We are a divided people, with a growing schism between the left and the right. I don’t even know anyone who really falls in the middle these days. Politicians will tell you that it’s the other side that always needs to meet them halfway, like they’re really trying to find the way to the center in the first place. We know it’s just hot air to make it seem like they’re the better person. But it does beg the question: What would bring the country together? Is there anything we can agree on? Do we need to agree on anything? Have we ever really all agreed on anything?
Maybe it’s not a what, but a who. Someone who has their feet a little on both sides, but is mysterious enough that you never really know where they stand. Someone who is universally respected, at least in some regard. Who would that person be? Tom Hanks? Probably not. He’s “a Hollywood liberal” after all. No mind that everyone watches his movies. They just won’t own up to it when push comes to shove. So not Tom Hanks. One might have thought Oprah, but we saw how that all went recently. The People’s Queen she may be, but an instant uniter seems to be out of time for her at the second. So not Oprah. It would have to be someone who looks the part from whatever angle you’re looking. They can’t be too plain though, like Tim Kaine. He was a liberal who looked conservative, but, without having a real personality, no one got behind him.
So let me present this idea. Not for president or any office. Just as a person who most, if not all, people can get behind in some way.
Willie Nelson, an outlaw for everyone.
For starters, he’s old and white, so the old, white crowd can feel like he’s one of their own, because he is. They’ve grown up with him, and he’s never let them down. Whatever that means. Is he a hippie? Not really, but kind of? He smokes pot, which makes him a hero of the left, and surprisingly seems to be one of very few who does so with whom the right doesn’t take issue. It’s like he gets a pass because he wrote: “On the Road Again.” And speaking of his songs, he has songs about guns. Growing up in the Texas dust, that’s part of his life, which makes him a hero of the right and one of the very few with whom the left doesn’t take issue. He goes to bat for the worker, especially the farmer. Farm Aid is run by him, Neil Young and John Mellencamp. A pair of heartland guys (“and that Neil can play a mean guitar, man”). Farmers, who tend to come out as conservative, send him their respect for the help and understanding, and the progressives love it because it’s a charity that falls in the line of social justice, environmental concerns and taking on corporations. He sings about God and family and has a song called “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die”. In fact, how many older, white dudes are able to release a straight-up reggae record, and the black community is like “Hell, yes!” Was it a good record? Does it even matter? Willie Nelson did it, so whatever. The man has 72 studio albums to date, so who can tell even the good from the bad anymore. Because it’s all so good, even when it’s not. Close your eyes and pick an album. There’s a good chance you’ll just feel better because you’re listening to Willie Nelson. He’s rock ’n’ roll, country, punk, hip-hop, Latin, classical and metal all in one song.
Tomorrow, the sun will come up. There’s a chance a new hot-button, 24-hour topic will be created, and everyone will immediately take their side. That probably won’t change. People will argue, fight and continue to make family dinners as uncomfortable as they’ve always been. But there is a way to diffuse it all, if just for the time it takes to play 10 songs. I assure you that you will hear everything you want and need to hear from his music and the person across from you will hear everything they want and need to hear as well. And that’s a beautiful thing. We all need a little Willie right now.