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7 of 8 on the Road of Democracy

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I recently got stuck in a slow-moving fast food drive-through behind a lowered Impala whose trunk was a dedicated 1,000 watt boom box designed to share his favorite rap album with all living creatures within a half-mile.  I can no longer order a burrito without experiencing an agitating flashback of being caught in that 15-minute shock wave.

I was rather hoping that rap would have gone the way of disco by now, but alas...  I see rap as an indicator of our failure to convey the foundation for meaningful things.

Among many facets of life, music is meaningful.  And while it is sold as a form of music, rap is missing too many elements to be elevated to the status of song.

I recall a bold statement from Musician Graham Nash that rap is poetry rather than music.  In his book Hip-Hop & Rap, author D. Spence describes rap as, “raw street slang bathed in thumping beats.”  Out of curiosity, I searched the Internet for sheet music of the top ten most popular rap songs; “0 items found.”

I am not saying that rap should be banned.  But like a Thomas Kinkade painting, we really only need one.

About one year into his term as Vice President of the United States, John Adams wrote to his wife from France, “I must study Politicks and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematicks and Philosophy. My sons ought to study Mathematicks and Philosophy, Geography, natural History, Naval Architecture, navigation, Commerce and Agriculture, in order to give their Children a right to study Painting, Poetry, Musick, Architecture, Statuary, Tapestry and Porcelaine.”

This intriguing member of our nation’s founding fathers had incredible foresight into the multigenerational investment that would be required for America’s citizens to relax in the exploration of the arts.  Some 160 years later, American psychology professor Abraham Maslow took John Adams’ thoughts one further in his philosophy known as the “Hierarchy of Needs.”  We were all exposed to the Maslow pyramid back in high school, only not with the harsh application of reality understood by Vice President Adams.

Maslow’s Hierarchy places basic survival, or physiological needs, as the foundation on which safety needs are built.  Then, the more abstract notions of belonging and esteem can be considered before the pinnacle of a fulfilling existence can be ultimately realized.

While I differ with many of Maslow’s conclusions about life, I appreciate his theory that no level in the hierarchy is achieved unless they stand on all of the levels below.  Add this to John Adams’ postulate and we really have something.  In order to give children a right to study painting, poetry, and music, we must first teach them the safety aspects of politics and war and the physiological aspects of commerce, agriculture, and natural history.

Coupled with Maslow, the John Adams hypothesis also suggests support for a theory commonly attributed to a Scottish contemporary of his, historian Alexander Fraser Tytler.  This notion is that democracies follow a 200-year cycle as follows: (1) From bondage to spiritual faith, (2) from spiritual faith to great courage, (3) from courage to liberty, (4) from liberty to abundance, (5) from abundance to selfishness, (6) from selfishness to apathy, (7) from apathy to dependence, and (8) from dependency back again into bondage.  We seem to be somewhere around Step 7.

As a nation, we have done very little over the past fifty years to teach our citizens the basics while they enjoy the benefits of those who have invested so much before them.  The politically correct crowd would immediately find that the teaching of fundamental American founding principles is a campaign against the Democratic Party Platform.  But the pyramid that bears the all-seeing-eye on the American $1 bill is about to collapse at the foundation.

Replacing Barack Obama with an amazingly qualified former governor and turnaround artist should be a no-brainer.  Every metric of America’s economic condition under the community organizer has gotten measurably worse.  But this will be a tough race.  

The best campaign marketing will win the election because the American public has been so dumbed-down that the majority of voters will have little understanding on which to make a wise decision.  Republicans will need to somehow appeal to Americans’ inherent appreciation for the symphony of liberty, e pluribus unum, and “In God we trust” over the Democrats’ raw street slang bathed in thumping beats.

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