You’ll never know the hurt I suffered
Nor the pain I rise above,
And I’ll never know the same about you
Your holiness or your kind of love
And it makes me feel so sorry.
– Bob Dylan, “Idiot Wind”

On my morning run several days ago, I passed a neighbor’s house on which was displayed a large sign proclaiming “Deplorables for Trump.” One presidential candidate promises, if elected, to jail the other. Our governor says that supporters of raising the minimum wage should be prosecuted for attempted murder.

If nothing else, our current election will go down in history as among our angriest, as one with the most potential to do lasting damage to our system of representative democracy. The unrestrained vitriol displayed on both sides and the headshaking disbelief at what opponents say and seem to believe is downright frightening.

Pondering this enormous anger – rage, actually – I am reminded of the career and creations of our newest Nobel laureate in literature. The man first described to me many years ago as “perplexing Bobby Zimmerman” by a colleague at the University of Maine at Farmington, who knew him at a summer camp in Minnesota, grew up to become the troubadour who created the emotional milestones that capture the feelings of our age.

He is a man who also generated strong reactions – of praise, of criticism and of betrayal. His critics (quoting from his acceptance speech of the MusiCares 2015 Person of the Year award) said that he “made a career out of confounding expectations.”

He also, I believe, embodies the attitude and the journey we all must emulate if we are to move from this most divisive election to any meaningful repair of our civic structure. Like all would-be saviors, the author of “Idiot Wind” is undoubtedly “a nuisance to live with at home.”


But compared to the litany of transparently insincere apologies scripted by public relations wordsmiths that we have all become accustomed to hearing, there can be no doubt about the depth of personal sorrow our Nobel-winning troubadour feels about his failure to cross the interpersonal borderline depicted so savagely in that monument to “the howling beast” of anger.

In his MusiCares acceptance speech, Dylan describes the origins of his work, how he went to sleep singing folk songs, woke up playing folk songs and traveled the length and breadth of the country listening to and singing folk songs. He describes how he “met other singers along the way who did the same thing, and we just learned songs from each other.”

Declining the “solitary genius” designation, he concludes, “If you had sung that song (‘John Henry was a steel drivin’ man’) as many times as I did, you’d have written ‘How many roads must a man walk down?’ too.”

While that conclusion may just slightly overstate the songwriting abilities of most of us, it does speak to the value of trying to see things from other points of view than our own. It does say that any “greatness” America may have comes from every region, every idiom, every person. That is the value of a troubadour – he or she is not a decider, not a convincer, not a salesperson, but an explicator, one who captures the feelings of things and expresses them in ways all who care to listen can understand.

And so, in some small way, I try here to play the troubadour of the Maine economy, saying what I feel to be true for all who care to read. More than anything, what this state and this nation need following whatever results our elections provide is not smug “I told you so, you loser!” victory dances, but heartfelt efforts to listen to one another and make every effort to “bind the nation’s wounds.”

Charles Lawton is chief economist for Planning Decisions, Inc. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.