Recently I was walking along listening to an audiobook. My book ended before my walk did so I switched over to the playlist of my youngest son’s music. It’s quite a playlist. He has posted a new song on the Internet every week for over seven years. There are 370 songs and listening to all of them would take almost eighteen hours. I always listen in the “shuffle” mode so it can be a long time before I hear a song repeated. Sometimes when I hear a song it’s as if it is new because I might not have heard it in a long time.

The first song to come up was an old one from January 23, 2012, “Is This The Shape of Things To Come?”  As I listened to the words, I was struck by how appropriate they felt at this moment in time. Was there anything that could be done to change the flow of events that have been so distressing to me over the last year? Some of the lines that moved me were:

 

Is this the shape of things to come?

Is this the ground we walk upon?

Is this the way we live and die and carry on?

Is this the day we hoped would come?

Change what you would. What’s the use?

 

The unmistakable truth:

We’d do it all the same

 

And somebody out in America

Has found a new belief to push their heart away

And who would have thought

That the shape of things to come

Would just reveal the things that never change

 

In the verbiage that goes with the song he had written:

This week’s song was written in anticipation of an unknown future. The words are a play on the old concept that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Is the shape of things to come the same as the shape of things as they are now? Do people change? Do fortunes change? Does the country change, or are we merely playing out roles in a repeating history on a loop? Can anything or anybody ever change if we are too cynical to believe that it can?

Before I could completely finish my consideration of this old favorite in the context of current events, I was started by the words of the next song. It was as if some digital god had put together a playlist with a message and funneled it to me for my enlightenment. The second song was a more recent production from the Monday after Donald Trump’s election, November 16, 2016. It was appropriately entitled “Mourning In America.”

 

It’s morning in America

Anyway, can’t we all sleep in today?

‘Cause all the safety pins and words we say

Aren’t even nearly making up for this mistake

And I wonder, are we strong enough

To stop the coming war?

Is there love enough in our righteousness

To fathom what it’s for?

 

We’re in mourning on the subway train

Heading back and forth forgetting from which way we came

And our silence is a bitter frost

Its crystals spreading over every love we’ve lost

And I wonder, have we lost enough

To stand for what we’ve got?

Is there love enough in indignity

To move us from this spot?

 

It’s sunset and I break my stride

And ponder all the fighters who have lived to die

And if anger seeks revenge

I’ve said let love proclaim that justice must be done instead

And I wonder, have we heart enough

To brave the coming storm?

We must love enough

And in loving so decipher what it’s for

 

In the accompanying essay he explains what doesn’t need an explanation:

We have a winner and now we must make sense of the new future ahead of us. This is a mopey song, and a self-indulgent song, because I wrote it as much for therapy as to make any kind of commentary. At face value, this song says, “all we need is love” but I’m not naive enough to believe that’s true. What we need is to do a whole lot of hard f—— work. The question at hand is what the emotional source of our work ethic will be.

Anger has gotten the better of me since Trump announced his candidacy, because it was pretty obvious that win or lose, a whole lot of people were going to grok to his hideous message. We watched that happen in a way that eclipsed everyone’s expectations, apparently even the president-elect’s. Hillary campaigned on a slogan that said “Love Trumps Hate.” Trump understood that no press is bad press, at least where he is concerned, and that putting his name in one of her slogans only fed the ball back to his side of the court. The thing of it is this: love didn’t trump hate, because too many of us lefties were lashing out at our political opposites in anger, instead of building a movement on love.

Anger is good for seeking vengeance. Love is good for seeking justice. That’s why vengeance beat justice in this round. We tried to fight for justice with anger and indignation, and love would have worked better. So marshal your love and put it to work in your community. Put it to work by organizing. Put it to work by demonstrating. Put it to work by running for office. Put it to work by writing letters. Put it to work by opening your doors to your neighbors. Put it to work by listening. Put it to work.

And yes, I know my heart is bleeding through my shirt as I write that. That’s because it’s broken. I’ll tell you one thing, though. It’ll never mend through anger. Only love can mend a broken heart.

