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Off the Rails 

Pick which train you’re going on, and stick with it.

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I’ve listened to preachers
I’ve listened to fools
I’ve watched all the dropouts
Who make their own rules
One person conditioned, to rule and control
The media sells it, and you live the role.

Those insightful words come to us from that renegade British moral-philosopher of the latter 20 th Century, John Michael Osbourne. Although written in 1980, the passage captures a timeless theme in our politics: Watch out, people, because everybody is trying to play you.  

Not familiar with his work? You might know him simply as Ozzy.

At the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, the highlight was dueling anthems of “Peace Train” by Yusuf (aka Cat Stevens) and “Crazy Train” by Ozzy Osbourne.

But comedy aside, the timeless messages of both “Peace Train” and “Crazy Train” don’t conflict at all.

Yusuf: “Now I’ve been crying lately / Thinking about the world as it is / Why must we go on hating? / Why can’t we live in bliss?” Ozzy: “Crazy… but that’s how it goes / Millions of people… living as foes / Maybe… it’s not too late / To learn how to love / And forget how to hate.”

My takeaway from the Sanity Rally was the sheer number of people willing to come out and let their reasonable flags fly. Most independent observers agree it dwarfed the Glenn Beck rally, so is it fair to say that there’s a vast silent majority out there, too busy living life to worry about gay marriage or whether Medicare is socialism? People who wonder why our leaders must go on hating each other.

There was a vast silent majority in the ’60s and ’70s, and they just lived their lives, too — until Election Day, when they overwhelmed the hippies and elected Nixon. Twice.

Maybe today’s silent majority traces its roots to the insurgents of the ’60s. It’s odd, then, that now they’re the ones who seem content to live their lives, watch a little Jon Stewart and sometimes sort of get involved by wearing an earnest T-shirt. Will they ever assert their power like Nixon’s masses did?

We keep having this split personality thing here in America, lurching from one side to the other, keeping progress at bay and preserving injustice in the name of the almighty buck.

Maybe that’s how we find our national balance, but it definitely feels like it’s tipping the scales away from Yusuf’s dream — “Oh, peace train, take this country” — and well into Ozzyland, where “Mental wounds, not healing / Life’s a bitter shame / I’m going off the rails on a crazy train.”

Ted S. McGregor Jr. is the Editor and Publisher of The Inlander.

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