3/10/21: Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) — Work, Death and Friendship #poetry

3/10/21: Bang the Drum Slowly (1973) — Work, Death and Friendship #poetry

This movie was made seven years before Reagan, when business took over the world

Competition was seen as a game in those days, not the most important thing

Winning and losing was a backdrop

The love of friendship was the thing

The movie is quaint

I went to McQuaid Jesuit High School and the University of Notre Dame

and worked at Lincoln First Bank, the Chicago Tribune and the Second City Theater

before each institution became corporate entities

I dealt with human beings not systems

I was young in an age of friendship

People liked each other just because

Bang the Drum Slowly is loaded with character actors

1973 – 1980 was a time of characters

We enjoyed each other

We had fun

The main thing wasn’t whatever we were doing

The main thing was that we were together

We were all poets

Men and women fell in love

People had best friends

People were happy

In the early 80s a young man and woman from the Wharton School of Business talked with me at the outer bar at Second City after I performed in a show

They talked about using research to determine the optimum laugh

and data to determine how to hold an audience’s attention

And I started to see

that it was over

Even what was tragic and corrupt in the 60s and 70s was …

Human …

Viet Nam and Watergate were human

before thought control and manipulation of emotion became subjects for doctoral degrees and major industries

Democracy and love had not yet been overwhelmed by marketing and sales

The will to power existed in America

but was imperfect in its execution

and the human being was undefeated

Playboys won Super Bowls

and a Civil Rights Leader was the Heavyweight Champion of the World

No one worried much about being authentic

They just were …

In 1980, the backdrop became the foreground

Winning and Losing became primary

and the love of friendship began to disappear

George Lucas talked about the phenomena in Star Wars

John Huston did too, in Prizzi’s Honor

Friendship was only alive in the camps of the revolutionaries in the mountains

Ray Romano does a comedy routine about the friends that you need at various times of life

In high school you have to make friends with the kid with the car

In your twenties you need the guy who can get you the hot tickets

In your thirties and forties you need a lawyer

In your fifties a doctor …

In your eighties you are back to needing a kid with a car …

Ha ha, very funny … just a joke …

But it is a joke for an era …

A friend was redefined after 1980 as someone who is of use to you …

Someone who could do something for you …

Or Someone who made you look good …

So -called friends gathered

who weren’t friends at all …

Just useful pawns in the game …

or cliques to make you feel important …

Even when old school friendship was there

the winning/losing static interfered

In 2020, the era of Reagan derangement ended

Libertarianism wasn’t on the ballot

This winning and losing jive has made everyone unhappy

Politically and economically the game is changing again

turning into either social democracy or fascism — we’ll see …

Either taking care of one another together or looking to a dictator to take care of us (and make us feel superior to everybody else — a surrender of even the possibility of friendship, despair with a puffed out chest) …

We could have …

No more needing to win to be loved …

That’s our opportunity now …

In 1973, in the time of Bang the Drum Slowly

human energy wasn’t wasted on unimportant things

People felt bad when friends got sick and died

People were unhappy when friends were unhappy


People were human beings then …

We have a chance

a new hope

Maybe we can get that sixties/seventies thing back again

When our fathers and mothers were close to their friends because of the camaraderie of the depression and the war

And we had friends because we raised that way

But we have a tougher task than the greatest generation

They weren’t young in a toxic culture

Their culture was unjust but they didn’t know it

and as they found out they worked to make it better

They believed that they could do anything

together with their friends

They decided to finally settle the Civil War

They failed but they got the ball rolling

They had a hard time letting go of illusions about themselves

but they did it

Friends don’t build Utopias

but they try like hell

They try for each other

That stopped in 1980

Cynicism set in …

money, fame and power were all that mattered

Everything became a business

even art and idealism

It generally sucked …

We were young when our culture became rancid

Rancid with ego

Rancid with greed

We lost our way

and we can only get back to reality by an act of decision …

I pray every day for all sorts of things …

I get what I ask for …

somebody up there likes me …

I am the luckiest man on the face of the earth …

I got an angel in my pocket …

I prayed for financial security and I got it …

I prayed for clarity about my writing and I got it …

I pray for larger venues for my writing and I am sure that they will come …

and today I pray for friends …

The Bang the Drum Slowly kind of friends

I pray for people who love each other just because they love each other

I pray for people beyond family and spouse with whom I can breathe

and be free

friends who feel good and bad for each other

not connections who exist to make them and me feel good about our own damn selves …

(Oh yeah … as I am sure you know, that fascist thing sure as fuck isn’t going to work — just a guaranteed illusion of a win as one of a mass by identifying with a winning prick — no friendship at all)

It is interesting that Bang the Drum Slowly and Brian’s Song were two movies from the seventies about friends in the midst of competition

that said that friendship was the important thing …

Both pictures were popular …

and that popularity says where our hearts are …

Dear God, send me Old School friends …

Copyright 2021 Richard Thomas

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