Paul Barsom on Alabama, the day before an election


Alright, y'all, it's time to listen to a native of Alabama, someone who gets it--my primary [music] composition teacher from college and grad school, the incomparable Paul Barsom--one of the smartest and most insightful people I know.

Read the whole thing, linked here.

But first, a bit of background.

In the days immediately following September 11, 2001 (starting literally the next day on Sept 12), Paul shared a lot of wisdom in our conversations. The same was true throughout the rest of our lessons and seminars in the years that followed. He continued to challenge me to sharpen my thinking as a musician and a human being. He helped me widen my experiences, deepen my worldview and challenged me to defend and better understand my opinions/preferences/positions/knee-jerk-reactions... or else change them. And he modeled and helped me learn to talk to people with lots of different viewpoints and opinions, without sacrificing good humor, respect, or one's own personal integrity.

In other words, Paul helped make college the kind of mind-expanding experience that higher education should be about.

But, back to 9/11.

In those ensuing days, it was nearly impossible to just move with the business of learning as usual without first addressing the events that had just occurred. I'm sure countless students shared my experience of sitting in private lessons and large classes and processing our thoughts with the professors we trusted.

Here's the thing about Paul. He understood so much about the causes, contexts, likely next steps, and future implications of the September 11 attacks. But he immediately understood them in a way that would take much of the country five or ten or more years to come to the same level of understanding. Paul is the kind of person who really thinks, educates himself, and then deeply understands people, history, art, war, elitism and anti-elitism, and the nuances of the human condition in way few people do. And he still has strong principles. And he knows when we need to stop and think and put a check on our egos before doing something stupid.

This short letter to his fellow native Alabamians reminds me of the kind of insight he had in 2001. He sees our society peering over a precipice, and he understands that we need to stop, think, and take a long hard look at ourselves before we start flailing.

What I'm saying is we should listen.