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tribal wanderers


“I really do believe there’s a heaven somewhere.”

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees for 2018 included Bon Jovi, Dire Straits, the Moody Blues, the Cars and Nina Simone. Sister Rosetta Tharpe was (posthumously) given the Early Influence award.

I did not get a vote.

Had I, I would not have included Bon Jovi. I would likewise not have voted for the Cars and probably not Dire Straits. Sister Rosetta Tharpe, I absolutely would have inducted as a full member. I would also have added Yes, the Doobie Brothers Joy Division (plus, New Order), ELO, Jim Croce, Hall and Oates Dick Dale, Talking Heads, INXS, and probably PJ Harvey.

You likely know all of them except for Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Know her.

A supremely gifted guitarist who died before most Americans were yet born, she inspired churchgoers, backsliders, black, white, Elvis, Brits, Jerry Lee Lewis, and countless others.

“There’s a heaven somewhere up above my head. Yeah, yeah, yeah.”

We undervalue pioneers, even still, excepting I suppose the handful that become fabulously wealthy.

You will not become fabulously wealthy.

This is the age of the destruction of everything, with the world changing so fully, so fastly, that soon the past will be as unknowable as the future.

And there will become a permanent global wandering class.

Hundreds of millions unable (some unwilling) to thrive within existing cultural, political and economic structures, and so they take to their driverless cars, using social media to interact, their hands and talents to craft, bitcoin to buy and sell, algorithms to barter, a marginalized but glaring presence, always about us, never considered.

Like the vagrants living on the streets of San Francisco.

Let’s talk now about government.

This post is not political.

Government is a consuming beast, benevolent when required or whenever mutually beneficial, but always demanding, always growing, like a shark that must keep swimming, but always always always it is seeking to devour independence, suspicious of all and whatever that might challenge its supremacy.

America presents a complication.

If the Bible is the inspired word of God, the Constitution is the inspired word of freedom.

The very structure of our government — along with our bill of rights — places hard, repeated limits on the unquenchable fire of government rapaciousness.

But they found a workaround.

Importing people and marginalizing others, creating a dependent class, tens of millions strong, ensures at least a high floor to government power.

The dependent simply aren’t going to challenge the government’s efforts to grow and take.

They found another workaround.

Government has become intertwined with the culture, such that no day, no moment can pass without our eyes and ears, at minimum, repeatedly and aggressively assaulted (or informed) of the government’s actions, demands and desires, and…by working very closely with those who control the culture’s entertainment, government can also now very easily, startlingly effectively, sanction thought, behavior and norms all while marginalizing and disempowering those who — witch-like — operate beyond its scope. In the crosshairs at present are many evangelical Christians, the last remaining hippies, and a few scattered others. 

Should such groups ever in any way threaten the  government’s glorification, the government simply goes after those groups, stripping them of freedoms, and forcing them to take on government in its realm — nearly always a losing proposition for the non-government side.

But we do have examples of those very few who fight in this arena — and win.

They do so almost always through the force of their talent, so great is it that it can’t be hidden away nor destroyed nor mocked nor denied. So great is its power that it changes people, changes their hearts, their minds, and alters reality, like Joshua’s trumpet, sound ripples that loosen the rungs, maybe even take down a column, possibly even damaging the foundation of all existing structures.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was one such talent.

“Up above my head, I hear music in the air.”


“Good, God, we gonna rock down to Electric Avenue.”

And then we’ll take it higher?

Eddy Grant wrote this mindworm gem nearly 40 years ago. You probably weren’t paying attention, but the lyric deftly provokes feelings on racism, immigration, violence, poverty, joblessness.


It’s worth noting that the people who insist we do things their way–whose very way we have been doing the past 60 years–just might be wrong, really wrong, despite what they insist are their good intentions, the intentions of those who proclaim they are standing upon the right side of history.

It’s on us to force change.

We need to stop allowing our angst at being thought of as ‘mean’ and ‘intolerant’ and ‘greedy’ keeping us from crafting actual workable social policy. Look at San Francisco. Too delicate to force the homeless off the streets, streets now littered with drugs and violence, panhandlers and shit. But the residents feel better about themselves, so not a complete loss. Right? Of course not. It’s a disgrace.

“Deep in my heart I’m a warrior.”


Nina Simone was a bird, light and feathery, hollow bone and morning glory, but with a broken wing. She could never leave the ground, no matter how hard she fought, yet she was still able to teach others to fly.

“So I run to the Lord
Please hide me, Lord
Don’t you see me prayin’?
Don’t you see me down here prayin’?
But the Lord said
Go to the Devil, the Lord said
Go to the Devil
He said go to the Devil
All on that day
So I ran to the Devil
He was waitin’, I ran to the Devil”

We each want a purpose, a glorious, fulfilling, purpose, one that raises us up, makes us known, maybe wealthy, yet the crushing of reality reminds us that perhaps our truest mission is in the lifting up of others, helping them to fly.

How we respond to this weighty blessing — part affliction, part superpower — fully reveals who we are.

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