Watt Childress's picture

    Welcome to the Garden Party

    "Sir, are you a singer-songwriter?''

    The question came from a Greeneville High School senior who shall remain anonymous because I don't want to embarrass him. We were at a play-group reunion. Last time I saw him, 12 years ago, he was sporting a Batman cape.

    "Now think about it,'' I replied, "if I really looked like a singer-songwriter, would you call me 'sir'?''

    Batman didn't miss a beat. "Well, maybe if you were knighted, like Elton John.''

    Must be the hair. The fact that I've let mine grow long again probably made me look a tad musician-ish during our recent trip from Oregon back to Tennessee.

    Yet, could it also be that some aura of latent talent surrounds me at midlife? Hmm … I do occasionally make up songs. Here's one inspired by a play-group gathering back when the Dark Knight was in diapers. It's sung to the tune of Ricky Nelson's Garden Party.

    "I went to a baby party. All the babies were there. There was a baby in tights and a baby in blue shoes and one with a whole lotta hair...''

    That garden of tots has grown into a fine patch of young men and women. My little ditty would sound silly to those up-and-coming superheroes. But when I was a new dad, I was fond of it. Yours truly sometimes entertains himself even as he tests the limits of his audience.

    By some accounts that's what Ricky Nelson did in 1971, when he performed at a rock 'n' roll revival at Madison Square Garden. Part of the crowd was seemingly disgruntled when Nelson walked on stage with long hair and bellbottoms and sang a few of his newer country-tinged tunes. Evidently, some audience members didn't want the old rock 'n' roll genre to broaden.

    The music world back then was about as divided as today's political climate. Labels like "conservative'' and "progressive'' are worn like badges of membership in exclusive clubs, similar to the way musical genres like "country'' and "rock'' once separated subcultures.

    Having written op-ed columns for newspapers in Oregon and Tennessee, I'm familiar with a range of audiences. I've called myself both a progressive and a conservative, even as others brandish these labels like battle flags.

    Political commentary may be about where the music industry was some 40 years ago — stuck in a rut and in need of transformation. Back at that time, a number of singer-songwriters took the first baby steps to bridge audiences, simultaneously climbing music charts that had previously been separated.

    Could we see a similar crossover with politics? Many citizens don't feel at home in today's narrow partisan clubs. We want change, not civil war. In a world dominated by voices like Glenn Beck and Jon Stewart, we'd be pleased to hear from folks who play to broader audiences. Think Glen Campbell and John Denver.

    I know, fashion has shifted. But kids of all ages now sample styles from different generations. And it would be refreshing if elements of that earlier folk fusion could be recycled in a new political form. Commentary that bridges progressive and conservative camps could help create a social climate that saves lives and money.

    My friend R.C. — a fellow play-group dad — would like to see more of that kind of discourse. R.C. didn't want me to use his full name, for the same reason he uses aliases when posting comments on the seven newspaper websites he reads every morning. He's concerned his opinions might interfere with employment prospects.

    Nevertheless, he gives a lot of thought to public affairs. After receiving partisan e-mails from conservative in-laws in Minnesota, R.C. replied with some verses inspired by Dr. Seuss.

    "Red state, blue state. My state, your state. My state red state. Your state blue state.''

    R.C. shared those Seussical lines when taking issue with his in-laws. He allowed that Tennessee is more conservative than Minnesota. In some ways, that's good. Yet, he also says it hasn't prevented Tennessee from having a higher bankruptcy rate, higher murder rate, higher abortion rate and higher divorce rate.

    Is R.C. a progressive? On some fronts, sure. I know he's a conservationist (he opposes drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge), and he believes America should provide her citizens with a baseline of public health coverage. But on the fiscal front, R.C. speaks a language that many lefties don't understand.

    "Nobody would want me to be president,'' he said between bites of finger food. "But I think I could balance the budget.''

    Could America's leadership be seeded with folks like R.C., independents who are as frugal as they are green and humane in setting priorities?

    I'm sending copies of this column to members of our play-group. Maybe it will provoke R.C. to come out of the closet and become a full-fledged commentator. Maybe our group will launch a two-fisted political movement that combines the best of the right and left. Call it the Garden Party.

