Notes: The Magic Dragon Puffs its Last

By Ronald Glenn
America’s Right

Notes From the Conservative Underground is an ongoing section here at America’s Right, featuring the written manifestation of Ron Glenn’s observations on the conservative movement, gleaned from sources found everywhere between short-wave radio to mainstream commentary, between random discourse with concerned everyday Americans to planned discussions with people and officials plugged into grassroots organizations nationwide.

American Folk
Mary Travers, the female third of the folk trio Peter, Paul and Mary, died last week at the age of 72 from leukemia. If you did not grow up in the 1960s, it is hard to understand the influence folk music had on that era.

Folk music was the protest music of choice, beginning with the Civil Rights movement and culminating in the nasty, even violent disagreements over the Vietnam War. It was just as responsible for the anti-war sentiment in America as Walter Cronkite, and had the advantage that it made lots of money for record companies.

Not only did folk music change protest, but protest also changed folk music. Folk music blossomed from the music of a nation’s common people, in contrast to that of a rich elite class, inevitably patrons of composers who wrote elaborate operas and symphonies — often about the patrons themselves. If the King gave a composer money, after all, it was best to write music the King found favorable.

In America, folk music was often the music of European immigrants who played together on guitars, banjos, and fiddles in their homes or churches. It was the music of the people whom the history books did not spend time or spill ink explaining. For centuries, the common people of the world came into this world with nothing, lived possessing very little, and departed it without anyone to chronicle what happened to them. Their folk stories and music told their stories, which were passed down from generation to generation.

The 1960s in America changed that, as ten years of protest made many Americans believe folk music had become un-American. It might be American to protest the government in power and lament the conditions of humanity, but too many of the sentiments of the 1960s simply were not the sentiments of the average American. Therefore, the core group of musicians reviled by conservatives included (but certainly not limited to): Pete Seeger, Buffy Saint Marie, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie and, of course, Peter, Paul and Mary.

In my neighborhood, WWII veterans who had sons of their own or relatives in the armed forces who served in Vietnam found many of the songs of these artists intolerable. This is primarily why the country and western genres took the mantle of being true “American” music. And that being said, there was no more patriotic music hall in the world than the Grand Old Opry in Nashville, Tennessee.

Interestingly, if you have ever heard Peter, Paul and Mary perform, their singing is poignant and beautiful. At times it is also extremely melancholy, which stems not only from an awareness of how sad life is for the bottom rungs of society, but also because many of their songs wish for things that will never happen. It reminds me of the many church services in my lifetime, and how the clergy of this world almost always pray for world peace — at certain times this prayer makes me sad when I think of how often I have heard it, and how it never seems to arrive.

This melancholy drove many conservatives mad. They felt it was the melancholy of stoned teenagers who never grew up, and that the left often seemed to find itself in adolescent emotional states which ended up lasting a lifetime. (I recall seeing William Buckley, Jr. on his show, Firing Line, making fun of Pete Seeger singing protest songs.) And, of course, conservatives always felt that singers who preached about the evils of society did not apply any of these rules to their own conduct. Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul and Mary, after all, was convicted in the 1970s of sexual misconduct with a 13-year-old girl.

I believe the most important political leftover from the 1960s era of protest was the concept of “non-attachment.” This is a religious concept, so for political purposes consider an equivalent in the term “non-involvement.” This is exemplified from the beginnings of American history by the American Quaker John Woolman, who refused to sell West Indian sugar in his store because it was the product of slave labor. This behavior, it should be noted, was not the same as a boycott — boycotts often involve a group of people who wish to show they are offended by some offense a corporation or country has committed, such as a group which boycotts stores which do not allow Christian organizations to collect money in front of their stores for Christmas, or retail establishments that refuse to allow the concealed carry of handguns.

