Shall I talk about the top twenty 2017 tweets of President Trump? How about Alvin Kamara’s awesome Santa Cleats which have resulted in a fine by the NFL, delivered in an envelope to the New Orlean’s Saints running back? It looks like those 32 yards he ran for in the Christmas Eve game are going to be the most expensive of his career. Or maybe I should dive right in to Trump’s interview with the NYT in which he says that the Mueller probe:

… makes the country look bad, and it puts the country in a very bad position.

No? How about if instead I talk just for a moment about a wonderful, very talented, very hard-working artist who suddenly left us in September.

Tom Petty.

It was a warm snap, in I think December, in 1979, and I was jogging past the house where the cool people lived in college. The windows to Andy’s room were open and the thunder of Stan Lynch’s opening drum roll turned my head as the opening chords (F#minor, D, and E) of Refugee poured out the open window. I swiveled and kept jogging up the path, through the front door, and up the steps into Andy’s room, and we sat and listened to Tom and the Heartbreakers’ early masterpiece. More were to come of course, but this was the first time when it felt like they really could do anything they set their minds to.

Over the previous year, Andy had made me listen to their first two albums, as he would shake his head and say “I can’t believe they’re not huge!” So that mild December afternoon in 79 was like a confirmation of all the expectations that the few early TP fans in our circles had nourished.

By the time I belatedly saw their 2008 Super Bowl half-time show on Youtube, it was a year or two after the event. Sorry, I haven’t followed Super Bowls religiously for a long time. I watched the opening chords of American Girl and I started weeping. But they were tears of gratitude for all the wonderful music Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have given us. And just to remind everyone, Tom Petty was very much alive and kicking when I got mushy watching the halftime show on Youtube.

I’ll let music critics argue over who the greatest rock bands are. TP and the Heartbreakers were one of the best. Try playing Mike Campbell’s solo in American Girl. It was twenty years ahead of its time. It took punk, post-punk, 80’s big hair, grunge and post-grunge, for guitar solos to catch up to what he did back in 1976. Try playing the guitar-piano combination in the chorus of Here Comes My Girl. Fascinatingly, Tom said in the VHS series on great albums that you had to come from the South to play the riff that floats behind Petty’s vocals and Stan Lynch’s backup vocals.

Try playing that magic handful of chords that Tom plays in Learning to Fly. Try to get that beautiful ache in just your rythm guitar playing. Now try to do it on a Rickenbacker. Not easy, huh? Now sing please.

De Tocqueville writes about the optimism and confidence that he found that women in America were raised into. It’s there in the opening lines to Tom’s song American Girl:

Well she was an American girl, raised on promises

But that would be to ascribe political ends to Tom Petty’s music, which he would probably laugh at a little. I have no idea who he voted for. I don’t care who he voted for. I have no idea what he yelled at his screen when somebody said something on CNN, or MSNBC. Or Fox.

Maybe he read Faulkner. Maybe he had to read Carson McCullers’ a tree a rock a cloud in high school, the way I did. Maybe he was haunted by that story, the way I was. Likely not. Because he was someone who had his own stories to tell and who had the drive , talent and the need to tell them. And that drive and talent would produce a gem of an artist that could only have come from one country.

America and the world are better for Tom Petty’s music. Happy New Year.

Oscar Lopez Rivera returned from active duty in Vietnam to Chicago in 1967, the year Che Guevara was captured and executed as the Argentine terrorist who was Castro’s henchman and was an even crazier radical. The Che who later tried to inspire a revolution among reluctant Bolivian campesinos who were far more obedient to Moscow than to Guevara’s vision of their future. Yes. Che Guevara was even more extreme than Fidel Castro. He got sent to Africa and Bolivia for one reason: to conveniently die and become a perfect martyr for the Castro regime in Havana.

