hOW COULD YOU, ALISON KRAUSS, ACCEPT TRUMP'S MEDAL - AND BREAK OUR HEARTS?
(Okay, I’m still referring to Cat as if he were here; it takes time to remember that he’s gone – that he’s dead, if you want to be harsh about it).
So I was devastated when I heard that Alison Krauss was among artists who went to the White House to receive national arts and humanities medals.
Alison Krauss has been in the air I breathe since I landed in Newport, R.I., at the home of Our Humans, The Nice One and The Grouchy One, and now she’s part of my soul.
I acknowledge that people generally don’t think dogs know anything about music, to say nothing of whether we have souls. So let's move on.
Alison Krauss’ voice is often described, accurately, by a cliché: as the voice of an angel.
Of course, there’s the question of whether there actually are angels. I’m hoping Cat, now that he’s in a position to know, will clear that up when he phones in. He hasn’t called yet, but I figure he’s only been gone for 10 days, and there’s a million things to do when entering Heaven: going to briefings and assemblies; plowing through rule books and manuals; getting cloud assignments; pairing with a mentor; socializing at the inevitable newcomer mixers. And Cat might not yet been issued his triple-camera iPhone 11 Pro (it IS Heaven after all), much less figured out how to use it.
But if there are angels, then Alison Krauss is their star vocalist. She has a clear, gently piercing soprano that rewires your whole being; I’m in a trance whenever I hear her voice coming out the big living room speakers, and I’m always surprised that I’ve forgotten just how beautifully she sings.
She was a musical prodigy at 5, when she started learning the violin; by 14 she was signed by Rounder Records, which released her “Too Late to Cry” album when she was 16. Krauss is classified as a bluegrass musician – she’s a wicked fiddle player as well as a superb singer, whether by herself, as part of a duo or with a full band. But we’re still not finished with the clichés: she transcends her genre, which sets a lot of people’s teeth grinding, and she connects with a far broader audience. As to where she belongs in the musical universe, Krauss has won 27 Grammy Awards, more than any woman on the Planet, and she ranks third among all-time Grammy winners.
So why does Alison Krauss need another award, one presented by a psychopath, a bully, liar and thug, who is legally the 45th president of the United States, but otherwise is dangerous, a disgrace and unfit for the job.
Maybe Cat has already found out and will fill me in when he phones. But as a mortal, I cannot fathom it. I’m hurt, bewildered, and really, Alison, I’m really, really ticked off.
Don't believe that Alison Krauss has an angel's voice? Listen to this and see if you're still a skeptic.
I think the New York Times columnist Charles Blow has stated the best guideline about deciding whether to take a meeting with Donald Trump.
Writing soon after the 2016 election, but before Trump was inaugurated, Blow reported that Trump had gone to the Times’ offices to meet with that newspaper’s writers, editors and poohbahs:
He (Trump) ended the meeting by saying: ‘I will say, The Times is, it’s a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along well.
Blow described his own viewpoint:
I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing.
Addressing Trump directly, Blow continued:
Let me tell you here where I stand on your ‘I hope we can all get along,’ plea: Never. You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.
Blow’s column is Old Testament in its fiery conviction, so hot you’d think he seared “Never” into a stone tablet:
- If you’ve just won World Series: Never.
- If your son or daughter has completed the requirements to be an Eagle Scout, and Trump offers to share some of the kid’s glory: Never.
- If you’re a Teacher of the Year: Never.
- If you’re a member of a garden club, a tourist, Rotarian, atheist, Westminster champion, environmentalist, CEO, nun, portable toilet installer, bridge player, race car driver, stamp collector, a major or petty thief: Never.
About that last part, Alison: at the very moment you were being “honored” in the East Room, impeachment hearings were concluding at the Capitol, as a national security expert and a foreign service diplomat were putting their careers and themselves in jeopardy by testifying about Trump.
It’s likely that those witnesses knew Trump will likely survive a Senate trial, since Republicans controlling that chamber do whatever Trump tells them. And yet, the witnesses were willing to defy Trump, for democracy’s sake.
The reporter also wrote about you, Alison, letting you off the hook too easily, I thought; but maybe that’s because, like me, she’s a fan.
Her story said: In receiving her award, Ms. Krauss, who has won more Grammy Awards than any other female musician, seemed to embody the tension. She appeared to be polite to Mr. Trump, but also at times seemed to avoid his gaze.
Please. I’ve watched the video that the White House uploaded to YouTube, and you can judge for yourself by clicking on this link.
You seem perfectly comfortable, sitting next to the podium as Trump plays master of ceremonies. You look grateful, yet humble, modestly subordinating your own achievements to the privilege of being in such a special place.
The White House plays a recording of “Down to the River to Pray,” which you made famous on the soundtrack of the film “O Brother, Where Art Thou,” as Trump, a smirk on his face, sways slightly, as if he really cares the slightest about your music.
The music dies down, and a man – accused by 27 women of abuses ranging from unwanted touching, forced kissing and rape – reaches over and actually shakes your hand. Later in the 26-minute ceremony, he drapes the ribbon and medal over your neck, and actually puts both hands on your arms.
“Run, Alison, run!” I’m yelling between barks. “Get out of here. Nobody’s going to protect you. Not the Marine guards, not the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. They’ll do whatever Trumps wants. They’re scared of him. I’m scared of him. RUN, ALISON, RUN!”
The video continues. After Trump presents the medal, he and you stand side by side for a few seconds, so a White House photographer can get some official stills. You return to your seat while the ritual is repeated for others, including the actor, Jon Voight and mystery writer James Patterson.
Why are they here? Voight’s a longtime Trump supporter. But why Patterson – coauthor with former President Clinton of a mystery book? Doesn’t Patterson know about the refugees and kids at the border, Trump’s re-poisoning of the air and water, his racial taunts?
Why are you there?
It’s not hard to come up with reasons why an Alison Krauss would accept the award.
- The award is bestowed by the office of the president, not the man who happens to occupy it.
- Maybe Krauss was just curious – ‘What’s he really like?’
- Maybe she voted for Donald Trump.
Her fans, after all, have received exceptional value for their money. We’ve attended memorable concerts, stocked up on some the best albums ever recorded. For Heaven’s sake, she sang, and sang and sang so much – remember all those encores that we all screamed for – that for a while her vocal cords practically shut down. Alison Krauss lifted our souls, now let her be.
We cannot let him do this. Our families, our friendships, our neighbors are too important. We cannot let the fact that, because someone supports or opposes Donald Trump, it means they are no longer loved, respected and cherished.
For my part, I don’t want to stop listening to Alison Krauss. As I was writing this, I got out some of her CDs and was surprised again how wonderful a singer she is and what she has meant to me, my Humans and to so many millions of others.
And yet this challenge Americans are facing is no ordinary political moment. It’s the most perilous crisis of our lifetime. Democracy has been degraded, diminished and defiled. Imagine what he and his enablers will do in a second term.
Now, I’m wondering what listening to an angel’s voice is doing to my soul and whether I should let her near it.
I don’t have answers, except that I am shaken by what you did, Alison.
You didn’t go to the White House by yourself.
You also took my soul with you – and the souls of so many others – to an awful place.