November 3, 2018
Garrison Keillor performs with duet partner Lynne Peterson and longtime collaborator & pianist Richard Dworsky.
5:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
A live performance at the Brady Theater
Long Beach, CA
A live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center
A live performance at the Saenger Theatre
A live performance at the Yavapai College Performing Arts Center
George Will is a great American conservative essayist and I am an aging liberal doing the best I can, but even in divisive times I am capable of appreciating him, and his recent column for the Washington Post is so excellent, a new prize is needed, the Pulitzer isn’t good enough, we need a Seltzer or a Wurlitzer. You can Google this at your leisure; “Abolish the death penalty” is the title.
For more than 30 years, Will writes, Alabama has been trying to execute a man, now 68, for a murder he committed when he had begun sinking into derangement that now is so complete that he has no recollection of the crime, and Will argues that the execution of an elderly demented invalid has little value as deterrence. Alabama has shown, Will says, “tenacity that deserves a better cause.” This week, Alabama will come to the Supreme Court and seek approval to execute a blind incontinent 68-year-old in a wheelchair whose memory is destroyed by dementia. The thought of it, to paraphrase Will, induces a “healthy squeamishness that speaks well of us.”
The column is brilliant in every detail, passionate, elegant, and leaves the reader feeling better about the country we live in — in other words, is everything the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing was not.
Mr. Will has a starchiness I admire, an ear for exactitude, and a fine sense of balance that enables him to produce long complex sentences that are so rare in journalism thanks to editors and J-school teachers who tried mightily to stamp them out but here he is, building a long pier that extends out through the glop and gloom with a green light at the end going blink blink blink blink to warn incoming schooners to be ever more alert as the destination slides into view.
George Will feels like an older brother to me, whose role is to speak freely and challenge the thinking of his siblings when they adventure into treacherous waters. If I got drunk and punched a stranger in the snoot, George would urge me to find him and apologize and he wouldn’t rest until I did. My older brother Philip would do the same. He died almost ten years ago and so has become younger than I, which is very odd. He held some liberal views but was a conservative at heart, being a believer in familial ties, stability, excellent schools, telling stories especially ones at your own expense, and mankind’s stewardship of this fragile planet we are borrowing from our grandchildren. When you met Philip, you met someone looking for common ground. He was the one who held our family together and without him, we’re like strangers in an elevator, looking up at the lighted numerals.
I have little experience at being a uniter. I grew up among separatist Christians and avoided team sports and aimed to be a writer, an obscure genius mysterious to all but a few cognoscenti. Every adolescent’s dream. The separatists of my youth were believers in the literal truth of Scripture, which gave them plenty of grounds for separation: there are forty different ways to interpret “Love thy neighbor as thyself” so if you like — and face it, there is satisfaction to be found in divorce — you can draw a line in the sand and start a new church.
I’m tired of separatism. I want to be in a big crowd and feel geniality around me, the friendly push and shove of democracy.
I like to leave Walden Pond and go out into freeway America, and line up for the breakfast of generic scrambled eggs and nondescript coffee, and overhear conversation on classic topics: How Does One Correct The Bad Parenting Of One’s Children, Today’s Music — I Don’t Get It, What I Am Going To Do One of These Days, and though I’m an old Democrat in Republican territory and the waitress who whipped the eggs voted for Mr. Wrong, I feel geniality all around.
Over in the Universe Café where righteous Democrats gather to eat organic eggs from cooperative chickens, they’re wringing their hands about something they just read a book about, but over here at Mom’s, you’re welcome so long as you clean up after yourself, don’t yell at someone for no good reason, and do good work, whatever line of work you’re in, auto repair or knife sharpening or column construction. Thank you, sir, for your good work.