The mandocello is basically an 8-string mandolin.  I always wondered where Cheap Trick got the name for this song, and now I know.  Their guitar player, Rick Nielson (a hero of mine for many reasons) played an acoustic mandocello on this sweet song.  Later, he would also play an electric mandocello on the song “Heaven Tonight”.

But I’m not writing tonight about rare (spare?) musical instruments.  Rather, I’m going to write about instruments in general.  In other words, us.

I can hear you laughing
You’re a million miles away or you’re here
I will never leave you
I’m a million miles away or I’m near

I made the mistake of browsing social media tonight.  (Mark that under “things I should probably say every day”.)  And the overwhelming  theme was “fear”.  I cannot begin to tell you how much that depresses me.

I am a 4th generation American, as best as I can tell.  It was not very long ago – especially in the grand scheme of things – that my family was living abroad with no thoughts of this “new country” at all.  Of course, I had the great fortune of having ancestors who came from English speaking countries (Ireland and England), so that made the transition easier.

The thoughts you’re thinking
But you’re a lifetime away from your home or you’re here
I can see you crying
You’re a million miles away or you’re here

But my friend Khalid had no such history.  He was first generation American.  (Strike one.)  He had to learn English as a second language.  (And even though he mastered it – especially the cuss words – that was strike two for him.)  And he was from Palestine, an enemy of a long time ally of this country.  (Strike three?)

What little I know about the religion of Islam, I learned from him.  I watched him fast.  I tried his food when he urged me to.  It sucked, and he knew it, but it was his food and he was trying to keep at least part of his heritage alive.  Maybe something we should all consider?  I mean, unless you are part Native American, then your family came from somewhere else.

(And don’t get me started about how self righteous we are now about protecting this country when it was basically stolen from people who already lived here.  Hell, we celebrate Thanksgiving every year and don’t even blink about how hypocritical it is.)

Look at me like I look at you
Think of me like I think of you
Speak to me like I speak to you
Dream of me like I dream of you

On July 12, 2010 (which also happened to be my mom’s 71st birthday), Khalid was killed by a drunk driver in Irving on 114.  Khalid (pronounced KAH-lid, not kah-LEED) was working for Federal Express at the time.  He had been a father for less than a year, and he had another child on the way.

He wasn’t trying to subvert American culture.  He wasn’t trying to persuade anyone that Islam is the only route. He was just looking for a better life.  And he found it.  But it was just shorter than he expected.  In the most American of ways, too.

He was no threat to the security of our country then.  But now?  He’d be considered one just because of where he came from.

And that gets me back to instruments.  Remember when I started with instruments?

We – the people of this country – have become nothing but instruments.  Hell, maybe it has always been this way and I’m just now waking up to it, but it sickens me.

During FDR’s first inauguration, he famously said “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  The country was amidst The Great Depression (so great that it has to be capitalized), but he didn’t resort to finger pointing.  Or fear mongering.  And he was also speaking to many first or second generation Americans when he said this.

Imagine that?  A president speaking to an entire country formed from people all around the world, and he is not invoking fear.  In fact, he is kicking fear’s ass.

But the current president is using fear as a weapon and his supporters as instruments. And we’re not even in a depression, let alone a Great one.  I shudder to think how he would handle such a situation.

I can hear you thinking
You’re a million thoughts away
I’m the dreams you’re dreaming
I’m a million dreams away or I’m here

Jingoism is earned, not a birthright.  That is why so many people want to come to this country.  I’m going to slip into past tense here:

We were admired.  We were envied.  We were the standard bearer.

Now we are only instruments, being played beautifully.  Sure, we sound great.  But what exactly is the message?

We can go down slowly like the rain
I could leave and be with you again, oh
I could be your lover, let’s pretend
– “Mandocello”, Cheap Trick



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