Non-involvement runs much deeper. It is based in the idea that if a person involves himself in evil, he not only promotes evil, but that he may have that evil change him so he becomes more like the people he opposes. Liberals are not the only ones who have these issues. Conservatives have had a number of these issues placed at their table as well. Many, for example, believe the American government taxes its citizens illegally. Others do not believe the government can mandate vaccinations. Others believe there is no justification for abortion. No matter what the issue, the questions remain the same as it was for the protesters of the 1960s: What actions should be taken? How far can protest go?

Folk music was adopted by college-educated, well-to-do Americans who enjoyed pointing out the errors of America’s less well-informed, emotionally unstable political leadership. (The two reigning kings in their minds that fit this description are Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, as George W. Bush spent too much money to fit perfectly.) Considering this, conservatives must avoid basing their protests solely on the basis of attacking the other side. When the left protested the Vietnam War, for example, they were very good at explaining why the American effort was a failure but never did explain, however, exactly why they wanted to subject South Vietnam to a communist government. So, it may be fine for conservatives to oppose the Federal Reserve, but they need to have a coherent answer as to what they want to replace it with.

There are those who disagree with this. There are protesters on the right and left who do not think they need results. They live in their own knowledge that they are right, and that alone is enough. Pete Seeger once told a story about a Quaker protesting nuclear proliferation in the 1950s by carrying a protest sign around Times Square in New York City. As the story goes, a woman walked up and asked him: “Do you think you can change anything by carrying this sign around Times Square?” The young man answered” “No, but I don’t want them to change me.”

I think Mary Travers would have found this reply a description of her whole life as a folk singer. Even if she never had an effect on the government she disagreed with, she kept on singing. For her admirers this was an endearing quality. For her detractors, this was a youthful annoying naivete. If that’s not the right-left distinction in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.

Political Shorts
  • Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania got his wish last week and received approval by the state government for a one percent sales tax increase and the right to defer pension payments for any number of years. He had threatened massive layoffs and shut downs throughout the city. I read his statement on the City of Philadelphia website concerning the tax increase, and you would have thought he won the lottery. Politicians are normally apologetic about raising taxes, especially when that tax will hurt the poor and the underemployed the most. A lot of the residents I spoke with are already threatening to buy more from the internet to avoid the tax.
  • There are many on the Internet who think the government announcement about the recession ending is ridiculous. America is facing a destruction of the currency worldwide and the deficits America faces under the current regime are ludicrous. An example of this is the weekly reports by Bob Chapman at The International Forecaster. You can believe it or not believe it, but Chapman is only one example of many professional analysts who feel this way, and he has rarely been wrong. This could mean another stimulus package is on the horizon. 
  • The Internet is also becoming increasingly negative about the condition of Vice President Joe Biden. His function is unclear since he does little except look foolish when he speaks and, for the reason that he is more liability than asset, I think he will likely not be on the ticket in 2012, and certainly not at any level in the future. Hillary Clinton appears to be the one member of the old guard in the administration that is still functioning.
  • As a final note, it is one of the most extraordinary ironies in modern political history that Joe Wilson would be condemned by Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank for calling out the president as a liar. I challenge you to name two people more unqualified to judge someone on improper statements and misconduct than Pelosi and Frank. Furthermore, let’s not forget that Obama was indeed lying.

Ronald Glenn has worked in real estate and law for more than twenty years. He now works in Philadelphia, and lives outside the city with his wife. Ron has been writing for America’s Right since January 2009.



  1. PRICELESS says:

    "As a final note, it is one of the most extraordinary ironies in modern political history that Joe Wilson would be condemned by Nancy Pelosi and Barney Frank for calling out the president as a liar. I challenge you to name two people more unqualified to judge someone on improper statements and misconduct than Pelosi and Frank. Furthermore, let's not forget that Obama was indeed lying."

  2. Gail B says:

    I miss their singing, but it's hard to miss Obama/Soetoro's overt lies!


    It really is magical what can be done with three chords on a guitar with the right mix of meaningful lyrics and haunting melody…. I wish I had the 'gift' to do that and capture in song what is happening to our country thanks to Obama and his fellow organizers.

    verification word: parit
    Jimmy Buffet anybody?

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