Wednesday, May 2, 2012

"Qui tacet consentit"

   When I was a teenager and was first exposed to 80's rock, it was the age of dinosaurs, like Boston, Supertramp, Foreigner, Styx, Zeppelin, Queen etc. Shortly thereafter I went off into prog-rock and progressive jazz, but to this day my album cassette tape cd mp3 collection still contains a heavy mix of residual 80's stuff (and yeah, still loves me some Toto). 
   Fast-forward to 1993, and via Norwolf Design, self-publishing my first collection of cartoons "Freeze-Frame: The Book." Long since sold out after a modest print run of five hundred copies, at the time I had set about assembling a list of prominent regional characters to ask for blurbs on the back cover. One was from former Alaska governor Jay Hammond, and a couple from Alaskan artists Ray Troll and Byron Birdsall, and another from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner commentator - and original (hard-copy) tweeter - by the name of Sourdough Jack.
Another was this quote:
"Freeze-Frame catches the Spirit of the Wild's #1 sense: the sense of humor! I felt right at home at his campfire, laughing & feeling good." - Ted Nugent
   Originally chosen because of the inherent ludicrousness of a rock-star quote within the context of a cartoon book, and also because of a tangential outdoorsy association with Alaska (supposedly owning land up here plus frequently visiting to hunt kill things). Before banjos and accordions took over, he was one of those adolescent guitar heroes, thankfully replaced by such folks as Metheny, Beck, Fripp, Zappa, Satriani, Thompson, DiFranco, Cockburn etc. Nevertheless at the time it was a ridiculously irreverent endorsement which fit in perfectly with the nature of the project.

   Now Nugent has caught himself a double-barrel of bad press recently, what with both another tirade against President Obama and also simultaneously getting busted in Alaska for game violations. Either one alone earns him justifiable condemnation and he is rightly paying the cost now for such violent rhetoric, not to mention an equally disturbing perspective on his past that surfaced. *Update 6/6/12: Christ what an asshole.

"I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War"

   Obscure as it may be, the quote from him on the back cover of my book has come up in a couple casual conversations in light of these revelations, so let this post serve as public disavowal. Chewing my leg off from a trap as it were, since, as Ted himself should know, you're known by your pack-mates. For years I had joked at the irony of how if Nugent ever met me in person and found out what a flaming liberal tree-hugger greenie I am, he'd probably use my skin for a canoe. 

   One might think that music, art, and the outdoors could all be places where people with diametrically opposing political philosophies could mutually agree to set aside their differences and just enjoy themselves without drawing a line and taking sides. But in this current climate of hyper-partisanship, divisiveness and narrowing wordviews, sadly such is not the case. Wash, rinse, repeat.

   Much of the time one can, in theory, successfully partition off actors, musicians and artist's political stances from their creative work, but there are many cases when a line is crossed, and there's just no way to reconcile it anymore. Call it the Dixie Chick Effect, and I'm certainly guilty of capitalizing on whatever small soapbox I've been afforded over the years. But the reverse works as well: there are things which I believe in strongly enough in that if it costs potential, future readership or audiences, so be it. That's the personal price of a conscience, and also what seems to hamstring many an artist from venturing into politics, avoiding controversial content, and staying neutral on crucial issues. Many an artist I've known makes the call to stick with pretty pictures, and there's room on the wall for those, along with stupid cartoons.

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