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In 1969, Woody Allen wrote and starred in Take The Money And Run.  He played Virgil Starkwell, an inept criminal.  The movie was autobiographical, with one scene illustrating Virgil’s formative years, which led to a life of crime: he tried to play the cello in his high school marching band.  He’d clumsily saw a few notes, grab his chair, stumble a few yards, sit down, saw a few notes, lather and repeat.

The scene was absurd—funny—because what sane band director would allow any student to try to play the cello—an orchestral instrument—in a marching band?  I never imagined anyone could top that kind of funny absurdity.  I was wrong:

Wenatchee High School in Washington state came up with a novel way to allow band members to practice their instruments while remaining socially distant in the battle against COVID-19 — placing the students inside individual tents, KCPQ-TV reported.

‘We are not putting these in every classroom,’ Principal Eric Anderson told the station, adding that the idea was a collaboration with local health officials. ‘I don’t want anybody to think out there this is the solution to more kids in the classroom. I don’t think that would work, but in this scenario, it’s worked really well.

Allow me to point out, gentle readers, these kids are not individually practicing their instruments.  They’re in the band rehearsal hall, rehearsing as a band.  In little green tents.  One should, I suppose, be glad they’re not putting them in every classroom.  No doubt, they discussed it…

Some folks deemed it a clever idea to put kids in tents so they could play their musical instruments: ‘Wenatchee HS Band is an award-winning org. I applaud their efforts of maintaining their standards while still trying to adhere to safety,’ one Twitter user wrote. ‘While it may look ridiculous, these kids wouldn’t do it if they didn’t want to.’

Uh, not quite.  Band kids tend to see their playing an instrument in the band as a large part of their identity.  It’s what gives their lives considerable meaning, a purpose.  I seriously doubt the school district gave them a choice, and probably didn’t have to.  Refuse to sit in little tents, you’re out.  They all understand that.  In many bands membership is by audition only and competition is fierce.  No one has to spell it out.

The public, thankfully, was not impressed:

Well this confirms it,’ another Twitter user declared. ‘Our decision to move to a Red state is definitely correct.

‘Can someone in the Wenatchee area donate a couple of their old camping tents to the high school for the poor tuba players?’ another user asked.

‘That adults, government, teachers or parents, would abuse young people like this is unimaginable,’ another commenter wrote.

‘They’re just f***ing with us at this point,’ another user said.

‘This is absolutely insane,’ another commenter noted. ‘I fear for these kids[‘] mental health.’

‘Excellent example of Rule through FEAR — once you sacrifice your freedom for security you will soon have none,’ another user said. ‘Time to tell main stream media & dems we are no longer afraid. Time to shout ‘FREEDOM,’ take off our masks, open businesses and schools and hug our family and neighbors.’

‘This is beyond stupid. We have lost our minds,’ another commenter wrote. ‘Every day I say it can’t get more asinine…and yet it does.’

When reality surpasses early Woody Allen, you know we’re living in Heinlein’s crazy years.  Can’t you just see the marching band, covered in little green tents with their legs sticking out, perhaps with their normal uniform caps taped to the tops?  They’d be running into each other, falling down, always chasing the ever-moving goalposts of “flattening the curve,” always a year or more, and wearing three masks away, from “normal.”

This is so deranged, it’s funny, but what is not funny is the last year’s wholesale revocation of individual liberties has had a horrific effect on the arts, particularly the performing arts.  Across the country, choirs have been shut down.  Those that still exist have tried to rehearse, even perform, while wearing masks and social distancing.  For choirs, this is death.  Live performance is horribly stunted, a bizarre parody of art, when singers have to wear masks.  The audience can’t see their faces, their emotions, and singing becomes difficult, even impossible.  Standing six feet or more from others, it’s difficult to sing in tune.  People wearing glasses tend to find them fogging when trying to breathe, let alone sing, with masks, making reading music impossible.  And singers, and their audiences, are suffering from the lack of socializing unique to music.

I have friends, some of who are among the finest directors and musicians in America, who have been without income for a year.  Some choirs, even those that have existed for decades, have been disbanded, and it’s unlikely they’ll ever recover.

I understand all too well the damage the governmental overreaction to the virus has caused. Mrs. Manor and I have had the virus.  The arts are essential to a healthy society, not just for musicians, but for everyone whose lives are enlightened by music.

I may give the school district a few points for at least trying, but I’d give them more for being Americans, for throwing off tyrannical and unnecessary restrictions on liberty, and telling the virus hysterics and would-be government tyrants not only no, but hell no.  It’s long past time to cowboy up and ride like free men and women.