Finding Focus: Owning the conversation

By WES BROOKS,

Okay, it’s been a minute since you’ve heard from me. That wasn’t by design. Life, as I’m sure each of you experiences, gets in the way. I don’t mean to imply that there haven’t been a few hours here and there over the last couple months that couldn’t banged something out. There has. However, I’ve needed those rare moments to recharge. Moving forward, if I have anything to say about it, I’ll be back on schedule and typing away.

Our artist for this submission Mr. Declan McManus, but you’ll know him better as Elvis Costello. The track I’ve chosen, “Radio, Radio,” is from Elvis Costello & The Attractions’ 1978 release This Year’s Model.

Let’s rock.

Just now, you read that I do have some time in between my obligations to my son, wife, and career. If I find myself with time to zone out, I have a guilty pleasure that really allows me to shut off the frontal lobe—YouTube.

I was tuning in the shine on the light night dial • doing anything my radio advised • with every one of those late night stations • playing songs bringing tears to me eyes

When I’m on YouTube and I reach a point where I’ve watched everything I care to see about who’s making the best boutique guitars/amps/pedals, I usually find myself watching those humorous, often extremely one-sided, political clips. I’m talking about the clips where someone like a Ben Shapiro, Dr. Jordan Peterson, or the late Christopher Hitchens have been invited to speak on a book they’ve written or an ideology they endorse.

I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver when the switch broke 'cause it's old

They're saying things that I can hardly believe.

They really think we're getting out of control.

The audience member approaches the mic and you can already tell from their demeanor that they aren’t just about to tangle with the lion, they already think they have him in the bag. Smugly, they offer their question and/or comments thinking yeah I’m about to be a YouTube sensation for taking down this intellectual whale.

Wrong.

In 60-90 seconds, finds out in most embarrassing and public of ways why the guy they went after has books on the best-seller list, has a syndicated podcast, and is invited as a panelist on all the political talk shows.

Radio is a sound salvation

Radio is cleaning up the nation

They say you better listen to the voice of reason

But they don't give you any choice

'cause they think that it's treason.

So you had better do as you are told.

You better listen to the radio.

And yes, I’m guilty of ingesting this kind of stuff on YouTube. However, in my defense, I don’t watch them seeking reinforcement or justification for my personal views. Democrat or Republican, that’s inconsequential to me. I watch to see someone who hasn’t done their homework looking for that “gotcha!” moment get taken to school.

In the moment, it’s fantastic. I lay there thinking, “did this person think they were actually going to make the ‘expert’ look like they didn’t know what they were talking about? Now they’re immortalized on YouTube forever.”

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me.

I wanna bite that hand so badly.

I want to make them wish they'd never seen me.

Whether you are card-carrying ACLU liberal or dyed-in-the-wool MAGA hat-wearing reactionary conservative, there is video out there that will have a champion of your political ideation verbally crushing those who you politically detest. What remarkable is that the media are able to do this with exactly the same footage.

Just this weekend, one late night talk show hosts showed the headlines of two newspapers reporting on the exact same exchange Rep. Jim Jordan had with the same House Committee witness.

The first headline read, Jim Jordan Destroys Democrat’s Star Witness for Not Having Firsthand Knowledge of Trump’s Phonecall.

The next one read, Room Erupts in Laughter as Witness Destroys Rep. Jim Jordan.

Although this particular talk show doesn’t often match my personal views, I fully agreed with the commentary the host gave afterwards. He asked why it was that it was no longer enough that simply making a point wasn’t enough. Why was it that the person had to be “destroyed?” Why did they have to be “owned?”

Some of my friends sit around every evening

and they worry about the times ahead

But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference

and the promise of an early bed

Does “owning” someone result in constructive dialogue to find middle ground, or does it convince that person that there is zero reason for me to consider their point of view?

It’s the latter, and some have embraced that to extreme. So extreme that there are people who believe that the opposing party is worse than regimes we have fought wars against.

C’mon now, Wes.

Well, I wouldn’t have believed it either until I saw a picture of two people wearing matching shirts that read, and I quote, “I’d rather be a Russian than a Democrat.”

Not to be outdone, the Dems sent their responding salvo in a t-shirt that read “I’d rather be an American than a Republican.”

You either shut up or get cut up;

they don't wanna hear about it.

It's only inches on the reel-to-reel.

And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools

tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel

We can’t have that, folks. Democrats calling Republicans un-American for believing what they believe, and Republicans joking that a foreign, communist oligarchy is a better option than their own countrymen?

Try and recall the worst argument you ever had with your brother or sister. Now, imagine the neighborhood bully walking up and punching your brother or sister dead in the face.

Any chance you side with the stranger?

If you find yourself putting on either of those t-shirts—figuratively or otherwise—then that’s exactly what you are doing.

Be mindful and thankful that whenever you hear a group chant “USA! USA! USA!” that doesn’t just mean the folks from your side of the party.

It’s Thanksgiving folks, and I’m thankful that I am a citizen of the greatest nation the modern world has ever known. I’m thankful for democracy built on “We the people…” I’m thankful this attention-challenged fellow or anyone wishing to speak up has a platform to be heard. 

Most importantly, I’m thankful for ALL of you. 

When he’s not rocking his socks off with his three-piece band, Brooks, a native of Jones County, is a busy family man who can often be spotted hopping from one event to the next with his wife, Shane, and their son, Campbell. Email him your thoughts, comments, encouragement, and critiques to: 6550music@gmail.com.