Poets, writers, singers, understand America – Toronto Sun

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Try as they might, politicians in the United States don’t determine the narrative of the day.

Finding what is in the hearts of Americans is better left to the poets and minstrels.

The dichotomy of American life has been revealed by writers from Samuel Clemens, better know as Mark Twain, to humorists in the mold of Will Rogers.

It takes writers like the favourite son of Archer City, Texas — Pulitzer Prize winning author Larry McMurtry — to sort out the contradictions that run through the American narrative.

No one captures the public disposition better than songwriters.

Fear turned to anger during the Great Depression and a generation heard their anguish reflected in the words of Woody Guthrie’s brilliant protest song, This Land is Your Land.

For millions out of work, displaced and hungry, Guthrie asked and answered the existential question — who is this country for?

“In the shadow of the steeple I saw my people,

By the relief office I seen my people;

As they stood there hungry, I stood there asking

Is this land made for you and me?”

Poets, authors and minstrels get the angst of the American public. Politicians, not so much.

Political pundits are now desperately trying to explain how during this presidential primary season American voters have gone, to quote U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, “bat-s*** crazy.”

Despite investing extraordinary amounts of time, money and marketing expertise in mainstream candidates, both the Republicans and to some extent the Democrats, are watching dumbfounded as so-called fringe candidates take centre stage in the primaries.

Donald Trump was a late-night television joke six months ago. Today he is coasting to the Republican presidential nomination.

Hillary Clinton can’t shake that ragged old socialist, Bernie Sanders.

What in the name of Jeb Bush is going on?

Larry McMurtry’s son, singer songwriter James McMurtry, has been reflecting the feelings of people in the fly-over states for years.

He catches the Sanders/Trump thing perfectly in his song We Can’t Make It Here Anymore.

For decades working people have listened to politicians tell them how trade deals will open the world to American goods but somehow the factories keep closing.

McMurty sums it up with these lyrics,

“Now I’m stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store,

Just like the ones we made before,

‘Cept this one came from Singapore,

I guess we can’t make it here anymore.”

People have lost their homes while watching trillions of borrowed dollars going to fight wars in countries they’ve never heard of.

The factories are empty, the cities broke, and someone has taken their jobs.

McMurtry knows who to blame.

“Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin?

Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I’m in?

Should I hate ‘em for having our jobs today?

No, I hate the men sent the jobs away.”

A large contingent of Americans would rather vote for Trump or Sanders than be manipulated by the folks who have gridlocked Washington.

But that’s America.

In Canada we are happy to pay higher taxes and fees for transit that never gets built.

We will gleefully pay carbon taxes so Canada can miss emission targets no one really believes in.

We line up for health care and fundraise for hospitals.

We believe in free trade and buy French’s ketchup.

We pay billions not to build power plants or fighter jets.

Someday, it might just drive us all bat-s*** crazy.

Snobelen was a cabinet minister in the Conservative government of Ontario premier Mike Harris from 1995 to 2002 

Poets, writers, singers, understand America – Toronto Sun