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50 First Dates and the Election

50 First Dates and the Election

I have a weakness for Adam Sandler movies.   One of my favorites is "50 First Dates," in which Drew Barrymore's amnesiac is courted by Sandler's patient and doggedly creative suitor.   It's hilarious and poignant, as they have to re-start their relationship anew each day.

Our election cycles are much like "50 First Dates."  We vote, for the most part, with selective memories, right down to forgetting what happened last week.  With the candidates and voters forgetting all that's come before, the election is comic and tragic all at once.    (It does get harder and harder to laugh, the worse the crises get. :-)

To my mind, the election is not just about a particular candidate or party winning.  As important as who wins, in my opinion, is HOW we citizens create the political environment this election.    

I want to invite you to do three things that can help rebuild our civic culture, and help us overcome the amnesia afflicting our country:

  1)  Talk to people you disagree with, and have a real, respectful give-and-take.  I know it's an American tradition to avoid political discussion in polite company.  But we won't overcome any of the serious challenges before us until we start talking to, and learning from, each other.  I've been reading Plato's dialogues, and it's wonderful seeing him portray strong disagreements between friends, who (mostly) find civil ways to think together, discuss important matters, and concede when the other has made a good point.  

  2)  Seek out news sources that are not just reinforcing your own perspective, and try to listen and read dispassionately.    

  3)  Find reliable and accurate information, to check the facts, and cut through the misinformation and propaganda.  I've provided some websites below which I've found very useful.

  4) Consider joining my reading group, The Reading Odyssey. We read the great books of the western tradition and then once a month meet by phone to discuss the books. The next books are Thucydides starting in November and Aristotle starting in January. We read *slowly* - only one chapter a month. This is a long-term project to develop our ability to be better, more thoughtful citizens. Email my reading partner and founder, Phil Terry, if you want to get involved (

I hope these sites help, and I would love to hear how your conversations are going!


On the Issues:
Issue-by-issue breakdown of speeches, writings, and votes by all the candidates for President (including the independents), as well as candidates for Congress.
Also an issue-by-issue breakdown, with a different methodology and sources.  It highlights how candidates' issue positions have evolved (flip-flopped, in electionese) over time.

Dispassionate debunking of rumors, half-truths, and fabrications peddled by the candidates and / or reported by the media.  

The Living Room Candidate
A collection of election-year commercials, curated by the Museum of the Moving Image, with brief summaries, from now back to 1952.

More good resources to research the candidates:

The Reading Odyssey:


Ears and Eyes:  What I'm Listening to and Reading:
    "The Half Ain't Never Been Told, vol. 2: Early American Rural Religious Music.  
           Buy the CD:
    "The Best of Mose Allison."  Buy the CD:
    Jhumpa Lahiri, "The Namesake."  Buy the book:
    Susan Neiman, "Moral Clarity:  A Guide for Grown-Up Idealists."   Buy the book:

Lastly, with my years of touring and recording, I've developed a wide range of skills that I'm now sharing on a selective basis.  I've recently begun the following:

•Offering one-on-one lessons and coaching in several musical areas:  guitar (basic to advanced, "regular" and slide), performance coaching, songwriting, and song interpretation / rearrangement.

•Producing CDs for other artists, shepherding the recording process from start to finish.  

If you would like my help with learning music or recording a CD, get in touch for more information, rates, and scheduling.