Friday, September 23

The King of Dance

"Dear Pundita:
We are the young couple who wrote you more than six months ago about not wanting to bring children into the world. You gave us a scolding and told a story you called Finish the Dance. We enjoyed the story and also it made us think about what you said, about not betraying the efforts of everyone in earlier generations.

We were in a bad situation at the time and feeling ashamed that we had done so poorly with our lives. We started saying, "Finish the dance" to each other and laughing. It became our private joke. Things are still difficult and we know that we can never return to our village. However, my wife is now pregnant and we are looking forward to the new life with hope.

So we are writing to tell you the good news and also to express sympathy for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. We watched the news about the floods on a neighbor's television. It was a shock to see the world's most powerful nation having such troubles but it was also a reminder that the weather visits tragedy on every nation. We send our prayers that the American people will recover soon.
[signed] "19 and 22"

Dear 19 and 22:
Pundita is happy about your good news. Thank you also for your prayers. Let me tell you how it is for Americans. We have been through much adversity for such a young nation. We had to fight hard for freedom, so we really appreciate it. Being free, we do a lot of complaining and criticizing of our government. Don't be misled by all the bad news you see on the television. Adversity is an old friend to the American people; it is just makes us stronger and wiser.

When adversity comes, you shouldn't think of it as a punishment or judgment on you but as the next bend in the road.

I was thinking of Beau Jocque when I received your letter. I have been thinking a great deal about Beau since Katrina struck Louisiana. Beau was a Louisiana musician who played a kind of music called zydeco but he was really the king of dance because you couldn't listen to his music without getting up and dancing, or at least dancing in your mind.

His birth name was Andrus Espre. He was born in Kinder, Louisiana in 1957. He spent his early adult years working as an electrician. In 1987 he suffered a back injury that left him paralyzed from the waist down for over a year.

He had always been bored by traditional zydeco music but during his convalescence, to pass the time, he picked up his father's Cajun accordion and began playing and singing. The music that poured from him was a fusion of zydeco with many streams of American music.

He formed his first band, the Zydeco Hi-Rollers, in 1991. The music he played was an overnight sensation because, well, because you couldn't listen without getting up and dancing. Eight years later Beau Jocque was dead of a heart attack.

Some great musicians die young. Why this happens is God's business; perhaps they are only on loan to the human race for a few precious years.

I wonder sometimes: did Beau cuss out God when he found himself paralyzed? Maybe, maybe not. What is known is that without terrible adversity, Beau Jocque wouldn't have given his gift of music to the world.

New Orleans will arise again but there is no going back; the city was sinking into the delta, for heaven's sake. It will be a different city when it's rebuilt but the best of the New Orleans tradition will live on.

Listen to Beau Jocque's music to understand America. This country is a fusion of many cultures united by love of freedom and self-expression for all people. So America is as old as human aspirations and ever young. That is the way it can be for every country, if the people have enough freedom.

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