.

Be it resolved: that a vote for Secretary Clinton is (but is not exclusively) a vote for someone whose stated policies have been pushed rather distinctly toward the left by her strongest competitor, which honors him and bodes well (or better) for little things like civil rights and such.

What’s all this mean?

It means that voting for Secretary Clinton may work out to be one last opportunity to remain a viable democratic republic.

That is not remotely close to hyperbole.

Vote. Vote vote vote.

Vote IN the best person to responsibly lead this country in this or any time. Vote OUT the people who offer “thoughts and prayers” but no constructive solutions. In fact vote OUT the people who joined government for the expressed purpose of de-funding, dismantling, and de-legitimizing government.

On this, all depends.”

Heaven help us, either way.

November 7, 2016 Posted by | civil rights, current events, education, government, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Most Recent Last Straw -or- How Did We Get Here?

He’s done this before.

Often.

For the last sixteen months, the Vulgar Talking Yam, the Short-Fingered Vulgarian, the (my most recent favorite moniker) Pumpkin Spice Mussolini … has said or done something that would mean the end of the presidential campaign for any other human alive.

Call Mexicans rapists in your first speech as a candidate? Check.

Dump on John McCain because he became a POW? Check.

I’ll refrain from going on down the list, because you know all the statements and actions I’m thinking of, and as Keith Olbermann has recently noted, there are literally hundreds of them.

This one, though.

 

I have used this space, many and oft, to note the ridiculous behavior of public figures when it comes to treatment of women. (Here, here, here, and here.)

In part, this is because I have known many wonderful, strong, competent women, and I want to come to their defense, and they have demonstrated all kinds of reasons for me wanting to do so … but honestly, that shouldn’t need to be a reason. The reason is that they’re humans, and as it says in the Bible that so many people love to quote but hate to follow, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, and don’t give me that BS about “we’re the kind who LIKE the pain!”.

It’s true that if you know someone personally who is a member of a particularly oppressed group – oh, say, African-Americans, gays and lesbians, Muslims – and I do happen to know people from all three – it’s much harder to whitewash, to stereotype, to categorize.

Or to objectify. Or to express zero respect for.

Donald Trump boasts that, as a “star,” women let him do anything he wants, in a 2005 video obtained by the Washington Post that features the real estate mogul using salacious language as he brags of kissing and groping women he’s attracted to.

In the video posted Friday, Trump and Billy Bush, the former Access Hollywood host now with NBC’s Today show, engage in graphic discussions en route to the Days of Our Lives set, where Trump is set to record a piece about an upcoming appearance on the soap opera.

I did try and f— her,” Trump tells Bush in reference to a married woman, while acknowledging he was unsuccessful. “I moved on her like a b—- but I couldn’t get there,” Trump says.

Later in the video, as Trump and Bush spot Arianne Zucker – who The Post says was there to escort them to the set for the segment – the real estate mogul says: “I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her,” adding that he immediately starts kissing “beautiful” women when he encounters them.

I don’t even wait.” Trump says. “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything – grab them by the p—-.”

Enough people in the online world have noted that this man is vile and says vile things – just today! – about this particular instance, and about this particular group of people – women – such that if I were to express my opinion about it, I would only duplicate their work, and probably not as eloquently.

Not that I don’t feel equally outraged, equally disgusted, equally ready to declare this man a loathsome excuse for a human.

I do.

In a statement shortly after the video’s release, Trump dismisses its importance.

This was locker room banter, a private conversation that took place many years ago,” the GOP presidential nominee says. “Bill Clinton has said far worse to me on the golf course — not even close. I apologize if anyone was offended.”

Okay, fella: “that guy did worse things than I did” is, nonetheless, not a defense for bad things you did. Since about 1st-grade recess, as I recall. And also: people don’t fundamentally change.

But instead, I want to dig a little deeper. Take a sneakly lil’ ol’ look behind a curtain…

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus issued a short, but blistering statement Friday night, denouncing the GOP nominee’s language.

No woman should ever be described in these terms or talked about in this manner. Ever,” Priebus said.

Good. The head of the national political party checks in.

House Speaker Paul Ryan said he was “sickened” by comments of his party’s nominee. “Women are to be championed and revered, not objectified,” Ryan added. “I hope Mr. Trump treats this situation with the seriousness it deserves and works to demonstrate to the country that he has greater respect for women than this clip suggests. In the meantime, he is no longer attending tomorrow’s event in Wisconsin.”

Great. The current third-in-line to the presidency checks in.

Do you notice what’s missing, in each case?

Along with this…

However, there were no immediate signs that the Republican donors, who only recently have begun to open their wallets to Trump, were abandoning him over the latest controversy.

Texas investor Doug Deason, whose family has contributed a combined $1 million to Trump and the Republican National Committee, called the tape’s release a “big brouhaha about nothing.”

Anybody that’s shocked is faking it,” Deason told USA TODAY Friday evening.

