Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

Send A Message

[Ed. Note: I published this on my Facebook page tonight. I’ve heard too many cable-TV-news pundits gleefully point to polls which suggest that only a small percentage of young Americans will actually vote in the midterm elections tomorrow. I’d like to hope – after Parkland, after Kavanaugh, after children in cages, after a host of awful current events that seemed to awaken a great many American high-school and college students, over the last two years – that there are indeed a great wave of new voters who will end-run the corporate media’s bleatings and the various pollsters that only contact landline-based Americans, and give American representative government a well-deserved kick in the rear. May it be so.

[So here’s that Facebook piece, which I wrote while thinking of all the fine folks who have been students at the public schools and colleges and drum major clinics where I’ve taught, all of whom I’ve been able to watch, via social media, turn into people whom I’d trust to run this country.]


All right, my fine FB younger friends — a legion of wonderful people with whom I’ve had the pleasure of sharing a music classroom, or a rehearsal stage, or a high school or college football field, or a DMA parking lot: pull up a chair while I do my Wise Old Sage Of The Desert act.

I beg you. I mean it: I beg you — prove the pundits wrong tomorrow. There are people who go on the TV and pontificate because they’re paid to convince you that they know something about the world, who say that only a handful of young voters will actually engage in the political process. MAKE THEM EAT THEIR WORDS.

Forgive me, but I don’t think it’s hyperbole to suggest that tomorrow’s election — at the all levels, federal, state and local — boils down to a very simple idea:

Empathy vs. selfishness.

Regarding virtually every important issue facing our country right now — climate change, health care, gun violence, public education, women’s health and rights, rights of people of color, LGBTQ and transgender rights, freedom of (or from) religion, immigration (CHILDREN ARE STILL IN CAGES), the Supreme Court, simple human decency, and oh by the way Congressional oversight of this corrupt bunch of pirates masquerading as an executive branch …

… the current Congressional majority and many Republican-held state legislatures have consistently and repeatedly demonstrated BY THEIR ACTIONS an utter lack of human decency and empathy.

So vote them out tomorrow (if you haven’t early-voted already). Vote in such overwhelming numbers that Russian meddlers won’t matter, that voter-suppression schemes won’t matter, that the corporate media’s obsession with pretending that “both sides are equally horrible” … JUST WON’T MATTER.

And at this moment in history, I’m sorry, but it’s more important to vote within the context of the political system as it is, rather than as we wish it were. Which means, I’m sorry again, that independent candidates can’t help us in this election. Down the road, perhaps; but not tomorrow.

Mark Twain once said, not without cause, “I don’t belong to an organized political party. I am a Democrat.”

BUT … this time around, Democratic Party majorities in the US House and Senate are the only way to throw the brakes on this miserable Republican-Party-led executive branch (yeah, That Guy). The current Republican Party majorities in the House and Senate have, through their actions, proven themselves willfully incompetent at governmental oversight, and indeed at representative government at all.

So go to the polls. Stand in the lines when you have to. Send a message … to our elected officials, and to the rest of the world (most of which has quite honestly been watching us for the last two years with horror) — that we’re not going to just sit here and take it. That we’re not going to let selfishness win out over empathy.

If you ask me: vote blue. Vote Democratic. But in any case: vote.

My young friends, all of whom I’ve held in very high regard whenever I’ve had the privilege of enjoying your company … this is your golden opportunity, TOMORROW: to take this country back from the (mostly) rich old white guys who have used their control of the government to gather all the riches to themselves, right now — AND to work diligently to make life harder for everybody but themselves, both now and into the future.

Make the Women’s March and the Science March and the March For Our Lives and the Families Belong Together March seem like mere whispering tiny preludes.


November 5, 2018 Posted by | civil rights, current events, Facebook, government, news, politics, social media, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gloves Comin’ Off

[Ed. Note: this was originally posted on my Facebook page.]


I try not to get forcefully political on the ol’ FB machine. I tend more toward Star Wars references and band jokes.

But desperate times call for desperate measures. And, from here to November, I think I shall prepare to suffer whatever slings and arrows come my way. Fine. Political it shall be. S**t’s gettin’ real.

We talk about every single Presidential election as the most important election of our lifetimes. Bush vs. Kerry … Obama vs. McCain and the desperately unqualified Palin … Obama vs. Willard “47%” Romney … and the meme has threatened to become “boy who cried wolf” territory.

But … the next five months represent a stretch of time during which it will be required to convince as many people as possible that we stand at an absolutely pivotal moment in American history. Will it be oligarchy with a side order of authoritarian fascism? Or will it be an agonizingly slow but perceptible aircraft-carrier-speed turn back toward government representing the people and not the corporations?