If you have read many of my posts recently as my pot began to boil over the impending tax bill, you may realize that this was a sermon I needed to hear. I’ve tried to talk myself into acceptance and understanding. I believe all of the economists who say the promises dished up with the bill are wrong. I’ve talked about the respect that is necessary to inject into the discourse at every level from the local to the national level, but often I can’t hold that position in my mind for more than the few minutes till the next invasion by a presidential tweet or some disgusting comment from Mitch McConnell or Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

I was feeling really strange after getting these two messages from a cosmic source that seemed intent upon lifting me out of my anger about the upcoming Alabama Senate election and the way the president seems to wear a teflon coating when it come to the injustices that he continues to dispense as “the leader of the free world” while John Conyers and Al Franken go home in disgrace. Just as those thoughts were forming, the cosmic disc jockey that was selecting the tunes I was to hear spun another thought provoking piece my way. The song from October 3, 2016 was sage advice entitled “Authority Figures.”

He explained his intent:

I have pondered lately that authority figures in our collective consciousness are often used for dual contradictory purposes, both somehow working toward the same end. In our discourse, a figure of authority is both that which we rail against to justify our own actions, and that which we revere in order to legitimize our prejudices. In either case, our gods, our government, our books, and our founding documents exist as containers for whatever feelings we’re having about our own power or lack thereof. External power either makes us feel bigger or smaller, but in both instances we can use it to avoid having to rationally engage notions of ownership over our own thoughts or deeds.

If that all seems like a reach, or perhaps lacks clarity amidst boiling pretense, I would refer you back to the song. It all makes more sense there.

I will warn you to listen or read realizing that the major literary mechanisms at work are sarcasm and irony.

 

Oh what’s the Bible say about

Watching the evening news

Thinking anti-social thoughts?

 

Oh and the Constitution says

I can say whatever I want

To anybody I please

 

So I’ve got strong opinions

About the things you do

 

Oh what’d your mother say about

Making a face like that?

It’ll stick, then what’ll you do?

 

Oh and the 10 Commandments say

That you can’t do anything right

And that God is a dirty word

 

So I’ve got strong opinions

About the things you do

And if you’ve got your own opinion

I really don’t care

I honestly don’t

 

What does your weapon do for you

When you often disagree

With the strangers that you meet?

 

And what does a bullet mean to you

When you hold it in your hand

With your knuckles turning white?

 

So I’ve got strong opinions

About the things you do

And if you’ve got your own opinion

I really don’t care

I honestly don’t

Have I just been fooling myself into thinking that what I think makes any difference? What is one person to do in response to the mix of injustices and the occasional opportunities that flow from the authorities that make the decisions that seem to control the future? Do we shake our fist and just hunker down? It feels like living with a chronic disease that impairs every movement and discounts every pleasure.

I was disappointed when the fourth song played broke the string. I was a little dizzy from the experience, and a good strategy, until I made it home, was just to keep my eye on the footing to avoid slipping on the patches of ice that were planted like land mines between where I was and my door. I had received more than enough enlightenment on the road for one day. Could it all be so simple as that I just needed to trust more that there was a wisdom afoot among all of us that would eventually get us back on track to making progress toward a more equitable and just America? I hope so. I hope that is not magical thinking.

During the next two days after “the walk” my mind drifted back toward its usual routine. I tried my best not to think about how awful it would be for Roy Moore to win in Alabama. I did not expect a Democratic victory in the reddest of all states. Doug Jones’ victory was surely a miracle. I’ll leave the analysis of what it means to the talking heads. For me it kept the flame of hope alive that maybe we had hit the bottom and were beginning the slow climb out of the doldrums of the last year.

I am grateful for every unexpected gift. I wondered if it is unrealistic to ask for a third miraculous experience? I am so hoping that the tax bill will not pass.  At this writing it seems that the bill will pass and with it the “mandate” will be killed.  Killing the mandate is expected to cost 13 million Americans their access to care. If  the tax bill does not pass, I will surely have my third miracle. If I can’t see the tax bill defeated, I  would be happy to accept renewal of the Children’s Health Insurance Plan as a substitute. I don’t understand how we can justify passing a bill during the holiday season that will end the mandate and cost thirteen million Americans their healthcare coverage and drag our feet on CHIP which covers nine million children while voting tax windfalls worth hundreds of millions of dollars to billionaires. This law will pull America down to a new low of sacrificing the vulnerable to increase the affluence of those who have more than they need, but not as much as they want. It is an abomination built on self serving lies. Real people will be hurt. It’s time for one more miracle.

 

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