    Dreams of midlife revival abound. But mostly, I'm betting on Batman.


    The Tennesean ran this as a guest column on Sunday, January 30, 2011.  I’ve cross-posted it with the original title at RedState.com and FireDogLake.com.



    Ricky Nelson - Garden Party 1985


    Hello Watt, congrats on on publishing this great piece in the Tennessean. There's definitely a movement afoot. Stewart's Rally to Restore Sanity is one element of it. John Avlon's No Labels organization is another. I also did an interview with conservative radio host John Batchelor on WABC, who's convinced that the younger generation will reject the stark dichotomies of today's political landscape.

    But how far this backlash will go remains to be seen.

    But aren't movements just poppycock?

    No. Imposing a requirement that one must participate in "a movement" - defined and approved by Donal - as requisite for expressing an expectation/standard regarding the proper role of government in society and appropriate responsiveness from elected officials is popycock.

    Thanks for playing.

    Donal never required any such thing, but it doesn't really matter to you what really happened, does it?

    Thank you for the note, Genghis. I enjoyed listening to the interview and just ordered a copy of your book.

    You mentioned in the interview that the persecution politics movement culminated in today's Tea Party. Here's an interesting bit of happenstance. My Garden Party column was published in Nashville one year to the week after Music City USA hosted the first national Tea Party convention (Feb. 4-6, 2010). Another fun fact: if you go to the opinion section of tennessean.com, click opinion, scroll town to "Tennessee Voices," and click the "more" button, you'll see the line-up of other columnists. I'm right there above Fred Thompson.

    Call me a dreamer, but I've been hoping the column would gain enough traction for a few bloggers to play with it in the coming days. Here's to new music. Long live the play-group!

    My parents used to live in Nashville. When I visited, I would clip nutty letters to the editor in the Tennessean for fun. I guess that Blowing Smoke is just the logical extension. I hope that you enjoy it.

    There is a point to be made here.

    I don't mind if a tin foil hat cares for puppies or fixes sewers, I JUST DO NOT WANT THEM RUNNING A SCHOOL DISTRICT.

    I don't mind if a tin foil hat believes in the gold standard, I JUST DO NOT WANT HIM CHARGE OF THE FED OR IN THE US SENATE

    I have met many mentally ill folks who are mighty kind and gentle, I JUST DO NOT WISH THEM TO BE IN THE ADMINISTRATION OF AN ASYLUM.

    These wing nuts are legislating, legislating against enlightened education, legislating against gay people, legislating for propaganda in textbooks, legislating for repeal of Civil Rights Legislation, legislating for gun sales without background checks and without regard to the type of guns sold, legislating against SS and Medicare and Healthcare, legislating against every damn thing I hold dear without any care for statistics, facts, or the people who are going to be severely hurt by this legislation.





    Who gets to define what counts as "tin foil hat"?


    I'm a liberal, through and through and always have been a liberal.

    It is a perspective.

    But I just wrote a silly post that I think demonstrates that there are people from certain social strata that I cannot hold a conversation with. How could I discuss the new planets just discovered (they are coming out with a list including 400 more planets due to the new astronomical satellite) with someone who thinks God stood on our planet and threw all the stars into the sky; a sky that is only 6,000 years old?

    How am I to get into a discussion about social justice with someone who does not believe that Mexicans are human beings/persons?

    There is another problem of course. Whether the subject involves the economy or public education I must admit that I have not read the entire file.

    And if one has not read the entire file, how does one come to any conclusion regarding these subjects?

    For the most part I recognize that I have not read the entire file.Other perspectives are important because of this fact.

    But I am not going to discuss economical theory with an idiot who thinks we should be on the gold standard!

    How could I discuss the new planets just discovered (they are coming out with a list including 400 more planets due to the new astronomical satellite) with someone who thinks God stood on our planet and threw all the stars into the sky; a sky that is only 6,000 years old?

    I have had conversations with such a person (someone who I consider a sweet person, and a friend). You might be surprised what you can agree on. I've never bothered to even try to dissuade her of her belief that the universe is only 6,000 years old, and although she surely knows I don't share that belief, that has never prevented us from agreeing on issues of social justice, for example. I'm sure she'd have no problem admiring the new planets that were just discovered, either, although you might begin to lose her if you started talking about stars that were more than 6,000 light years away (but only if you explained the contradiction).

