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A Week in Kansas and Missouri

by Garrison Keillor

Posted: February 16, 2023

This is the beauty of being eighty years old, my kiddos, the ability to disengage from the tumult and the tragedy and enjoy the everyday ordinary.…



kansascity.com

I am an old Democrat who’s been traveling around doing shows in Republican towns in the Midwest and it’s making me a better person. I stand up on a theater stage and I hum a note and the audience hums it back and I sing “My country ’tis of thee” and by the “thee” they’re singing so beautifully and are thrilled to do it — they thought I was going to do stand-up but here we are singing “America” and they know the words. It’s a Protestant crowd and when Martin Luther launched the Reformation, he substituted congregational singing for Latin liturgy and clerical costumery and now here are a thousand of them singing four-part harmony, no organ, and they love it. We go into the spacious skies and amber waves and da doo ron ron da doo ron ron and the bright golden haze on the meadow and working on the railroad, songs they haven’t sung since grade school, and I know that they believe a lot of trashy stuff that isn’t remotely true and guess what — I DON’T CARE.

I love these people. Maybe they see me as a guy who’s out to tax the pants off them and confiscate guns and teach gender transition to third-graders but guess what — THEY DON’T CARE. I sing “Mine eyes have seen the coming of the glory of the Lord” and they sing it joyfully. Maybe they belong to a big church with an organ the size of a cattle truck and an organist who loves the eclectic and is contemptuous of the standards and here is this old lefty singing “O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder” and this is their first chance in decade to sing “How Great Thou Art” and they put their shoulder to it and sing it with evangelical power.

So maybe they voted for the guy with the ducktail who wouldn’t know “Abide with Me” if it bit him in the butt, but it doesn’t matter.

I’m done thinking about him. I’m done with anguish in general. Dolphins are dying, penguins perishing, giraffes are in jeopardy, lynx are getting extinct — so learn to enjoy pigeons and squirrels. You see the headline in the paper about the latest mass shooting and resist reading the details because frankly you’re tired of being horrified and it does nothing for the victims to know how the sudden appearance of the shooter at the parade on this sunny day caused such havoc and small children were trampled. Your anguish is not helpful in the least bit. I’d rather know about theirhappiness in the hours before it happened.

This is the beauty of being eighty years old, my kiddos, the ability to disengage from the tumult and the tragedy and enjoy the everyday ordinary. Last week, in Iola, Kansas, I saw a man eating his blueberry pancakes with his fingers, no butter or syrup, picking them apart and relishing each bite.I’ve been on earth for eighty years and never saw this until then. Someday I’ll see someone eat a cheeseburger with a knife and fork.

Much of Kansas is quite flat, as you may have heard, and many of you, asked for your impression of Kansas, would draw a blank, but one night in Wichita I was so moved by their singing of hymns and doo-wop and “Oh, Susannah” and “In My Life” and “Stand By Me” that I couldn’t stop and I swung into “O say can you see” and miraculously hit a good key, not too high, and the troops went at it like Mormons and made a tabernacle out of it and the sopranos sailed up high over the land of the free and the home of the brave and it was monumental. I sang bass, quietly.

Journalism is about tragedy and malfeasance and corruption, it’s not journalists’ job to report on happiness, you need to experience that directly, which I did, night after night, standing in dim light among strangers many of whom intensely disagree with me, but I feel their humanity, their love of beauty, their cheerfulness, my fellow Americans, and I shall leave politics to people smarter than I, and keep my distance from anguish, at least until next summer when I may exercise my right to be righteous. Or maybe not. I do think the House and Senate, instead of opening sessions with a prayer, would do well to open with a song. Maybe “We know we belong to the land and the land we belong to is grand,” followed by “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.” It might help.

Garrison Keillor © 02.14.23



America's story teller, known for his heartland wit and wisdom, and for many years as the voice of Prairie Home Companion on NPR. For additional columns and postings, subscribe to garrisonkeillor.substack.com.


Posted: February 16, 2023   Accessed 111 times

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