Thursday, 7 March 2013

True Patriot Love

Two icons pass away having changed their respective countries in completely different ways. Stompin Tom used soft power and a passion for expressing an ethereal opinion to define what it means to be a Canadian. Hugo Chavez used brute force, intimidation and hard power to change Venezuela from a neo Spanish colony to a modern western democracy.
I was in Venezuela twice.  The first time (1987) I stayed for a week in a delightful Hotel Melia Caribe in La Guaira on the coast. The people were kind and friendly, leather goods including shoes were exquisite. The second time was 1992 stopped for a day while cruising. The place had changed; people were harder, the beach needed to be protected with barb wire and machine guns. In 1999 a mudslide took out the whole area, as far as I know it has not recovered. Hugo Chavez became the elected President in the same year. His legacy is a mixed bag. What is indisputable is that he brought true democracy to Venezuela, and he reduced the poverty rate from 50% to 30%. This was accomplished by radical wealth distribution. This was detested by the USA. However, given the concentration of wealth masticating on the North American body politic, a Chavezian character is all but certain to be seen repeatedly in North America.

I never saw Stompin Tom live. I checked my I tunes today and found only Bud the Spud. He reminded a generation of Canadians of their roots: the small town characters and players doing purely Canadian things in a Canadian way. There was a simplicity and ferocity to his expression that resonated deeper and stronger than many artists that where much more popular and way more financially successful. He was another unique character the likes of which we will never see again.

the likes of him will never be seen again
the likes of him will never be seen again
when the call came to run he would rather walk
and when the butts went out he would lite up
and never cross the border
he would never cross the border
It was in Peterbough he got his name
Stoppin through plywood was his claim to fame
Four decades he played every honkytonk
Places the roof leaked in the rain
And the chairs would smash
And the glasses clash
While Tom would smile and play on
Only stopping when the cops came.