We’re a nation that believes in redemption,” he added. “That’s who he was then, and that’s not who he is now.”

Deason said Trump should quickly issue a new statement, well ahead of Sunday’s town-hall debate, making it clear that “he has changed.”

Not one of the leaders of the party … titular and actual … elected, appointed, and moneyed

Nobody’s told him to go away.

Nobody’s offered any more than tepid, timid, fainting-couch-worthy expressions of “gee whiz, we sure hope he does better than this, in the future”. Because they think he still has a future.

Up and down the Republican Party hierarchy, there are politicians who haven’t endorsed Trump, but at no time have they demanded that he be removed from the Party’s ticket, in response to any of the Last Straws that have come along since, well, let’s just limit this to the three months since he was officially nominated.

Why?

Is he too famous?

Is he too forceful a personality for them to overcome?

Is it that they’re afraid he’ll sue them? Allegedly he has enough money to outlast anybody in civil court.

What is it?

 

Let me suggest what it is … and I’m not the first, but there have been relatively few who have made this suggestion … and exactly nobody in the national political press has dared to breathe a mere hint of this provably true thing:

He’s them.

He hasn’t hijacked the Republican Party.

He IS the Republican Party – at least, the Republican Party which has existed for the last forty years.

He’s the GOP that has gradually, inexorably cultivated a base of voters who resist science and reason, who accept their news reporting and analysis from a very limited, very partisan, very anti-intellectualist set of sources. (Which are led, as it happens, by people who have cultivated reputations for abuse of women.)

He’s the GOP that has done its very best to corporatize and privatize public education, and to denigrate and undermine the efforts of the civil servants who are charged with educating Americans – because a poorly-educated populace is so much more easily hoodwinked. (“I love the poorly-educated!” crowed Trump in one primary-election victory speech – and you perhaps thought he was just pandering to a series of blocs of voters and misspoke, because he was rolling, or on autopilot, or caught up in the moment, or something? Oh, my, no.)

He’s the GOP that has, thanks to the natural tendency of unimaginably wealthy corporations to support conservative viewpoints, acquired the means to influence public perception of public-policy issues and current affairs, to the public’s great detriment.

Take it, Charlie – you write better than I do…

Hell, we’ve been grading Republicans on a curve for decades. We graded Reagan on a curve when he burbled about trees and air pollution. We graded him on a curve during Iran Contra on the grounds that he was too dim to know what was going on around him. We graded W on a curve for the whole 2000 campaign when he didn’t know Utah from Uzbekistan, but Al Gore knew too much stuff and what fun was he, anyway? We graded Republicans on a curve when they attached themselves to the remnants of American apartheid, when they played footsie with the militias out west and with the heirs to the White Citizens Councils in the South. We graded them on a curve every time they won a campaign behind Karl Rove or Lee Atwater or the late Terry Dolan back in the 1970s. We talked about how they were “reaching out” to disillusioned white voters who’d suffered in the changing economy, as though African-American workers didn’t get slugged harder than anyone else by deindustrialization. We pretended not to notice how racial animus was the accelerant for the fire of discontent in the “Reagan Democrats.” That was, and is, grading on a moral curve.

We graded Republicans on a intellectual curve when they embraced a fundamentalist splinter of American Protestantism and brought themselves to a pass in which they are the 21st Century Know Nothings. They have followed movement conservatism to the point where they can ignore science and promote creationism and supply side economic foolishness simply because they can sell it to the same audiences that gobble up the red meat that’s been marinating since George Wallace ran for president. Because they are graded on a curve, they can still claim to be shocked when the purist product of all of that work hijacks the nomination and gives the entire game away. Of course, Trump has been graded on a curve. If the electorate hadn’t graded modern conservatism on an intellectual curve, it would’ve flunked out of Human College decades ago.

It is timidity now that grades this ridiculous man running this ridiculous campaign on the biggest curve of all—the timidity of a people who have declined the responsibilities of serious citizenship and the abdication of its duty under the Constitution of a putatively free press too timid to call them on it.

And yeah, as long as, tonight, we’re talking about Trump’s loathsome attitudes about women … he’s the GOP that added half-term Alaskan governor Sarah Palin to the presidential ticket in 2008. I trust I need say no more about that.

 

The Washington Post has put it this way, in a series of editorials this past month [italics mine]:

it would be reckless not to consider the damage Mr. Trump might wreak. Some of that damage would ensue more from who he is than what he does. His racism and disparagement of women could empower extremists who are now on the margins of American politics, while his lies and conspiracy theories could legitimize discourse that until now has been relegated to the fringe.

Yes, Congress has the power to remove a president who ignores the law. But given the easy GOP capitulation to such an obviously unfit candidate, how far would Mr. Trump have to go for a likely Republican House to impeach him? How much damage would he have to do?

Clearly, if the behavior of the leadership of his party – just today! – is indicative … he would have to do far more damage than we can comfortably imagine.

Thirty-two days.

October 7, 2016 Posted by | current events, education, Famous Persons, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment