Saturday, May 24, 2008

Note to DKos: Bob Dylan in Newport, '64, Obama in Iowa, '07

Bob Dylan provided a theme back when with his haunting song about the times, "The Ballad of a Thin Man" in which a character named Mr. Jones, who was presumed to be a Time magazine reporter, was mystified and afraid by the myriad awakenings of the times. Dylan's iconic scorn called bitterly: "You know something is happening, but you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?" But it all ended at Kent State. As Jerry Rubin said, after Kent State, "You couldn't get a girl to type your term papers for you anymore." Hippie went corporate with the death of four students. What happened was in fact a shift from an authentic Bobby Kennedyish empathy and compassion a whole generation of a bunch of white kids felt for poor black people in the Mississippi Delta suffering from hundreds of years of suffering, Jim Crow and slavery and fully without resources, to the idea that we are all oppressed minorities just like those former slaves are - all us us, like, students - even us rich girls at Ivy League school like Hillary. It was absurd and tragic naivety, but Mr. Jones finally found something he could hold on to; a radicalism which appealed to the mediocrity of his readership and his joyless heart: It was Hillary's graduation speech from college and it was featured in Life Magazine. Say goodbye to Bob Dylan, say good bye to Eldridge Cleaver and those dangerous Black Panthers - say goodbye to H. Rap Brown and Malcolm and the Chicago 7 and and those freaky Hare Khrishnas and Jimi Hendrix and Janis and Gracie Slick and the Dead . . . and say goodbye to Buddhist monks in saphron robes lighting themselves on fire in Golden Gate Park to protest the war in Vietnam and the fey and stoned at Haight-Ashbury in the astonishing Summer of Love. The Day in a Life was upon us but the Day in a Life had passed. And Mr. Jones had found his avatar of dissent: Hillary. Such strange times today: I was in South East Asia in the time you mention . . . extremely good duty in northern Thailand - even made the Haight scene on my way to Than san nute (hard to spell). Then just last week I saw a PBS documentary of Joan Baez on the stage in Newport in '64, elegant in a black dress and the most beautiful woman on face of the earth at the time, leaning out over the audience, squinting and asking, "Is Bobby here . . . is Bobby here?" Then Bob Dylan walked up the stairs and sang with her with his wooden guitar . . . we were still in the day of the wooden guitar. And I kept looking hard because I was there someplace too in the audience and here I was again, watching all three of us separate and together on television. Extraordinary because after Iowa this year I received a surprising number of emails from people I had not heard from in 40 years and had expected never to hear from again. They were calling because something happened in Iowa; because it changed again; because something was happening and they didn't know what it is. And they don't, do they, Mr. Jones?