Daniel Boone, Glenn Gould and the USA

     Daniel Boone’s personal motto was “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”
     I thought of this, for some reason, while listening to Glenn Gould’s recording of Sebastian Bach’s English Suites, in which Gould’s trills in his left and right hands are perfectly matched – absolute perfection.
     Perfection is not possible in politics – but at least they could try.
     Glenn Gould retreated from the world to practice in a cabin in the woods in Ontario. When he emerged, he gave the world the greatest renditions of its greatest musician.
     Glenn Gould knew what he was doing.
     After he mastered his instrument – the piano, an instrument that no one ever has mastered, or ever will – Gould practiced by reading scores. Just reading them. Then he’d show up at rehearsal and knock the daylights out of Sebastian Bach.
     A lesser lesson than directing the affairs of the world? Perhaps. Or perhaps not.
     What strikes me, in our country’s political wars today, is not just the venom, the unearned bitterness, but that so many of the leading players do not know what they are talking about.
     They never retreated to the woods and studied, and practiced.
     What do Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz know about the world?
     Not much.
     They are waterboys, spear-carriers.
     Has either one of them ever done anything excellent?
     Excellence is important. WashingtonWorld is atwitter today about the defeat in a primary election of Speaker of the House-in Waiting Eric Cantor, the only Jewish Republican in the House of Representatives.
     I’ve looked hard, but can’t find any evidence that Cantor’s done anything in his seven terms in Congress except beg for money and stop things from happening.
     I guess that’s a fine record, if you believe that things shouldn’t happen.
     But things do happen, don’t they?
     Cantor opposed stem-cell research and gun control, though he complained that someone shot a bullet through his campaign office window in March 2010, an incident that Richmond police described as “random gunfire.”
     What is wrong this country?
     After our latest spate of murders in public schools, we were informed this week that there have been 74 school shootings since the Newtown, Conn. massacre of December 2012.
     That’s a school shooting every week.
     What did Cantor, the second-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives, ever try to do about it? Except to stop Congress from doing anything about it?
     And, let us note, Cantor was defeated in last week’s primary by people who think he should not have done anything about it – which he did not.
     Well, it’s a strange world we live in.
     Daniel Boone, I imagine, in his log cabins, studied the questions that faced him, and thought about them for a long time. Then he made his decision, and went ahead.
     Daniel Boone, I imagine, thought about things. He didn’t squeal to his neighbors that they, and he, were being oppressed for the way they thought, for being Christians, for being white. No, Daniel Boone, I imagine, thought about things before he went ahead.
     Glenn Gould, in his lonely cabin, thought, and practiced, and went ahead.
     As I write this, religious fundamentalists from the medieval era are racing toward Baghdad, the Iraqi army is dropping its guns and deserting, after you and I paid a trillion dollars or so to train them.
     Everyone is sure they’re right today. But thought? What’s that?

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