Susan Kaplan-Williams
Editorial Essay
"God Bless Houston's Many Boom Boxes Too"

Published in the Houston Chronicle
October 14, 2001

Sitting at the red light at the corner of Richmond and Hillcroft, I’m listening to one of my favorite radio stations, KRTS, the classical music station, when my concerto is brusquely and obnoxiously interrupted by the sound of what I call an “audible hoodlum’s” car stereo boom box. Blaring and obnoxious it fills the owner’s car with window rattling vibrations and sends those vibrations across three lanes of traffic to bounce and rattle not only my windows but my nerves as well.


 A month ago I would have turned at looked at the young “audible hoodlum” and given him a glare that in mythological times would have turned him to stone. One month ago I did glare at these noise polluters knowing it had no effect as they consciously turned up the base on these massive sound systems.


 Today, though I still feel it is an invasion of my “right to listen to my choice of music/radio stations”, I don’t glare at them. In fact I wish I could talk to these young purveyors of rap and Latino beats, knowing that in a few years they won’t be able to hear me without the assistance of a hearing aid. But that is not what I would say to them – they’ve heard all that before. What I would tell them is this:


 While I don’t like or approve of their auditory misdeeds, I am very grateful they have the right to play their music, turn up the base and vibrate to their heart’s content. Today, here in this country, they can drive down Richmond 24 hours a day, seven days a week and feel safe knowing it is not a major crime for them to enjoy what I feel is intrusive and obnoxious. Yes, it is very irritating to my ears and causes me headaches, but I would feel an even greater ache in my heart if those rights were removed.


 This was brought home to me in no small measure when the attacks occurred on Sept. 11. It is now being brought home by our attacks on a country where women literally are not allowed to leave their homes; where people are given the death penalty for believing in different faiths; where music of any kind is strictly forbidden.


 Can you imagine a world without music? I can’t. Whether it’s a Tchaikovsky concerto, the latest pop hit, Clint Black singing his latest C&W ballad, a golden oldie, a faith-based hymn or the vibrant beat of hip hop and rap, it fills our senses, opens our minds and soothes our soul.


 Today, I sit in my car listening to my favorite tunes on the radio, and as a youngster pulls up alongside with his radio blaring, windows rattling, car shaking on its struts, I take a deep breath, say a quiet thank you for his freedom (and my freedom) and patiently wait for the light to turn green.


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