Thursday, September 02, 2004

"I Wouldn't Worry About Me"

Well, the Prajer family is back, having had a swell camp-o-ree at Lac Phillippe. An excellent provincial campground in the Gatineaus, this locale is less than an hour's drive into Quebec from Ottawa: I highly recommend it to camping-types. I consider the closing weeks of August the optimum time to camp. The grounds aren't nearly as busy as they are in July (though this is not a difficulty in Lac Phillippe, as it is terraced in such a way as to foster a sense of privacy for each individual campsite), and the nights are cool - ideal for sleeping.

Or so one could reasonably expect. Our second night there, I was plagued with dreams of global apocalypse (a popular leitmotiv for my subconscious). At dawn's early light and one coffee later, I figured these had been triggered by a half-dozen articles in magazines I'd brought along, thinking they'd be their usual "lite" fare: GQ, Esquire, The New Yorker. I should have known better. These publications were collectively wringing their hands over the forthcoming election, and Bush was the villain of choice (though I couldn't help thinking Kerry's absence from these pages didn't exactly help his cause). I'm not a fan of Bush, but I don't harbor the degree of fear and loathing (to borrow a phrase) for the man that some people do, so it was a little surprising to find my angst being nourished by the race for the Oval Office.

The last time my animus tied itself to Washington was in the Reagan years, and then as now it was chiefly due to my perception of where I sat as a free agent in The Grand Scheme Of Things. There were other factors, too: during Reagan's reign, I heard numerous accounts from Mennonite congregations in South America (chiefly Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, and Nicaragua) about what a torment it was to be caught between government "enforcement" agencies, and "the revolutionaries." Regarding the former, many were directly sponsored by Washington; when US funding ceased, cadres of thugs from both sides turned to the drug cartels for their paycheck. Envision how your suburb might be run if the Hell's Angels were in charge. For Mennonites (and coffee farmers, and field laborers) in South America, the story hasn't changed a whit.

At the time of Reagan's tenure, I was a Bible school student, failing most of my courses. It was depressing - not yet free of my adolescent impertinence, I couldn't quite discern the "system" behind the "systematic theology" I was being asked to absorb and articulate. I holed up in my dorm room, turned out the lights and listened to Pink Floyd's "The Wall".

One night, I heard a contrapuntal beat emanating from my dorm advisor's room.

I pulled off my earphones and walked two doors down the hall. "That's Talking Heads," I said. "Life During Wartime - a song about mercenaries." (I didn't know; I'd heard a DJ say this on the radio a year earlier.)

My DA looked at me. "If you say so."

He gave me a tape of The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads, which took me 10 years to wear into oblivion.

Live! On tape!
Ten years after that, it's difficult to articulate just what a delight it is to see The Name Of This Band finally being released as a CD, with shiny, new production values and over a dozen(!) previously unreleased songs. Back in the day, I chortled at Don't Worry About The Government, a witty little ditty that employed irony with an unpredictably direct force, almost single-handedly inspiring a generation to reach for irony before sincerity. Ah, those were the days.

Twenty years, a wife and two kids later the song has more punch than ever. And yet, how ironic is it that, irony aside, I take the title's sentiment directly to heart?

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