Terrorist? How dare you, you might say Manuel. Che has been lovingly analyzed, deified, and portrayed as a revolutionary, a freedom fighter, a humanist (by those who haven’t actually read his actual violent, hate-filled words) even. How dare you shine a little light on every leftist’s most cherished dream: to be a Latin America Revolutionary! Look at sub-commandant Marcos down in Chiapas, Mexico in the mid-90’s. He rode a horse across a stream and smoked a pipe while wearing a balaclava as he gave press conferences. And the progressive world fell to their knees before their latest hero. Ah, those green hypnotizing eyes that caused wealthy Mexican women to sigh lustfully. But you know this Manuel.

So 1967 was a key year for Puerto Rican native Oscar Lopez Rivera. That’s because fellow Puerton Rican Filiberto Ojeda Rios had returned from a 6 year stay in communist Cuba that very same year. And was now organizing radical, violent groups – ok that sort of classifies as terrorist doesn’t it? – to overthrow the democracy in Puerto Rico and establish a marxist state. Ojeda Rios’ groups were founded on strict marxist-leninist revolutionary principles. Che would have been pleased. Che clearly knew and perhaps helped train Ojeda Rios.

At some point in the late 60’s or early 70’s Lopez Rivera left his community organizing work in Chicago and joined Ojeda Rios’ marxist terrorist groups. By the mid 70’s they were actively involved in a massive bombing campaign against targets in America. People died and property was violently destroyed. Banks were robbed as well – a rather typical form of activity for leftist terrorists needing cash for their guns and bombs. Of course, you know this Manuel.

But this is all justified in the eyes of progressives because America keeps the noble and suffering people of Puerto Rico under the heel of Uncle Sam. Billions and billions and billions of dollars worth of oppression. To finance government, education, health, industry, infrastructure. To keep living standards light years ahead of Cuba. Evil. Pure evil. To allow Puerto Ricans to freely migrate to America as proud owners of American passports, and prosper and inspire others. Like you Manuel. Though you were born in Manhattan. Evil.

Ojeda Rios died about 10 years ago in a shootout with the FBI in Puerto Rico. But Lopez Rivera was tried and jailed in 1981. He’s still there because he refused a pardon from Clinton in 1999. He would not swear to give up violent terrorist activities. Now that’s a man of principle.

Are Ojeda – and the late Rios – little Patrick Henrys? Give me liberty or give me death? No. Because Henry was fighting for the liberty of his fellow Americans under the rule of law. The perverted, failed attempts throughout Latin America to replicate the American Revolution’s astonishing success, are still there for us to witness. From Havana to Caracas to Quito. The American Revolution had faith (mostly Puritan) and a clear eyed view of classic enlightenment thinking and the founders knew well the dangerous history of previous failed republics. The Latin American revolutionaries have Marx, the French Revolution, and other European radicals as their guides. Not the same. Never was. Never will be.

But you know all this, Manuel. You’ve studied history and politics. More than most. So go ahead Manuel Lin Miranda and shed tears for Oscar Lopez Rivera. And when he is released from jail, invite him to a “command” performance of Hamilton. Ahh the “viva’s!!” in audience that will pour forth! And then Lopez Rivera can take you backstage and start to carefully explain to you – young misguided Miranda – why Hamilton was an evil colonialist. And why true liberation is only possible in a worker’s paradise like Cuba. And suggest you travel to Cuba, Manuel. Not to bring Hamilton to a government-sponsored theatre in Havana. No. To learn the art of true political theatre: radical political theatre.

Who knows Manuel? Maybe you too can disappear into the jungles of Colombia perhaps. And join the FARC in it’s glorious last days of drug trafficking and kidnappings and killings. And become a true revolutionary. And not just a talented artist, creating exciting work as he exercises his First Amendment Rights – even as he educates and entertains Americans and other adoring fans from around the world – in the world’s most successful republic. One that has allowed you to pursue life, liberty, and happiness to it’s glorious fullest possibilities.

You are the model to be admired and imitated, Manuel. Not Che Guevara. Not Filiberto Ojeda Rios. Not Oscar Lopez Rivera. You. Even when you tweet wrong-headed praise of a violent man.