More than a month after the election, I am not feeling any better about the state of affairs in my country. The public debate about the “fiscal cliff” has been myopic, focused solely on the matter of raising tax rates on a small group of people, which is an action that does little to solve any long-term fiscal problems.
While the two sides do not see eye-to-eye on the best ways to raise revenues, even the British publication the Economist notes, “any fiscal deal must reform Social Security (pensions), Medicare (for the old) and Medicaid (for the poor). Mr. Obama… needs to increase [entitlement cuts] to entice the Republicans into a deal and because it is the right thing to do.”
This seems overtly obvious to me, but I am just a simple woman. I do not understand the political opera President Obama is orchestrating. His proposals spend as stimulus most of the new revenues he wishes to commandeer from America’s top wage earners when ending the Bush tax cuts, and Democrats like Nancy Pelosi have thrown down a gauntlet on making changes to entitlements.
Conversely, even as a Republican, I understand government revenues must be increased as part of any fiscal compromise, but I cannot fathom how Congressman Boehner will be able to sell tax hikes to other representatives in his party who are very much accountable to their own conservative constituents unless the House Speaker gains something substantial to address debt.
We will just have to wait and see if the United States will have a Thelma and Louise moment of jumping off the cliff, or if good sense will point our politicians to jerk the wheel in another direction.
Until then, for my own peace of mind, I am embarking on a journey that distracts me from those things I cannot control. I am seeking more activities that have the power to unite me with my fellow citizens—whatever their politics—rather than twisting my stomach into knots when debating the nightly news.
Happily, this commitment has already led me to see more live music around Atlanta. Surely we can all agree that music soothes the savage beast, and local musicians in Georgia rock, right?
One place that we’ve discovered to take in some tunes isn’t in the city but in the suburbs. Ragamuffin Music Hall on Roswell’s historic square is a venue that hosts a variety of local talent, and we were recently drawn there by a husband and wife folk-duo who are based in Marietta and who command quite a following from others living in and around Cobb.
Tortoise & Hair regularly perform live across the Southeast, and their third album, The Sunny Side, was recently launched at Steve’s Live Music in Sandy Springs on September 1. We were happy to have the opportunity to hear them again so close to home.
Once inside Ragamuffin Music Hall—sheltered from all the cacophonous noise of the outside world—we found an intimate setting in which to hear the concert. Oriental rugs are strewn across the stage. Twinkling stars hang with a crystal chandelier from the black ceiling, and records, banjos and guitars decorate the walls. A cello and baby grand wait to be played. All feels cozy and warm.
Of course, this should be expected as Ragamuffin has always been owned and operated by musicians. Ashley Harris, an accomplished singer with music that has climbed to the top of the World Indie Record Report, took over from Jackie Whittaker in May 2011. Having recorded her last album with Fine Line Records in Nashville, one feels a country influence in Ms. Harris’ own work, but she continues to have a big interest in connecting others to as much of the vibrant music scene in the Atlanta metropolitan area as possible.
After the opening act finished in Ragamuffin, Tortoise & Hair began to play and only added to my own feeling of internal Zen. Adrienne Cottrell, the “Hair” of the group with long tresses flowing down her back, filled the room with her hauntingly angelic voice as she sang her “Traveling Song,” which was a finalist entry in the 2010 Indie Girl song writing competition and has drawn international attention with its strong Celtic vibe.
After adding a drummer to the group for the next number, Dustin Cottrell in his tortoise shell glasses joked good-naturedly about the couple’s “multi-aluminum” hit “Faultline 09,” which has had plenty of radio playtime and offers a harder, driving beat that skirts closer to Southern rock than much of the T & H repertoire rooted more in folk.
By the time the perfectly in-sync couple got to “Watching the World Fall Apart,” which the Tortoise explained was about the financial meltdown of 2008 from their second album Front Row Seat, I had managed to forget all about President Obama and House Speaker John Boehner.
In fact, looking around the room at all the people enjoying their bowls of ice cream from the Ragamuffin ice cream parlor, sipping their cups of coffee, and tapping their feet, it struck me that I had no idea if any of them—or Tortoise & Hair, for that matter—thought much about the political discord that’s been clogging up my emotional airwaves lately. Nor did I want to know.
There is going to be a day on which American voters of all political stripes will have to face the music. It was nice for an evening to just sit back, relax, and listen to it.