Saturday, November 01, 2008

Studs Terkel, R.I.P.

Studs Terkel is dead. And for the second time in the past few months I find myself shocked that an elderly gentleman whose health has been declining for decades has passed on. It's not that I imagined that he would just transubstantiate into a ghost, appearing alongside Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken at the shining moments of America a la Star Wars. It's just that because he was so old you just felt he was always gonna be here for a little while longer.
It is true, though, that Studs was the embodiment of so much of what I love about this country. Sure, he was something of a popular sentimentalist. Sure, he was kind of folksy. But the people and struggles and music that he documented are more America than you will ever see on the network news. He wasn't one of these idiots that dominate the media now that project their leanings and ridiculous smarm into every interview and story and make grand assumptions about what people think and feel.
Studs was almost never the story, but rather the only person that was going to talk to the steel worker or the farmer or the convict or the soldier for more than a sound byte. He wanted their stories, not en encapsulation of their feelings. And maybe that's why he seemed more genuine than most of his contemporaries. The America Studs Terkel followed and was a part of is the same America that I would point out, were I given the chance, to the parts of the world that hate us to show them what we're really like.

He wasn't the scholar that Chomsky is or the librarian that Zinn is, but Studs Terkel was one of the greats, and it's a shame that his death will not be covered to the degree that it should because of the election. But he will be missed here. If you've never read Working, I truly suggest that you pick it up.

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