I’ve gotta say, I was a little surprised at a quote I read from Lady Bird Johnson. I always think of her as one of those quiet first ladies, like Laura Bush or Mamie Eisenhower, but I’m thinking there might have been hidden depths. Because she was generally quiet, I was surprised she used such a loud image when she said, “The clash ideas is the sound of freedom.” Hmmm. I think she’s got something there. People think of clashing ideas as a negative thing, loud, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, as my boy Willie used to say.
But when I hear the clash of cymbals behind me in our semi-pro community band during a Sousa march, it’s a positive thing, loud, full of sound and joy, like kids screaming as they run on a playground, like fans when their favorite running back crosses the goal line, like the audience when the cannons roar during ACDC’s “For Those About to Rock” or during Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, or during Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks.
When you think about it, cymbals are really a sound of unity. They’re made of the same materials, a combination of materials, an alloy, just like us. They come from opposite directions aiming toward the same goal, just like us. Whether they crash or clash or splash, the vibrations of the alloyed metals are freed to reverberate, to ring and Ring and RING. Just like freedom.
And those cannons roar for pleasure, not for war, so we can enjoy our freedom, freedom to be loud, to be proud, not to be bowed down by those determined to turn a positive into a negative.
When our nation came together from different directions, from villages, towns, and cities, from sea to shining sea, to acknowledge for the first time, that positive notion that black lives should matter, some tried to turn it negative even though it was often their people, their police who caused what little violence there was.
When we came together from different points of view to decide it was a positive thing to not sleep through the sufferings of others, to be woke, some countered with the unspeakably foolish idea that caring about others is a negative, because they don’t know how to care.
Yet slowly but surely, we have waited, as every cymbal player must wait, until the time is right, until the energy has built, so those of us with the strongest metal in our positive spirits can come together to crash, clash, splash, drowning out the noise of the negative. The negative, a compound of materials than can never meld, becomes just a dull thud.
So yes, I think Lady Bird had something. The clash of ideas is a bright brassy thing, a bright bold thing coming from different directions, but marching towards the same place. And that place is the site of freedom. For all. FIRE!