Thinking, as a petit bourgeois parent is apt to do, that music instruction should be an integral part of a child's education, I gave early exposure to the piano to my first daughter, including some instruction at age four.
Alas, she did not take to it. Perhaps it was too early (though experts would argue that), but rather I think the piano was too much my thing, not hers. Still, there was a modest success in that the idea that she could actually play an instrument rather than merely listen to music did stick. So this year she got it into her head that she wanted a violin. This was unprompted, though I suspect I know where the idea came from (Master and Commander, if you want to know. A home favorite, shown abridged of the bloodier parts when she is present).
I wasn't crazy about the idea at first. My utilitarian side thought that if we had a piano, why not use that? But she insisted so I relented. I ended up getting a 1/4 size student violin and she is now taking lessons. To get to that point I did some Web research, and learned a lot of things I didn't know about this fascinating instrument. I won't bore you with that, except one thing. Violins of any quality become more expensive with time. People who find old ones often want to know how much they are worth, and so naturally there are forums about this kind of thing. In one of these, a person asked how much a 19th-century violin case could be worth. The expert answer was surprsing to me: not much, probably nothing unless it was very unusual. It didn't matter how great the violin in it had been, or even the lineage (origin and ownership chain).
Somehow, this bit of data stuck.
So yesterday I had this thought about politics. Politics is like the case, while ideology is the violin. We don't really care about the politics. Campaign minutae rarely make it into history books. Politics can be safely discarded over the long run, except for some unusual historical circumstance.
Looking at it this way I tried to look at the Democrats and Republicans. How do they compare? Well, it's pretty dissapointing if you think about it. Both spend far too much effort on the case. Worse, the Democrats don't even seem to have a working violin, while the GOP has replaced theirs with a smooth-running Tommy Gun, well concealed.
On the first count it is quite clear from this campaign that the strongest asset of the Democrats is Republican weakness. Hints of this have been available for some time in lefty sites; the constant wish for a GOP meltdown, the constant demand of a smooth, agressive (i.e. Republican) campaign machine. Rarely, however, does a truly coherent ideology emerge. The left seems to think the problem is that they are not as good at formulating their message. I think the problem is that we don't agree on the message. The violin is badly out of tune at the very least. We couldn't even agree on the war, and it goes down hill from there.
The Republicans do better. But their ideology is so crude, so unpresentable to the mushy middle, not to mention the left, that they keep it as well hidden as one of Al Capone's hit men would their own "instrument". The fact is that they would never get over 35% of the vote if they expressed their ideology with all the consequences made explicit. When they do, as was the attempt to clobber Social Security into oblivion, they fail. Whenever their environmental policies are directly exposed, they take refuge in lies and obsfucation (Cheney's secret energy task force wasn't secret for nothing). When they get away with installing creationism, voters end up rejecting it, even in Kansas. And on it goes.
The one popular aspect is the willingness to use force abroad, hence the Tommy gun analogy. But this can get tiring after a while as the repeating sound of gunfire, at first exciting, becomes in the end a curse. Chicago, after all, wasn't pacified by the Tommy Gun. The world won't be, either.
What we won't get out of either party is music to live by. Not in 2006, anyway. Not surprised, but dissapointed, at least at the Democrats, definitely. More so now that lady luck placed Foley in our lap, and the embarrasing spectacle of a Democratic Congress is a distinct possibility. Given this dismal choice, and JFTR, I will choose embarrasment over brutality. But I long for a decent tune.