1. It’s Monday, August 7, 2017.
2. On this day in 1942, 75 years ago, both Garrison Keillor and B.J. Thomas were born.
Keillor is the conjurer of “A Prairie Home Companion,” an unlikely cultural icon from the realm of public radio. He’s left the show, but it remains a tribute to what is truly great about America – its wit, its culture and its diversity.
Thomas is the guy who sang “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” in the movie “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” It accompanies a scene in which Butch, played by Paul Newman, does tricks on a bicycle to impress Katharine Ross.
There’s no other real context for the song in the movie. But it’s a Bert Bacharach-Hal David work, and this was when they were as hot as any songwriting team other than Lennon and McCartney.
3. The message of “Raindrops” is that bad things happen, but we shouldn’t let them get us down.
That’s an interesting message in August 2017.
For there is no doubt in the minds of about two-thirds of our countrymen that this is a gloomy time in our nation’s history. That’s thanks to the other third, who willed into and still support a huckster in the nation’s highest office.
But it has been hard for the people who oppose Trump to get their act together.
Because of the nature of our electoral system, there haven’t been a lot of ways for people to express their discuss at the ballot box. This is a year of small elections, and people generally don’t like to take out their national frustration on somebody running for town clerk.
4. And you’ve got to hand it to the guy at the center of this. He knows how to keep people off-balance.
There were actually people who thought his 17-day stay at his golf course in New Jersey would lead to some peace and quiet in the land. Ha. As long as there’s Wi-Fi on the facilities and a device to crank up Twitter, he can dictate the day’s agenda in a couple of minutes – then spend the rest of the day playing golf, looking in the mirror or whatever the hell he does with his time.
The noise he creates, the loud complaining and indignation his tweets spark, are his life force.
And every week is the same. There’s some supposed theme for the week that falls by the wayside when Trump tweets something offensive or floats another indecent policy idea – usually early on Monday morning.
Then comes the response – the pundits on the cable news networks, the comedians on the late-night shows, the outraged opponents on Facebook and Twitter.
It’s ridiculous. The guy is calling the shots. He controls the situation.
Trump must love this part of it. If he can’t have the undying love of the American people, he can at least control the background noise of their lives. If there’s a way he can make money from it, that’s even better.
So here’s a thought:
5. It’s time for this country to regain control.
There are things the American people need done. Building infrastructure. Trying to mitigate climate change. Improving the relationships among people of different backgrounds. Making health care universally available and more affordable.
These are real issues. Trump has only addressed two of them, and only in the negative – working with congressional Republicans to gut health care improvements from the Affordable Care Act and putting climate change deniers in charge of protecting us from climate change.
If Trump won’t respond to what Americans really want, Americans need to make their voices louder.
This is especially true of what should be the goal of every American president – bringing the nation’s people together. This whole idea of playing to the base is a preposterous way to govern – and it was true when Democrats do it as well.
It’s a reason Hillary Clinton lost – she only seemed to be campaigning to turn out people on her side. She never tried to reach the people who were undecided or against her.
She did what we’re letting Trump do now. Set the tone. Set the agenda. Establish the narrative.
6. Let’s change it.
Instead of letting Trump wink at police indiscretions, let’s rally for a system that brings police and communities together to prevent violence.
Instead of letting Trump call any state a “drug-infested den,” let’s find solutions that solve the problem, working with law enforcement, embattled communities and, yes, pharmaceutical companies.
Instead of letting Trump gut our health care system, let’s come up with some demands for what we want to see change and ways to implement them.
Instead of letting Trump imply people of different races and religions are less than American, let’s rally for them.
And that’s where the spirit of Garrison Keillor comes in.
He welcomed artists of all stripes to his show, celebrating all forms of music to his national radio audience.
We need that now. We need 400,000 people on the Mall in Washington to celebrate the diversity of this country. We need 500,000 people to support real solutions to the drug problem, not just throwing people in jail or cutting funds for treatment programs. We need 600,000 people on the Mall to show that climate change is a threat.
And we need artists of all stripes, politicians of many persuasions to show that this country is more than a select bunch of yahoos in West Virginia who genuflect at a gold-plated fool’s tweets.
We’re never gonna stop the rain by complaining.
We’re going to stop it by acting on what’s good about this country and changing the narrative. We’re going to stop it by ignoring the daily tweet dump about whatever’s bothering this jackass at the moment and focusing on what we want.
The president is supposed to serve the people, all the people, as different from one another as “A Prairie Home Companion” showed them to be.
Not the other way around.