August 25, 2003

I've been asked to participate in an upcoming Planned Parenthood Benefit at the Blue Note in Columbia, MO. Because PP is usually associated directly with the abortion issue, I felt the need to address this, and explain to my fans and friends exactly why I've put my name on the benefit roster. First of all, I've been told this is not meant to be a "pro-choice" rally, (although the issue of women's choice will probably be raised by speakers at the event) but rather it's meant to be an event to raise funds for the local Planned Parenthood since funding has been cut for ALL services.

I'd like people to understand that from my perspective, PP is valuable because it provides affordable health care services to men and women of all belief systems. As a private music instructor and performing musician I've gone for periods of time without health insurance, and PP is the only place where I can afford to get annual exams, cancer screening, etc. If Planned Parenthood continues to lose funding, it could mean the annihalation of much-needed health-care for many low-income Columbians.

In terms of the abortion issue, I am sympathetic to both sides, in that uncomfortable position where the hard-core pro-choicers would find me too wishy-washy, and the hard-core pro-lifers would find my understanding and belief in a woman's right to choose too intellectualized or possibly even amoral. It's quite an uncomfortable place to be in society's eyes, but it is QUITE comfortable in my own heart, where I fundamentally realize no issue is ever truly black and white. In the shades of grey is where I find the most truth and the ability to be most open-minded. I desire for women to have reproductive health and freedom, I do not pass judgment on those who are struggling to get through this life as best they can, I value the life of both fetus and woman. VERY grey issue.

I'm proud to support PP as a valuable medical facility. I do not want to aliennate any of my fans who might be very sensitive to the abortion issue. I am hopeful that my listeners can understand the complexity and fullness of the PP issue, rather than being stonewalled by a particular issue. I'm hoping this benefit can be bigger than that, and even if it doesn't turn out to be, please know that my particular voice is raised for the reasons I have stated and ONLY for those reasons.

August 7, 2003

I'm just back from an excellent summer festival series concert in Sandpoint, Idaho, where I'm visiting family and gearing up for the release of our live album. The show tonight was opened by a popular regional band and followed by The Lettermen, who were popular in the 60's, but whom, we learned tonight, still perform 150 or more shows every year, and have done so for the last 43 years without a break. These were showmen in every sense of the word, and it seems tonight was just as much about jokes, acting, and voice imitations as it was about singing songs. I knew most of their old hits, but they also did a smattering of newer standards. They closed with a patriotic finish and the song "God Bless the USA," especially poignant at this time in our history. This stirring of feeling inside of me for this song that I used to smirk at, caused me to think a lot about my progression towards this unique sense of patriotism I've found in myself.

As an arrogant teenager I was always suspicious of the government, even though a large part of my highschool years were spent in several politics-based interest groups such as Junior Statesmen of American and Youth In Government. It seemed the fashion at the time for anyone under 25 years of age to belittle all things government, badmouth the president, and squirm with discomfort when we had to endure the singing of patriotic standards. I used to think of "God Bless the USA" as the stuff of small-town Republican party rallies, and therefore hated the song at one time. (I actually once went undercover at one such small-town Republican rally, afraid people would find out I was a hardcore Democrat and pull a gun from underneath the picnic tables with which to shoot me. :) I was there "working" for an aide to the Governor of the state, who was a Democratic candidate and was running for re-election. He wanted specific information about the Republican candidate's rally tactics. The Republican candidate won that particular race, so I must not have been a very good "spy.") Anyhow, the feeling I had tonight as the three members of the Lettermen sang that song was not a feeling inspired by the melody or the arrangement or the clever rhymes of this predictable song, but by the sentiment that should be stated clearly and effortlessly. I AM free...and people have died for my right to be so.

No longer will I squirm when I hear songs that are yes, predictable, that might, yes, be a bit corny or overused, but that undeniably bring us together in thought and celebration for what we are so lucky to have...freedom to raise our voices in anger, in dissent, OR in agreement and praise and love of our country. And what better way to do these things than in a song?