With today’s Senate votes regarding gun legislation, let’s make sure that one thing is abundantly clear:

Permanently laid to rest is the idea that “both sides do it”. That “both sides are just as awful”. That “both sides are to blame”. Dead, buried, shovelfuls of dirt hitting its face, pax vobiscum.

From ThinkProgress.org: “On Monday, Republicans in the Senate proved, yet again, how strong the National Rifle Association’s grip is on the nation’s highest lawmaking body. Democrats’ efforts to pass legislation to prevent suspected terrorists from buying firearms and to expand background checks to all gun sales both failed in the Senate. Just 47 senators voted in favor of the first measure and 44 for the second.”

It may be over-the-top to write a headline like “Republicans Vote In Favor Of Continued Mayhem”. Or not, I don’t know. But at the very least, the headline should be “Republicans Vote To Keep The Gun Manufacturers Lobby From Primary-ing Their Backsides; ‘Follow the Money’ Meme Again Invoked”.

Meet the Press” and David Brooks and the whole DC pundit class won’t do it. Nor will they give up their farcical “both sides are equally bad” fetish, because the major mass-media news operations are overseen by their networks’ entertainment divisions now, which ought to tell you everything you need to know about modern journalism: it serves profit, not public service.


Howevah! … The Democratic senators’ filibuster last week accomplished this: it forced an actual vote on something — and the result of that vote is concrete proof toward which to point, as the general election approaches. If they play their cards right … AND IF WE VOTER TYPES GO AND VOTE IN NOVEMBER (that’s crucial) … and if the Short-Fingered Vulgarian continues his Presidential campaign all the way to Election Day and manages to drag down all the down-ticket candidates from the party of Lincoln … Democrats have a chance to take the Senate, close the gap in the House, take the White House, and ensure that the next Supreme Court nominee (or possibly the next two, with the rumored retirement plans of Clarence Thomas coming to light in the last day or so) be someone who might support the overturning of the Citizens United decision. Which would be merely a small beginning of an effort to get money (dark or otherwise) the hell out of politics; but it beats the alternative we’re living with right now.

Let’s not throw all the bastards out.

Just the right bastards.

Let’s make the pitched effort to identify, tag, and continually and repeatedly remind people of the identity of, every one of the bastards who value their political careers and the largesse that goes with them MORE than they value the lives of their constituents — be they LGBT, minority groups, or members of faith communities they can’t be bothered to understand.

Let’s be obnoxious in our desperate effort to keep reminding people who the honorable people are, and who the craven bastards are who love themselves and their money and their station in life far more than they love the health of their own nation.

So we know which ones deserve to be kicked out of DC for good.


Today’s roll calls represent opposition research — tailor-made and gift-wrapped for Democrats, and frankly any voter who can see past knee-jerk ideology and embrace the need to re-make our government into a group of people who want to take care of people instead of taking advantage of them.

I know. Mark Twain famously said, “I don’t belong to any organized political party. I am a Democrat.” As steep climbs go, this has potential to be very steep. We (yeah, I’m a registered Dem) are famous for screwing things up, usually thanks to apathy or really bad planning.

But today’s votes ought to reverberate — ought to echo all the way to the election in November — in the form of a question that ought to be on the minds of voters everywhere (even in my intensely-blue Massachusetts):

Are you willing to let this go on any longer?

I’m not, damn it.

Because as has been demonstrated this week in Orlando … and this year in Flint … and three and a half years ago in Sandy Hook … and for the last (pick your time period — decade? Two decades? More?) in cities and towns all over these United States:

We’re talking about people’s lives here.


[Ed. Note: commenters will please note that this blog’s management has the sole right to approve comments for publication here. Which is to say, if you choose to violate standards of good taste or choose to try and pull an Internet-troll maneuver, the management cannot guarantee that you’ll be able to Scotch-tape clips of your work to your refrigerator. If you’re thinking of going that route, you may wish to save your valuable time and go elsewhere.]

June 21, 2016 Posted by | civil rights, current events, government, journalism, media, news, politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Denis Hammerton Moment

(re-posted from my Facebook profile, February 23, 2009)


I don’t expect to post a whole lot of things in this space having to do with family; no skeletons in the closet that I know of, but I do wish to respect various people’s privacy. If they want to reveal private family stuff, they can blog too!

Today would have been my Dad’s 82nd birthday. He passed away seven years ago this May. He’d had a heart attack eight years prior to that one; so we all had time, and inspiration, to make sure everybody knew what everybody thought of everybody else, and very little was left unsaid, and we were all very comfortable with the fact that I was his favorite son (he only had one) and he was my favorite Dad (I only had one) (but of all the Dads on Earth…).

