Jul 23, 2010 Daniel’s rowed his boat ashore
DANIEL’S ROWED HIS BOAT ASHORE.
Daniel Schorr and Frank Zappa – Inspirations for excellence, for standing up to abuse of power, and against complacency.
Throughout my life, I have sought out people who have stood up and stuck their necks out for doing good. I found that all the more important when I joined the Maryland Public Defender’s Office fifteen years ago, when some fellow public defenders seemed to think I was from Mars when I honestly answered why I left two years at a higher-paying corporate law job; because serving indigent criminal defendants was where my heart was. I learned that many of my co-workers had no preference for the defense or prosecution side; one warned me about wearing my heart on my sleeve; another said he didn’t give a f–k if the jury convicted one of his clients so long as he put up a good fight. So, I sought out fellow idealistic criminal defense lawyers, often having to find them miles away at conferences of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, at the National Criminal Defense College, and at the Trial Lawyers College.
I also looked outside the legal profession for inspiration for my continued idealism. Daniel Schorr and Frank Zappa provided some of that key inspiration. The lives of these two great men — a courageous journalist fired by CBS by staying true to the highest standards of journalism, and a musician who stayed true to his music even if that meant having few top forty songs aside from "Valley Girl" — came together in 1986, when Zappa called Schorr about "telling the news to rock fans turned off on current events," as Schorr told it. I finally experienced Zappa at a live 1984 concert, where he conducted a band — himself saying nothing, singing nothing, and playing not a note; the night of instrumental music was his. I bumped into Schorr once at a Washington booksigning, and twice at the annual holiday parties of a neighbor plugged into the world of Watergate-era journalists and the ACLU, not yet having learned how much he had contributed to standing tough in the face of a Kremlin upset that he would not put up with its censors, in the face of his inclusion on Nixon’s enemies list, and in the face of revealing a 1976 House intelligence investigating committee report that led to his suspension by CBS.
Sadly, Zappa died from prostate cancer in 1993. Schorr then brilliantly conveyed the essence of Zappa, his commitment to human and musical excellence, his insistence on calling them as he saw them, and his taking on the audacity of Tipper Gore and Company to censor song lyrics through the back door (which today is a sad reality, with rated lyrics, video games, and television shows): "Talk about his popularity, and he said he was lonely. Maybe he was. Maybe the world around him was too crass, too mediocre, too homogenized. So he cursed it with dirty words, and went back to his music synthesizer, searching for new musical meanings. And ways of serving kids. His own, and the world’s." This was a call against complacency and to stay true to human goodness and human excellence.
Thank you, Dan, for you.