The Federal Government’s War on Musical Instruments

Flutes, Pianos, and Guitars so far…. Your tax dollars at work!

Before you whine about an airline temporarily losing your luggage, think of poor Boujemaa Razgui. The flute virtuoso who performs regularly with The Boston Camerata lost 13 handmade flutes over the holidays when a US Customs official at New York’s JFK Airport mistook the instruments for pieces of bamboo and destroyed them.

Virtuoso’s flutes destroyed by US Customs

U.S. customs officials last week destroyed 11 rare flutes by a respected Canadian musician who was returning home via New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. But the agency isn’t apologizing for the incident — it says the flutes were an ecological threat.

U.S. Customs Won’t Apologize for Destroying Musician’s Rare Flutes

On Aug. 24, 2011, federal agents executed four search warrants on Gibson Guitar Corp. facilities in Nashville and Memphis, Tenn., and seized several pallets of wood, electronic files and guitars. One of the top makers of acoustic and electric guitars, including the iconic Les Paul introduced in 1952, Gibson was accused of using wood illegally obtained in violation of the century-old Lacey Act, which outlaws trafficking in flora and fauna the harvesting of which had broken foreign laws.

In one raid, the feds hauled away ebony fingerboards, alleging they violated Madagascar law. Gibson responded by obtaining the sworn word of the African island’s government that no law had been broken.

In another raid, the feds found materials imported from India, claiming they too moved across the globe in violation of Indian law. Gibson’s response was that the feds had simply misinterpreted Indian law.

Interestingly, one of Gibson’s leading competitors is C.F. Martin & Co. According to C.F. Martin’s catalog, several of their guitars contain “East Indian Rosewood,” which is the exact same wood in at least 10 of Gibson’s guitars. So why were they not also raided and their inventory of foreign wood seized?

Now The Gibson Guitar Raids Make Sense

Shortly after 9/11, [Krystian Zimerman’s] piano was confiscated by customs officials at New York’s JFK airport, who thought the glue smelled funny. They subsequently destroyed the instrument.

Polish pianist stops show with anti-US tirade

Keep your government hands off of my wood.

There is a level of finesse, of concern, the accompanies the movement of things of rarity and beauty, that eludes those charged with protecting us from enemies, real and imagined. Whether they can’t be bothered, or just don’t understand, it ends with the destruction of something that their banal hands would never touch but for their wearing a uniform and badge.

And much like sufferers of Dunning-Kruger, they perform their job with such certainty of omniscience that they have no qualms about the destruction they do. It was absolutely necessary. They had no choice.

It’s heart-breaking to hear of things of rarity, of beauty, of significance being wantonly destroyed by the stupidest person in the room. It goes without saying that the stupidest person in the room never realizes that it’s him.

What’s curious is how easy it is to see when it’s a musical instrument destroyed by a moron, but how difficult it becomes, or at least excusable, when the target of this failure is a human being. Police, prosecutors and judges invariably project their sensibilities on the conduct of people whose lives and experiences are nothing like theirs, and yet they judge them by the measure of their own narrow lives.

No Better Than The Most Ignorant Agent


I Have a Dream


Forward! (But You Can’t Fix Stupid)

Unfortunately, it seems that the future Aldous Huxley predicted in 1932, in Brave New World, is arriving early. Mockery, truculence, and minimalist living are best, then enjoy the decline.

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