Two years ago, on what would have been his eightieth birthday, I posted an item as a Facebook note – it was basically what I presented at his memorial service – and I’d like to include it here. Pretty often I hear myself say something or say it a certain way, or frequently I hear someone else describing a memory of my father that just further convinces me that even after we’re gone, if we’re lucky and we’ve done it right, we’ll continue to have an effect on other people. If you ever met my Dad, even just once, you probably have at least one Denis Hammerton Moment similar to the ones I mention below . . . and it most likely makes you grin and chuckle. May we all have the kind of effect he had on the world. Read on!…

Henry David Thoreau said: ‘If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears . . .”

When I’ve tried to describe my father to people, I’ve sometimes tried to boil it down to a few short words, or a sentence. Those who know me know that brevity is not always one of my strongest suits. My dad compounded that difficulty by managing to be many, many things … not merely a chemical engineer, not merely a curious and quirky Englishman trapped in America, not merely a great father and husband. He made it very tough to put his life story on a bumper sticker.

The Denis Hammerton stories that have come forward in the last couple of weeks – many of which I had never heard before – reveal a man who didn’t do giant-sized things for people with the intention of putting them on a billboard and pointing and saying ‘look what I done’. He did small things for individuals: a staggering number of them.

“‘What goes around, comes around’ is a phrase that applies to good deeds in life, too. I think Dad would be startled to realize just how beloved he really was – he really didn’t think too hard about that. A few of my memories of him may serve to give you an idea of why I thought he was so great.

A man with a PhD in chemical engineering no doubt would enjoy seeing his son excel in math or science. Alas! … after about sixth grade, those subjects and I were no longer close friends. Some fathers would bemoan this situation, mumble something regretful about who’s going to carry on the flame … but not Dad. I think he understood very well that I LIKED science and math just fine; I just wasn’t real GOOD at them. And he made it clear that he was fully in favor of whatever subject or pursuit about which I DID feel successful, and would help in whatever way he could.

Mark Twain (a bust of whom sits on top of our piano at home, and somehow I suspect that was DAD’S idea) said this: ‘Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.’

So I credit my Dad with opening my eyes to some important truths about the subject in which I now make my living – music. Now, understand: my father claimed to be not particularly musical. [He] would have you believe that the nuns at the convent school kicked him out of the school band because they’d had him playing second woodblock and he couldn’t cut it.

One Sunday when I was about 10, our church organist fired up the organ and began to play a hymn. We stood; we began to sing. And the thought suddenly occurred to me as I listened to what Dad was singing … ‘that’s not exactly the melody, is it?’ … ‘but it works!’ As it turned out, this was the [air quotes] Bass Line. It was my revelation that those notes that looked like the piano music that I never practiced enough … could be sung at the same time as the tune everybody else was singing. And it would work. . . . Is it too much to suggest that his manner, his peculiar modes of expression, mirrored that idea? All of my friends who met my Dad thought the world of him, and most thought he was just a wee bit odd; and liked him that much more because of that.

All my life, [as both a] high school music teacher and college band director, my parents have made it a point to be at as many of my performances as they could, be they concerts or football games or whatever. (Dad called the sport of AMERICAN football ‘heaps of men’. Similarly, he called ice hockey ‘heaps of men on skates’.) And at the appropriate moment, probably at the beginning of the third quarter, I would take great pleasure in making sure my students knew who they were looking at, wearing that bulky and rather loud winter down coat and the furry hat. That’s my Dad. I’m 37 years old; my parents come to my games. … Once a band parent, always a band parent.

Not long after Dad passed away, I sent out an email to friends of mine who had known him, or even just met him once or twice. My friend Heidi Sarver, with whom I was drum major at UMass a few years ago [laughter] … and who is now the director of the University of Delaware marching band … passed that information on to basically all of our summer band clinic colleagues, which I thought was very kind indeed. It was something she would have done in any case. [It turns out] she must have forwarded that note even further, because early this week I received a card from Courtney Moore. Who? Courtney Moore, the card explained, was a member of the Delaware Band. We had never met. She certainly had never met my father. But she had been told of his passing, and wanted to let my family know that we were in her prayers.

Baseball great Jackie Robinson said this: ‘A man’s life is only worth how much he impacts other people’s lives.’

If a man’s life is in fact to be judged on how much he impacts other people’s lives, Denis Hammerton shapes up to be one of the worthiest men I can think of. I only have to look at how he affected my life to know THAT.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote this: ‘To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.’”

February 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments