Search

It's time for a change, and we need to talk

Buffalo, Uvalde, Unity in America and Lightning Crashes


"I can feel it coming back again / Like a rolling thunder chasing the wind / Forces pulling from the center of the Earth again / I can feel it." -Live



 

Knee-deep in the ruins


I sit on the front patio, alone. The clouds part after days of haze and rain. I smell Gardenias and Verbena. I look out across the treetops. I feel the sun on my skin and a breeze, hot and soft. It is a beautiful Saturday, and everything is perfect and awful, blessed and cursed. I keep telling myself and now I'm telling you:


“Do not give up hope when the world seems scary. We can make it through this time!”

I’d hoped to deliver this newsletter weekly. Perhaps its title was prophetic, because after only a month I’ve scrapped two issues to write about new tragedies and new ruins.


There is so much to say about the killings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas. My face hurts. I’ve squinted too long at the words on the TV ticker; my sinuses are full and inflamed from crying for the grieving families.


It wasn't always this way.


For years, Americans plotted progress on a continuously upward trajectory. Bad stuff happened, yes. But we worked through it all, or at least some of it. Then the internet and social media began to fragment society, mass shootings kicked into high gear, and political division took over. Although statistics suggested that despite politics, humanity was in better shape in 2019 than ever before, the last few months of that year were ominous, even before news of a novel coronavirus arrived. While attending Sting’s joyful Rainforest Concert in NYC in December 2019, I had an inkling it might be the last cultural gathering I'd experience in a world that resembled the 20th century.


I was right.


Six weeks into 2020 my heart rhythm changed after a brief illness and COVID-19 rampaged through dozens of countries, ushering in 1 million U.S. deaths over the next 24 months. On top of the health threat, unarmed Black people were killed by police, there was the contested presidential election, insurrection, extremism, disinformation, botched Afghanistan exit, Russia's war on Ukraine, inflation, and now unrelenting existential fatigue which makes it difficult to leave the house or interact with other people without a venti-sized caffeinated drink, N-95 face masks, and hand sanitizer.


Then this month, more massacres.


I keep telling myself and now I'm telling you:

“Do not give up hope when the world seems scary. We can make it through this time!”

If you or someone you know is suffering severe anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide or of harming yourself or others, help is available right now: 800-273-8255. Call 24/7 and you will be connected to care.


 

The time is ripe for change


The horrific Buffalo hate crime at a Tops Friendly Market on May 14, 2022 saw 10 murdered and three others injured; the Robb Elementary School shooting in Uvalde on May 25, 2022 slaughtered 19 children and two teachers with a weapon manufactured by a Georgia company. Both massacres were carried out by lone 18-year-old gunmen.


It is unbearable to imagine the impact of the loss of so many lives.


Pearl, Ruth, Katherine.


Grandmothers gone.


Alithia, Alexandria, Amerie Jo.


Daughters and sons mourned.


Parents running into a school to rescue their kids after being handcuffed and tased.


The heroic survivor, 11-year-old Miah, who called 911, smeared blood on herself, and played dead.


The police would not breach the door until 12:50 p.m. The bungling and cover-up and so much information we do not know.


And yet ...


I keep telling myself and now I'm telling you:


“Do not give up hope when the world seems scary. We can make it through this time!”


I believe in hope.


I believe we can unite.


Most of us want the same things: safety, health, and peace. We need to figure out a way to come out of our separate corners in this country, a country where guns and religious figures are glorified with equal zeal, where toxic digital culture drives a mental health crises for young people, where pornography and violent nationalism are rampant, where women have increasingly fewer rights, and where soon 70 percent of U.S. Senators will represent 30 percent of the population.


We must act: We can march, make donations, contact our lawmakers, and vote, but it’s going to take more than that to unite and create lasting change. We must communicate with our friends and family NOW to find common ground and agree on sensible measures to drastically reduce gun deaths in America (and to tackle so many other issues, as well). That means talking to people outside of our bubbles. This country is worth improving and we must not despair. Brighter days are ahead if we work together.


Please share your thoughts. Text me (if we're friends). Or you can Email me here.


If you or someone you know is suffering severe anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide or of harming yourself or others, help is available right now: 800-273-8255. Call 24/7 and you will be connected to care.

 

Songs to cope with loss


Music helps pull us through tough times.

After the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in 2012, I took action but also holed up for weeks with Marvin Gaye’s 1970 album What’s Going On. The title song is my favorite, a poetic rumination on God’s children (and mothers, fathers, and brothers), our abuse of the earth and each other, our costly wars and ecological destruction.

After the Buffalo and Uvalde murders, I reached for that same album again. I played it, but this time What's Going On did not address my frustration and sadness.

Luckily, another song — one written from the perspective of disaffected youth trying to understand the the cycle of birth and death and pain and sadness and joy and elation—worked. I stumbled upon a performance of Live’s 1994/95 hit “Lightning Crashes” when I was searching for a concert on YouTube, and it took me back to a time when radio instantly brought people together.

I was very familiar with Live in the early part of their career and published one of the first national pieces about their second album, Mental Jewelry, in early 1992. By spring 1995, I had seen the band perform a half-dozen times and attended their Athens, Georgia show on May 3 at Legion Field two weeks after the Oklahoma City bombing. A radio DJ in Oklahoma City had remixed "Lightning Crashes" with news reports and first responder audio, and it was transformed into a theme of bravery and overcoming tragedy, forever linked to the image of a fireman carrying a bloodied baby from the rubble of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. I remember singer Ed Kowalczyk defending the song when he introduced it onstage in Athens with Live; this was a band of 23 year-olds whose music suddenly belonged to the country and the world. Three days after that concert, their album, Throwing Copper, topped the Billboard 200.

I’ve since lost touch with Live, but today “Lightning Crashes” still resonates with a life force.

Are there current songs making a similar impact after this month's tragedies? Or maybe a TikTok hit that aims to bring people together? Let me know.

Have a safe week, and stay strong. Change is coming.

One more time, I’ll tell myself and tell you:

“Do not give up hope when the world seems scary. We can make it through this time!”

If you or someone you know is suffering severe anxiety, depression, thoughts of suicide or of harming yourself or others, help is available right now: 800-273-8255. Call 24/7 and you will be connected to care.