Monday, September 16, 2002

If They Gave A Program And No One Came

If they gave a program and no one came, the Commercial Appeal would still write approvingly of it, if it fit their agenda. So it is with a Monday story about the "Guns for Guitars" program of the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Having regaled readers with the criminal-sympathetic, recent home-intruder shooting stories, having just done a "They Slew Intruders" heart-tugging propaganda assault on Saturday, they now play up a failed program. It means well, and that's the point for the CA.

We begin with the large picture at the bottom of Page One, of a cute young white girl, playing the blues. Unfortunately for the reader, she has little to do with the thrust of the program -- getting troubled young Clarksdaleans to give up guns by taking up guitars and learning the blues. She's not troubled, nor did she trade in a gun; she hasn't even been troubled by gun violence. But she makes for a good picture, doesn't she?
Now the museum has four gleaming electric guitars ready to hand
over to the first kids who turn in a handgun and agree to
complete a course of after-school study, says museum director
Tony Czech.

So far there have been no takers. And some people are skeptical
the program will work. Some are worried about having such kids
around theirs.
Well, duh! Notice that "no takers" comment. You have to read down a ways to discover that the program has been running since May! Not real successful, eh? But, again, it's the intent that matters. Oh, and their agenda and the CA's.
Even if a kid doesn't stay with the music program, the gun he
turns in will be off the streets, Bingham notes. If it is successful, it
turns a life around.

"It's a long-term thing that can straighten them out and give
them some identity," he said. "If nothing else, they get some
self-satisfaction. They can sit on their own porch and sing the

There's plenty to be blue about in Clarksdale. It already has the
highest property tax rate of any city its size in the state, yet
blight is everywhere, and crime is rampant. Kids ride their bikes
till 3 a.m., and gunshots are frequently heard, residents say.
See a disconnect here? See the patronization, too? If that guitar has any money value in the poor and desperate neighborhoods of Clarksdale, do you think it won't be soon stolen?

Clarksdale has problems that some silly liberal idea like this won't even begin to touch. Four guitars will not repair the massively dysfunctional culture of that town. It won't address the rage and desperation of the dispossessed poor, nor will it meaningfully affect their poverty. Nor will it break the criminal hold and powerful appeal of gangs.

But wait, it gets better:
"Our crime is unbelievable, and there are a lot of people who
don't know it," said Nancy Ferracci, owner of Miro's Music, which
donated the four guitars in Czech's office.

Ferracci said the Guns for Guitars concept is well thought-out. The
kids won't be given the instruments to keep until they establish
some solid proficiency with them. Once that happens, she said,
it's likely they'll be hooked.

"They're looking for fame and glory at this age," she said. But if
they become fluent on an instrument, she said, they can become
staff musicians, and earn a good living. "You don't have to
become a big rock star.

"It sends a message out to those children that there's more to
do than play with gangs on the street," she said. "There are
people willing to pay to hear you play music."
Sure, rap! Blues today is becoming overwhelmingly a white, hip upper-class thing. Most young black kids disdain those folks. You think they'll deign to work for their entertainment? Yeah, right.

And notice Ferraci's comment about no one knowing how bad the crime is in Clarksdale. Whose job do you think that is?

The author then goes into near-rhapsodies:
The museum is a cultural gem that doubles as an afternoon music
academy. And it's easy to see how a kid could find real joy in the
camaraderie at the after-school blues education program the
museum has sponsored since 1992.

Kids flock to the back room in the same cavernous depot building
where displays have attracted the likes of Bruce Hornsby and
members of ZZ Top. A few months ago, Paul Simon introduced the
museum to Joseph Shabalaba of Ladysmith Black Mombazo.

If the new program works, this room where Bessie Smith and Ma
Rainey posters hang on the walls is where the kids who turn over
their guns will learn the intricacies of the bottleneck slide, the
drum kit or keyboards.
Does any of this sound relevant, or even interesting, to troubled young -- and black -- kids in Clarksdale in 2002?

Then things turn sticky, and really sickeningly patronizing, from the director of the program himself:
He said he'd like to find a way to bring gang members off the
violent streets and give them something productive, maybe even
inspiring, to do - even if they don't surrender their guns.

"I'd like for them to see they have a voice, which is what guns
tend to be - a voice," he said.

Later, he said: "You can't teach the blues. We can teach them
music in a blues idiom. A lot of these kids probably already have
the blues, or they wouldn't be doing what they're doing."

He says he's not sure what would happen if a surrendered gun
turned out to be reported stolen, and he's a little leery about the
mechanics of museum staff taking possession of a firearm.

"I don't want them walking into the middle of the Blues Museum
and saying, 'Here's my Luger.' "

But it's a situation he hasn't had to deal with yet.
Does this guy even know where he lives? And what kind of clueless do-gooder creates a program like this, not knowing what to do with the gun? I'd bet he's likely never even handled one, much less knows about gun safeties and safety. Can't you just see him calling the cops to come collect the gun, and the young man who turned it in freaking out at the misperceived betrayal? A recipe for disaster, for sure. But hey! He means well! That's what counts.
Longtime museum music instructor Michael James, 37, known as
"Dr. Mike," doubts he'll ever have to.

"I don't think it's going to work, because the average kid that's
carrying a gun isn't going to give it up," James said. "Most of
these kids don't have any type of guidance.

"These kids know that when they get into these gangs, the only
way out is death. Once they get initiated, and they try to get out,
then you have drive-bys. . . . They're going to be thinking, 'If I
don't have a gun, well, I can't shoot back with a guitar.' "
Even this skeptic is so middle-class misinformed and biased, it's sad. Can you imagine the cultural gap between these twinks and the kids they hope to reach? It's like a bad MAD TV sketch, only with the potential for real harm.

So who would write this kind of tripe? Who would proudly trumpet this silliness as though Good White People have come to Rescue The Poor Blacks from their own ignorance? [Note that color is never even mentioned in the whole article. Not once. Because, of course, it doesn't matter. It's the intentions!]

That's right -- Bartholomew Sullivan, house Socialist. Or didn't you already detect his whiff? I would so love to know where this guy lives, who his friends are, and what his idea of entertainment is. I would wager there's not a lot of blackness there, that's for sure. Except for the commercially sanitized kinds, and the politically correct ones.

No doubt.

Someone should play this guy The Screaming Blue Messiahs' "Wild Blue Yonder" sometime.

Until next time.

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