I Turned Off The News

 

Yesterday, I made a conscious decision to turn off the news. Having watched the now ‘idle’ banter of prognosticators and candidates for the last year, the outcome in hand, I wasn’t excited about hearing any theory, any ‘told you so’ antics, or any patronage from the winning side of an ugly defeat. I told all my classes I was only going to listen to whales singing in the ocean in some New Age melody all week while I gathered my thoughts and wrapped my head around this bizarre political future of our country.

The night did not allow me to completely escape my thoughts though, and the sounds of our immensely serene mammals in the deep blue didn’t contain me as long as I’d hoped. I still felt this urgency to know, to wonder, to speculate just how we had come to the conclusion we had as a voting nation. That answer still evades me this morning; however, what I did see was the peaceful protests throughout the country with our new candidate. The protests hearkened me back to a different time in my life.

I remember in the  60’s seeing pictures of the Vietnam war protests. In a child’s eyes, these were real, these were pleading students and family and friends and co-workers all banding together to make a statement, the riots that would follow later with the civil rights protests, the ever changing climate of our nation. I recall watching all of this through the eyes of my older siblings. To me, these were powerful statements of change and I was a fortunate witness to democracy at its finest – freedom of speech, the right to protest, the right to have a valued opinion. Certainly with that came tragedy, the loss of remarkable leaders from Malcolm X to MLK Jr, to RFK, to so many more names that are part of that tumultuous history. I remember Kent State and wondering how it was, as a ten year old, that our nation could be so angry within our own borders, while thousands were dying in a fruitless war across the world.

We had no advantage of social media to give us instant results. We counted upon Walter Cronkite, ‘and that’s the way it is’ and followed with tears the scroll of lost names in Vietnam on that day, that was the immediacy of our connection to the world around us. The silent protest in our minds became the visible chants outside the White House gates as the protesters ramped up the pressure on LBJ to get our boys out of Vietnam – “Hey Hey LBJ, How many kids did you kill today?” followed years later by Richard Nixon and the ‘tricky dick’ accusations of secrecy and fraud that destroyed his presidency. Back then people were vocal, and as a kid, I watched as it seemed there were good reasons to fight for what we all believed was right.

In that different time, when race and equality were still on the mind of everyone, people began to fight together, and I watched secular groups like the KKK become less severe and threatening as our nation could recognize a holistic approach to life. In the 70’s books were written about ‘The Melting Pot’ a nation burgeoning with immigration becoming one, learning to live with one another and respect each other. Racism and prejudice still existed, but there was this seeming progression, this appearance of ‘love and respect’ that started to gain footing on so many levels. With the onset of so many different cultural mores we began to see a change in the landscape of our society.

The idea of ‘The Melting Pot’ has evolved today into more of a ‘mosaic’ as we gradually become aware of the value of culture, the beauty and elegance that each person in the frame of their own unique heritage brings to our American canvas. We have tried to take the time to appreciate those differences rather than destroy their integrity while lost in our own self-driven egocentric ideals. As a child I was motivated by a naive innocence to appreciate those pieces of our life that I could witness growing up. I wonder about the children of today, and how their exposure has perhaps changed, impacted, or effected their own perception of a modern, electronically driven society around them.

I wonder about the news, and what it is the media will find important as we now walk beyond the unprecedented electoral process that has for some turned their world upside down, and for others provided a voice of indiscriminate reaction that though maybe quieted in years past with active reasoning, today is suddenly harsh and overt and frightening. We live in a democratic society, so there can be no argument to suggest one person’s right to opinion ought be considered better than another’s; however, there is an element of respect and integrity that right now seems surely to hang in the balance.

So, as I observe our new style of protest in American society, just beyond a full day of electing a controversial candidate to the POTUS, I wonder about purpose, timing and decorum. Is protesting today that valuable in a time when we have already made a decision we cannot turn back on? For some, certainly that is the motivation for hitting the concrete, but for others I wonder if we have newer challenges ahead that can capture or channel our idealism. A friend of mine recently posted there is no more time for tolerance through the ideals of love and compassion, in his words, we need to ‘stand up RIGHT now.” I cannot argue with his passion, but I still do wonder about timing.

