Read Joe Scutella’s Rear View Mirror

Joe Scutella
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Consciousness: Our Role in Our Community


Joe Scutella, lifelong entrepreneur, musician and deep-thought kind of guy. He created Pal Joey’s, a wonderful restaurant/club in Erie in the 1980s, relocated to Florida to run a chain of sports bars, then Nashville. He played the southeast and southwest for a decade. Now he mixes his music with wine as a connoisseur, broker and journalist. Joe retains his philosophical and poetic bent. And what better place for folks to hone their word-smithing craft than in country music, the home of the 3-minute story. In his latest post… “Joe is contemplating the view in the rear view mirror and hoping it stays where it belongs.”…


By Joe Scutella

I can not seem, for all of my earnest trying, wander bravely or blissfully into the good and hopeful light of 2009. Not without glancing back at not only 2008, but this entire young century as well. The last eight years have yielded remarkable tumult, a sort of tectonic shift and grinding, if you will, of the political, social and cultural plates of the entire world. The religious factions of the world, nearly all of them, would have us moving backwards to some degree or another; whether it be, in the case of fundamentalist Muslims, back to the middle ages; or in the case of their American counterparts, fundamentalist Christians, back to the fifties, if not the age of Queen Victoria. Governments, including and especially our own, are left to both pander and battle both of these lunatic fringes. The rest of us would seem to be the grist ground between these ever grinding plates. The need for fervent, secular government has never been more prescient.

It was eight years ago that the Supreme Court of the United States of America anointed George W Bush as president, and it became clear to me, once and for all, that America as a secular democracy was a myth. The conservative movement had managed to infest every branch of our government, like a pernicious cancer, propagating to mutate us into passive regressive zombies. We were simply so much cattle being bred to shop. They sloganeered us with empty, meaningless phrases like “compassionate conservative” and “family values“, while displaying neither compassion nor any human value in their policies. The events of 9-11 only solidified their grip upon us. America was fast becoming a gulag. They frightened us with mushroom clouds, pacified us with low interest loans, encouraged us to patriotically spend, and made us a country of us versus them. War was peace, some love a sin, science was bunk, you were with us or against us and no one dare step out of line or you would be “Dixie Chicked.” This brand new century, one in which many of us had hoped for a measure of enlightenment, was fast becoming instead the American dark ages.

I can not, in good conscience, blame all of this upon Republicans. I have a handful of good friends who are Republicans; although they sound more like apologists these days. They’ll say things like, “I’m a Republican but I’m open minded.” If you have to apologize for your beliefs then they are less beliefs than perhaps a lose group of ill-defined suggestions. Besides, I’ve found that many of them don’t come to their politics through any logical thought process or enlightenment. They call themselves Republicans because their parents and grandparents were such. If your belief system is a family tradition then you might as well be Hank Williams Jr. That said, my point was that those who called themselves Democrats were just as guilty in the fear mongering that took place post 9-11. They fell prey to it first, in fact, and were the first to lose their spines. It was all down hill from there.

The real problem is with conservative philosophy, Republican, Democrat or otherwise. I must admit to being perplexed when someone calls themselves a political or social conservative. As a political philosophy it has never succeeded. As both social and political philosophy it seems at odds with the arc of human development and behavior. We are a species born to progression after all, never taking kindly to the yoke of regression. There is something fearful inherent within regression. Conservatives believe that the America Constitution is a dead document, un-breathing and unyielding, as if the framers were somehow seers or masters of the laws of the universe. This is an absurd and illogical point of view. Jefferson himself envisioned the possibility that we would have to revisit the Constitution every 2 decades or so. The idea that these men, as brilliant as they were, could carve out a document that could, unchanged, take into account the entirety of human progress for the rest of eternity is both preposterous and presumptuous. Conservatives also fail to understand the history of our birth as a nation when they interject religion into our government. We were, first and foremost, in the French model, a secular Democracy. Freedom from religion was every bit as important as freedom of religion. In fact, many if not most of the founders were deists at best, perhaps even agnostics if not atheists, and certainly humanists. Religious is not a word normally connected with the likes of Jefferson or Franklin. If we are truly going to come out of the American dark ages then we must return to the roots of our secular democracy. The lines between our religions and our government must be drawn hard, fast and without capitulation. We have far too often allowed those lines to be blurred.

The latest master over the demise of American secularism and the prince of the America dark ages, George W Bush, is upon the cusp of a much anticipated good bye. One of the great ironies, among many as we go with feigned hope into this New Year, is the irony of expectations. Our expectations of George W Bush in 2000 could not have been lower. True to form and the pathetic arc of his life, he under achieved and could not hurdle even the lowest of bars. In true form as well, someone else is left to clean up his mess. Therein lies the irony. Our expectations could not be higher for Mr. Obama. We hand to him multiple wars, an economy in ruins, our American visages and myths in tatters or destroyed, and we say “save us and give us hope.” He is expected to be Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK and Jesus rolled into one. He seems oddly happy to accept that mantle too.

My own hope may be cautious because I know the old guard dies hard and that he will not succeed if we do not participate as a people. Participation in such things has not been our forte as a nation for a good long while. We whom the old guard keeps preoccupied with credit cards, malls, American idol, celebrity and conspicuous consumption, have not really been willing participants in our government and its polices since perhaps the Vietnam era. But the election of MR. Obama is remarkable, not solely for its racial implications, but for its generational aspects. Those of us who took to the streets in the late 60’s and early seventies found kinship and renewed spirit with our sons, daughters and those removed from us by a generation or two, and we elected an improbable president. That, I suspect, will prove to be the easy part. I hope we all have the mettle to remain participants and to keep up the good fight that is surely ahead. The old guard may be quiet now but they scheme as I type, reinventing themselves like the netherworld demons that they are.

So, as I attempt to put 8 years into the rear view mirror, with expectations uneasily high, trembling with hope, tilting at windmills and imagining demons, here’s to better days for all of us. Let’s remember that our work is not over. In fact, it may have just begun.

Happy New Year to all!
Joe Scutella, Nashville TN

Are you trying to redirect your career to the restaurant, music or wine industries. Here’s a great resource. And if you want us to present info regarding wine and the wine business, let us know.

Whatever people’s politics, religion or business, Joe captures the spirit we keep running into around the planet. If you’re a Facebook member and want to connect with Joe, visit his page and send a request. For the rest of the world, Joe let me re-post his article here.

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