    I agree with Wattree that people can be far more complex than the media (and certain leaders of political parties) often want us to give them credit for.

    DD, I would also add that engaging with some people with different beliefs does not mean engaging with every idiot regardless of their beliefs. There are many Republicans who don't believe that the world is 6,000 years old (and many Democrats who do).

    Hey DD. Thanks for the reply. It reminds me a bit of the following reply I got at FDL.

    I ask you to show me any common ground regarding womens rights, racial issues (immigration), LGBT issues . . . that’s just three major social problems off the top of my head.

    I’m on the left of all three, and I’ve found NO common ground with those who oppose those major social issues.

    Nor do I WANT common ground with their extremist POV’s that only benefit THEM.

    My pov is to support all women with their RIGHT TO CHOOSE, support social issues for people of ALL color, and support LBGT’s in THEIR search for full equality.

    MY pov benefits all, the other side does not.

    That divide is not breached, and I’ll give NO ground to do so . . .

    To which I responded:

    No doubt there are many people who hold to segregated ideological worldviews. There are also plenty of folks who have worldviews that are a mix of left and right, progressive and conservative.

    I’m not suggesting that you or anyone must give any ground. I’m just saying there are others folks like me here too.

    The simple shorthand for my political perspective is that I am progressive on the environment and most social issues; and that I am conservative on the fiscal front. I've heard many people say the same thing, but have yet to see that perspective galvanized in an authentic social movement. So I dream, and write, and pray.

    Just curious. What is your specific economic disagreement with the gold standard? I have my own disagreement with the policy solution, but it doesn't involve thinking that those who support the idea are idiots.

    Certainly you aren't going to argue that our current system designed by the Oligarchy - where they just randomly turn absurd leverage into hard currency at the expense of everyone but themselves - is a proper way to approach the economy? If you won't even discuss it with people you disagree with, how do you imagine we'll get to a better place?


    How do we break the Big bank...ER

    Posted elsewhere

    Zeitgeist - The Movie: Federal Reserve (Part 1 of 5)


    4,283,182 VISITORS 

    Ron Paul is in one of these episodes




    Cool. Thanks for the link.

    I just came across this and do no know where else to put it:

    It sounds nuts, of course, but such fears are now rampant on the religious right, which has long seen American involvement in the Middle East in millenarian terms. In the apocalyptic view of politics that dominates the Christian right, Muslim nations are closely connected to the rise of the anti-Christ, while the restoration of the Jews to the entire biblical land of Israel is key to the second coming. The end of days will be marked by the emergence of a one-world government and a great world war in the Middle East, culminating in a battle at Megiddo, or Armageddon, an actual place in Israel. (Beck is a Mormon, but he's always incorporated elements of American evangelicalism into his ideology.) To side with the protesters in Egypt, at the expense of Israeli security, is to back Satan's team in the coming biblical showdown. Thus John Hagee, the chiliastic preacher who founded Christians United for Israel, took to his website to praise Hosni Mubarak as "an American ally and closet friend to Israel," writing, "Israel will soon be surrounded by enemies screaming for their blood. Will America support them? Our President certainly has not been supportive of Israel to this point in his administration; why would he change now?"


    There is an insidious force at work here and it scares the hell out of me.

    This End of Days crap is so interwoven into the fabric of this New Right and Tea Party movements that we are all going to suffer.

    Give these people enough rope and they will not hang themselves, they will instead go after the rest of us.

    New religious zealotry from Fundamentalist Christians is a threat to democracy.

    The thing that's frightening about it, WE can't stop it.

    It was already foretold.

    The image with the ten toes of clay and steel intermixed. No cohesion, Fragility, Government and in turn society breaking apart, genocide

    and theres not a darn thing we can do, to stop it. Heading to the abyss

    Fun while it lasted, right DD



    hahahahaha. Once you go buck, you never go back. hahahaha

    I like the part when he say's "Hey hey I'm not a pinata"

    Latest Comments