At the risk of sounding like Glenn Beck, I'm very disappointed with Maureen Dowd and The New York Times.
On Saturday, Dowd wrote an op-ed piece, called "Blowin' in the Idiot Wind," about how disappointed she was with Bob Dylan for not denouncing the communist dictatorship of China when ol' Bob played concerts in Beijing and Shanghai last week.
"Bob Dylan may have done the impossible: broken creative new ground in selling out," she wrote, saying that his offense was worse than Beyonce performing for Qadaffi's family or Elton John singing at Rush Limbaugh's wedding.
Playing those songs, she said, "wouldn't have been an appropriate soundtrack for the 2,000 Chinese apparatchiks in the audience taking a relaxing break from repression."
While it may be true that the Chinese government has launched its most aggressive crackdown on dissidents in decades and that freedom of expression is nonexistent, pinning it all on the drooped shoulders of a 69-year-old singer-songwriter is quite a stretch.
She made much of reports — unproven at this point — that Dylan submitted his setlist to Chinese officials for approval. Dowd wrote in scorn, "He sang his censored set, took his pile of Communist cash and left."
Disregard for a moment that Dylan hasn't performed "Blowin' in the Wind" or "The Times They Are A-Changin'" on many occasions in the last 30 years anyway. And disregard the fact that Dylan has spent the better part of 50 years trying to shed any notion of himself as a political spokesman.
Dowd undermined her own case by quoting at length from Dylan's memoirs. "I had very little in common with and knew even less about a generation that I was supposed to be the voice of," he wrote.
Precisely. What made Dylan a legend was his persistence in doing things the way he chose, no matter what his fans, the media or the music industry wished he would do.
At the height of his folk-music fame, he enraged fans by performing raucous rock and roll. A few years later, when The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were peddling LSD-influenced psychedelic music, Dylan's response was to release John Wesley Harding, an understated, acoustic album whose lyrics were heavily inspired by Old Testament parables.
A decade later, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior, became born-again and starting singing religious songs. He was ridiculed for that. A quote from a concert of that era sums up Dylan's frustrations: "Years ago they said I was a prophet. I used to say, 'No, I'm not a prophet.' They used to convince me I was a prophet. Now I come out and say Jesus Christ is the answer. They say, 'Bob Dylan's no prophet.' They just can't handle it."
Nobody necessarily expected him to record with Johnny Cash, George Harrison, Tom Petty or the Grateful Dead either, but he did. He's had his ups and downs over the course of 50 years in the spotlight, but Dylan will forever stand for iconoclasm, integrity and singular determination.
To criticize him for playing concerts in China and Vietnam is pointless. The man has played whatever songs he's wanted to play for decades. The songs he chose for those concerts were the same ones he's been playing for years now.
Leave all that aside. Let's say Dylan wanted to denounce the Chinese government from the stage and proceeded to talk about Tibet, the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre and the persecution of religious cults in China.
First of all, very few people would have understood him because very few members of the audience spoke English and also because he's Bob Dylan, whose mumble is legendary.
Second of all, and more seriously, what good would it have done? Does Maureen Dowd think that Bob Dylan's voice would rally billions of Chinese to take to the streets and overthrow the Communist government? Hardly anyone has heard of him there.
Dylan's voice in its prime couldn't stop the Vietnam War, the Cuban Missile Crisis or the assassinations of JFK and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the United States. Fifty years later and he suddenly becomes the conscience of the Peoples' Republic of China? Unlikely.
The Chinese government literally gets away with murder because nobody, especially the United States, can stop them. They have billions of people and thousands of nukes. Republican and Democratic presidents have both kissed China's ass for decades.
At this point, they have the financial leverage to shut our country down. We are powerless before their might. This isn't a good thing, by any means, but it's the truth.
Bob Dylan went to China, played a few classic rock songs and entertained a few thousand people. That's all. I only wish I had been there to see the shows.
Maureen Dowd should know better. The enemy isn't an old rock-and-roller. It's the un-American and anti-democracy movements in our own country — the Teabaggers, the Donald Trumps and such.
Liberals have got to become better at picking their battles more wisely.