Dependence Day

The news is unremittingly depressing. While I’m not one to really bother with celebrating July 4 to begin with, in the current moment it feels like an act of personal treason to be outwardly patriotic.

As a kid growing up in Wisconsin, the television set was the most significant cultural item in our house. Every year the documentary of Woodstock was shown on PBS, and every year I watched it. (At the time I did not know that two jazz drummers I would study in-depth, Phillip Wilson and Paul Motian, were onstage for that festival.)

The performance in the documentary that meant the most was “The Star-Spangled Banner” by Jimi Hendrix. I’ve come to realize that much of my entire career is a pale reflection of that exquisite moment: Take a well-known tune and put it through a theatrical wringer.

The long view of history often proves that there are two steps in reverse after taking a single step forward. The late 1960s seemed so great and powerful for the people, yet the reactionary forces watched, waited, and took it all back with interest.

In the wake of Trump and the rest of this horrific Republican administration, our only hope is that the compassionate side of humanity gets two giant leaps forward.