We have two singing presidentiables competing for our attention. Obama did Al Green’s Let Us Stay Together, while Romney belted out the beloved hymn of America the Beautiful. That each camp found cause to point out deficiencies in the renditions is simply an unavoidable political hazard.
Singing, of course, is the language of the heart. The phrase “Singing Revolution” refers to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania's response to the Nazis in WWII, and the Russians during the Cold War. They were forbidden to sing in public any of their rousing national songs. The Baltic folks just kept singing, and a recent PBS docu has the Lithuanian defying their Soviet lords until the Berlin Wall came down, and the flowering of their voices bloomed and is now digitized for the world.
The first act of a baby when transitioning from water-based existence to air-based breathing is to sing. Well, not exactly to the tune of Beethoven's Fifth but the “waaah” wailed when heard has been known to keep a father's heart to skip a beat, and a mothers throat to utter a deep sigh of relief.
We taught Peace Corps Volunteers in the early '80s employing the immersion method. One went to class with nothing but the language being learned. This has pedagogical merit. A baby’s way of learning a first tongue is to hear it spoken, and then to mimic what one hears. Thus, we learn language by first hearing, then repeating, before we are confident enough to speak on our own.
Schooling adds reading and writing. We learn to read, utilizing sounds symbolized by the alphabet. After third grade in the PSS curriculum, a student reads to learn. We get familiar with syntax (grammar) and expand word meaning (vocabulary). We are taught to recognize ratio and afix them with numbers. We objectify patterns that evolve into what is logical and/or reasonable. Cognition is birthed.
Intelligence is measured in terms of its facility with words and numbers, and it expresses sense experience, emotional state, mental discipline, and willed decision. Hearing words delivered through familiar music is one of the natural methods of getting fluent in a language.
Singing has become a lost art in our schools since we treated music as an academic course. Somehow, we managed to kill the spirit of singing with either irrelevance (too much reliance on classical forms), or justifiable boredom (the inanity of the mathematical scale). We let pros sing our national anthems at public events, promoting their trademark vocal styles rather than lead a crowd in communal singing.
One of the remarkable features of the Olympics is the playing of one’s national anthem when receiving the gold. Almost invariably, a member of Team China in the medal platform visibly sings Qilai, Qilai (Arise, arise!), when the national anthem is played.
Team America was once a meaningful term. Our 1992 Basketball Team was dubbed the Dream Team. The Dallas Cowboys called themselves America’s Team. Somewhere along the line, teamwork got sidelined as stardom shined in the skies. We hope the current team of superstars retrieves the reputation.
Christianity evolved first as Team Ecclesia (the Household of God) in the manner of the expected one, Messiah in Hebrew, before it became idolatrous and began singing the glories of Jesus Christ Superstar! So this dichotomy is not new.
China’s French Open champion Li Na bolted out of the team and went solo on claims that economic gains favored the team’s interest too much. She is not very popular, and her lackluster performance in London, losing her first game, did not receive much sympathy.
Liu Xiang of the 110m-hurdle capped the gold in the 2004 Athens Olympics, was hounded by all kinds of ailments, got healed and was poised to reclaim a medal in London. He walked around tagged by a lion’s share of favorable media. He stumbled on the first hurdle of his heat, and went through tendon surgery. The paparazzi are still on his tail.
His expressed sentiment is: "winning a medal is not what matters; participation does," according to his coach. He shares his means liberally (e.g., Sichuan earthquake) and remains one of Team China’s staunch members.
Talent in current American parlance is a stardom category, with competition understood as one besting another. America’s Got Talent on TV mirrors our politics. Wisconsin’s Paul Ryan notwithstanding, Republican conservatives still shun Romney, and Obama tries to prove he is mainstream and centrist to the Democrats. I would rather that he be liberal and progressive.
Obama leads the polls and has an edge on 9 of the 10 swing States in the coming election. The contest, however, is doomed to be another lose-lose affair, as once more, governance get stuck in grid lock, and the American people will wail their whine unto the heavens! Team "Yes, we can" got sidelined by BHO the reluctant superstar!
An old guru once wrote: Hope appeareth, but it is not your Hope-you do not have anything to do with it. It just appeareth. It comes as a stranger, as an alien-it just appeareth! You do not even know why you hope. How in the world could you hope when there is absolutely nothing to justify any hope?
The presidentiables are singing. That’s hopeful!