Perhaps our protest begins in six months, then we have seen a pattern to create a need for public awareness and change. Perhaps today we need to pay closer attention to the immediacy of our national decision, and recognize the hurt, the elation, the brusque reality of our choices demand a closer eye than simply arousing a formulated statement of disagreement.

Perhaps we do still count on ourselves as being the change we desire in the world around us. Ask a friend, see if they and another, and a friend of their own, a family member, a co-worker might join each other and together determine a time, quite likely in the near future to make a stronger more relevant statement, together.

Perhaps we might leave the news off for a few more days, and pay attention to our immediate surroundings.

“Homegrown Extremism”

“Homegrown Extremism” – President Obama

Really, it is difficult to argue a more stable and consistent response to a tragedy that confuses and impacts our lives as a nation. We did or did not know people directly. We did respond with our own theories and convictions of the reason for this tragedy. We were not there, so we didn’t experience first hand the true terror of this tragedy. We did in our own personal and private manner, experience the grief and pain of this tragedy. No one can question that. So now do we react? Or do we take pause – again – and begin to formulate a plan.

The only act we can do today is attempt to resonate a dialogue that helps – maybe not in this election cycle (a ludicrous reason), maybe not in this month, perhaps not this decade – continue the healing nature of recognizing how the human condition comes in a primary form far before the material gains of a party or biased way of thinking.

I choose personal faith, the serenity prayer, and hope –

(God) Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, wisdom to know the difference.

-the parenthesis are purposeful-

or perhaps this works instead …

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952

… finally, one of my mother’s favorite …

War Is Not Healthy For Children And Other Living Things – Lorriane Schneider

Check Your Need

Check your nails,

primp your hair,

fix your tie,

pull that food out of your teeth,

people die

~

Meet the boss,

play the silly fool,

smile to your strangers

walking by,

be sure we all can see your eyes,

people die

~

plan your life,

hug your animal

frolic in the springtime air,

plant your garden,

there’s more beyond the world you live,

people die

~

‘I read the news today, oh boy’

‘if you try sometime, you get what you need’

‘and you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack’

‘there’s a man over there with a gun in his hand’

‘stand up and be counted’

everything sounds so familiar and right when we lose!

~

for the years continue to climb,

lives begin and transpire

incidents define,

heart and soul and positivity decline

while we every day wake up to the morning news …

people still die.

~

© Thom Amundsen 2016 March

Lyrics

Beatles

Rolling Stones

Talking Heads

Buffalo Springfield

AC/DC

 

Evil Laughter

“I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to …” – A Day in the Life (Beatles)

Finish my lyrics with torment and greed.

Sickened by the lust of power desecrates

humanity as an intelligence run amok.

Who are we anymore, again, please reply.

I just heard a proclamation of horrific

stance, posture, attitude, built upon

resentment, that fashionable disease.

~

There is a piece of me remains preserved

for a sunny day, a better way to respond

to Evil’s grasp on our world of ignorance.

I wonder if I stepped outside and screamed

if anyone might really hear me beyond a visual

response to a crazy man in a psychotic state.

Would they listen to my words anymore than

they did when the aftermath of torture ended.

~

I stood in front of time watchful of my attention,

I sold my soul to the world beyond my own control.

I soiled my own physical reality with the fear of me.

I solved no matter of reasoning, no new influence

I stood stunned solemn – while the healing began.

~

I wonder sometimes who really gets it, or is that a choice,

knowledge mixed with pity and reasoning seems abrupt

when in a loss of life we are suddenly brought to arms,

we are living in a society of pain and agony,

we are testing freedom’s beauty within a state of

ignorance.

 

Yesterday

We read about it on the news, that they would tell us,

back then in the wired age,

we didn’t really have to wonder otherwise,

we knew they were dying,

we saw the pictures of the massacre

of innocent lives with the bombs dropping,

little kids watching with eyes wide open,

unable to see their peer’s bodies being split apart

by the impact of war.

We watched as our parents cried,

occasional hushed conversations about someone’s …

a brother,

‘he was a lieutenant, just a shame’

they would say and shake their heads,

while the names kept scrolling across the screen.

I remember knowing then that people would die,

but they wouldn’t ever die near me

until you did.