Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Civil Exchange With Rod McKuen on Obamacare

I am a fan of Rod McKuen's music and poetry. If you are unfamiliar with McKuen he is perhaps best known for translating Jacques Brel's works into English most notably "Le Moribond". North Americans would know the song as "Seasons in the Sun" which would become a big hit for Terry Jacks in 1974. McKuen also wrote the song "Jean" which became a hit in 1967 for Oliver.

Anyhow, I occasionally check in on McKuen's website. Every couple of days or so he writes a blog or what he calls a "flight plan." The flight plan he wrote on March 25th addressed Obamacare:

And this country is still going through a very mean season regarding decent health care for each of its citizens. One political party worked its butt off to finally get a bill passed that would guarantee some relief from the medical maze that sooner or later probably all of us will face. The other party did everything possible to defeat it and in the end, because they are the self confessed party of “No,” not a single Republican voted for the bill. Did they offer an alternative? No. Not one single member of the Not So Grand Old Party (never mind the group as a whole) offered an alternate strategy or plan of his or her own.

I knew this statement to be factually incorrect. After all, Representative Paul Ryan had put forward his own health care bill and also released a policy paper on the subject. There were also at least 70 other bills dealing with health care that had been introduced by various Republican members of Congress. So I figured why not just shoot him an e-mail to make him aware of his error. But I also figured it would be better to edify him with honey rather than vinegar.

Well, something I wrote struck a chord with him because he responded a few hours later mea culpa and all. It takes a big man to admit he is wrong. Earlier this week, McKuen posted our exchange on his "flight plan." As McKuen himself acknowledged in a subsequent "flight plan" in which he commented at length about the passing of his close friend Ted Raff:

I have never been as good a friend to my friends as I wish I could be. I almost always forget birthdays and anniversaries. I don’t like the telephone and I hate writing letters. I have unanswered e-mails dating back to April 2007; many have not been downloaded or even opened.

Getting a ‘Thank You Note’ from me for a gift or gesture is no doubt a surprise on the part of the recipient . . . because it usually arrives months after the fact, if it comes at all. Instead of being there physically in a timely manner, often I reach out mentally, assuming the person I love and am thinking about gets the vibes by telepathy or whatever. Of course they seldom do.

It makes McKuen's prompt response to my e-mail that much more meaningful particularly his last paragraph:

Thanks again Aaron for taking the time to write and for your reasonable and measured comments. (I hope we do meet face to face and I'm sure we will because whatever our political leaning it's obvious that we share a commitment to righting what we feel is wrong in the so-called system. This is a conversation that I look forward to continuing.) Warmest regards, Rod.

I, too, hope to continue this conversation with Rod McKuen in person.

Until then I'll leave you with McKuen and Johnny Cash exchanging poems about the railroad and singing a duet.

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