Friday, January 16, 2015

Gene Krupa vs. Martin Luther King Junior

I did a lot of complaining (on Facebook) last week about everyone ignoring the 2,000 people slaughtered in Africa and talking about the 17 people who died in Paris or even about Chipper Jones's selfie. It does kind of blow my mind.

Yet, today (as I write this) I became aware of Gene Krupa's (the great big-band and jazz drummer's) birthday and read a few articles on him. It was only hours later that I realized that it is Martin Luther King Jr's actual birthday. After all, the day off isn't until Monday...

We are really doomed to look at the world through our own lenses. If I am being honest and self-examining, I have to admit that when faced with the question of who is more important to me -- Dr. King or Gene Krupa -- the answer is Gene Krupa. But, if asked who is more important to the world, the answer is, hands-down, Dr. King.

Gene Krupa changed the face of drumming. His playing on Benny Goodman's "Sing, Sing, Sing" was one of the first things that got me excited about drums. Drums and music are, next to my family, the most important thing in my life. Therefore, in direct reference to my own life, Krupa was more important; he had more of an impact on my life than King did.

If some evil wizard forced me to choose one not having been born -- or he would blow up the world or something -- I would have to choose to blot out Krupa. King means too much to American (and world) culture.

Is it okay for me to think more about Gene Krupa than about Dr. King? Is it okay for people not to follow the news at all? -- not to read history? Is it okay for someone to read book after book about Paul McCartney instead of those about Ben Franklin or Susan B. Anthony?

I think so.

What enrages me about the social media silence about the Boka Haram-slaughterers of 2,000 is that I feel it is a result of downplaying in the media sources. These days, the story of a mass slaughter (especially somewhere as "remote" as Africa [a friend of mine said "Africa might as well be Mars to most people"]) just isn't "sexy" enough to place much emphasis on, is it? But, hand an editor or a news producer a story about a metropolitan assassination of controversial satirists who can be painted as martyrs for free speech and, then, slap a catchy French slogan on it that makes the non-French look like they can speak French, and you have some real news mileage. That's the real transgression, not necessarily the lack of interest among a public that relates more to other things.

But for people to choose to gravitate toward the issues that are satellites that orbit more around their own lives... I guess it's only natural. Let's face it: all of us think more about what we want to have for lunch than we do about world hunger. Each of us is far more often concerned about wearing matching socks than we are about clothing the poor.

When the world tries to spread us out too far and then to make us feel guilty for living only as far as we can go, maybe we can be excused. And I think it is okay for me to listen to Gene Krupa on Martin Luther King Jr's birthday, as long as I remember what Dr. King taught the world; as long as I make time to pass those lessons on to my sons, at some point.

Happy birthday, Dr. King. Happy birthday, Gene.

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