Friday, September 4, 2015

Bizarro Life

A long time ago I was working nights for free at the University of Akron radio station. 

We played music that our faculty advisors thought was terrible. Believe it or not, one song, “Blowin' In The Wind”, was branded as a protest song. We played it, along with many others, anyway.

I especially remember Joan Baez's beautiful rendition playing and praying at the same time that we’d stop killing in Vietnam. My cousin was a POW, shot down over Hanoi.

Some of my friends had enlisted because they were going to be drafted anyway. Or, out of misplaced patriotism. Or, out of a desire to prove themselves… to ... who? Themselves, I guess. Any way, some never came home.

It was a time of active discontent. Students, and many others, protested the war in Vietnam, the draft and racial injustice. I remember during one final exam the building next door, Buchtel Hall, the university’s main administration building, erupted into flames and the Ohio National Guard was called in to take back the campus from the Black United Students (BUS) protesters.

I failed the exam. I couldn’t concentrate.
I can’t blame all of my failure on the fire or the fact that the professor wouldn’t let us leave the building when the fire alarms went off.

No, the fact was that over the previous weeks I didn’t study as much as I should have. I was too busy becoming a broadcaster, like my hero, Walter Cronkite.

Besides not studying, we student broadcasters did manage to get into trouble once in a while. For instance, someone protested our playing Jose Feliciano’s version of the National Anthem before a U of A football game. We were threatened with suspension if we didn’t stop playing it.

Looking back on the “life lesson”, I know that we just liked the way he sang from his soul. We weren't participating in the times nor were we trying to make the world a better place. Little did we know that the song would become the center of controversy. (See below.)

Many things are bizarro … war for instance. As my dad once said to me, when I was walking out the door to enlist with my friends, ”Just wait, Ron. Like after all the wars, in a few years we will be selling things to the North Vietnamese.”

Another one, back in the 1970s, the Supreme Court ruled against same sex marriage, issuing a one sentence ruling: “The appeal is dismissed for want of a substantial federal question.”

This week, the Supreme Court declined to confirm a Kentucky County Clerk’s religious exemption defense for not issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples. The justices denied her request without explanation in a one-line order.

It’s good to remember that life does change. Sometimes even for the better, too.

From Feliciano's website:

"Puerto Rican blind singer/guitarist Jose Feliciano stunned the crowd at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, and the rest of America, when he strummed a slow, bluesy rendition of the national anthem before Game 5 of the World Series between Detroit and St. Louis. The 23-year-old's performance was the first nontraditional version seen by mainstream America, and it is generally considered the Lexington and Concord of Star-Spangled Banner controversies. The fiery response from Vietnam-weary America was not surprising, considering the tumultuous year for American patriotism. Good or bad, however, Feliciano's performance opened the door for the countless interpretations of the Star-Spangled Banner we hear today."

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