Sing Your Songs

The last time I wrote a long form blog was to articulate why I was a supporter of Hillary Clinton and ally for women’s equality. Shockingly, the case for was defeated in favor of a rich, white con-man whose false promises appeal to the rage and fear generated by an ever changing world.

Election night of 2016 was a stunning moment. Looking back, I’m ashamed at my own response. I saw people openly weeping. I heard too many stories from those close to me about the hopelessness and hurt they were feeling. The glass ceiling was firmly back in place. Voter apathy was never more damaging. White nationalism was made mainstream. The thousand lies from a man who were not equal to the sin of one lie from a woman. The idol of the rich, white man (on both sides) was revealed as the real symbol of America – not the shining city of the hill that Ronald Reagan once so nobly described.

As someone firmly rooted in the Left, I have no problem saluting Ronald Reagan. Or George W Bush. Or George HW Bush. Or Mitt Romney. We’re not in a Left vs Right struggle now in America. We’re in the midst of a moral crisis in which we as a nation are deciding who we are.

Now, I want to be clear about something – it is now more than apparent that a hostile foreign power interfered in this election. We do not have a legitimate President at the moment. The office is filled but it is vacant. He should not be recognized and how that story plays out is a long way from over.

But the Russian interference does not take away from the rampant “fear of the other” on the side of the right. Nor does it take away from the exceptional privilege on the left. To put the needs of a progressive ideology over the needs of the many pretty much cancels out said ideology.

So who are we? What are we doing?

Election night when they called Florida for Trump, it felt like the death blow. The path to victory was pretty murky after that. Like a lot of folks when dealing a befuddling question, I took to social media. I went on to facebook and wrote something along the lines of:

“OK, if he wins, what do we do?”

Despite being a scatter-brained creative who likes to color outside the lines and fill his blog with typos, I’m blessed with a healthy sense of pragmatism. Yes, I know how oxymoronic that sounds but that’s where I like to live. I would have no success in the arts if I didn’t have a strong sense of practicality.

So what do we do?

It’s late June, 2018. The election has only become more stunning. The unthinkable nightmare is the new normal. I cannot believe he’s lasted this long. I’m a lot more upset about him now then I was when he was declared victor. And with 2020 around the corner (for you younger readers – time really flies by as you older) it appears that he maybe there even longer.

In the almost 2 year timeframe, I and many others have marched in protest at the injustice and rampant corruption. I know people who’ve not only volunteered but have become involved. As in running – and winning! – in local elections. There is a blue wave. It is real. It is not future tense. It’s happening.

But is it enough? And does it quell the feeling of helplessness when children are screaming in cages for the simple fact that they were born a different color?

So what do we do?

It’s been an odd feeling for me. Recently, Murder Made Easy played at the Dances With Films Festival here in Hollywood. (We played the Chinese Theatre – I mean, HOLY SHIT) I had the great fortune of meeting a slew of great filmmakers. They had noble stories of how to fix the world, confronting today’s problems, tackling inequality and breaking the injustice at its core.

And then they’d turn to me and say “What’s your movie about?” Sheepishly, I responded “well, it’s an old fashioned murder mystery.” At times it felt like one going to a civil rights protest but their main contribution was bringing the snacks for everyone.

However, everyone lit up. Smiles widened. When asked by the festival what I felt people should walk away from Murder Made Easy with I said simply, “Fun. Indie movies can be fun.” Several  of my fellow filmmakers concurred, telling me, “we need fun movies – especially today.”

Love letter to Agatha Christie aside, I do actually write stories which tackle the human condition, how we hurt each other as we help ourselves, despair, isolation, self-destruction. Those are things I like to write about. And again – it’s fun.

So for a few hours though, a movie can help us deal, can keep us sane, can help us catch our breath as we continue to say “no more” “enough” and “resist.”

We need to keep marching. We need to keep calling. We need to keep protesting.

And the artists out there – we need to sing our songs. I believe it was Johnny Cash who said after 9/11, an artist had to put pen to paper. Just to try to understand.

Our attention spans have become hyper-focused on the moment. Yes, we are in a national moral crisis. But it’s easy to forget we are in just the latest national moral crisis.

The DNC called me a few days after the election and told me that we are doomed without fundraising help. I told them, if we doomed, I’m not going to waste my money on a futile gesture. The poor fellow on the other side didn’t have much of response. His talking points were to point such an awful picture that people would scared into giving over money.

My experience has taught me that fear can be a terrible motivator. There is a strong argument agains that sentence but in this situation, I refuse to believe in doom. I’m not blind to the threat we’re under. I’m not turning away from the blatant racism that the US government is perpetrating at the border. And I’m not going to rationalize a single thing this administration has done.

But the path out, I believe, is through one of hope.

The more we believe we’re doomed, the more Putin has won. But the fact is we have a track record with some of this stuff.

We as a nation did not accept slavery. We fought our way out of that. Yes, massive prison reform is needed. John Legend sang his songs and is bringing attention to that.

The unrest we’re facing today kind of pales when compared to the 1960s. Sure, the hippies grew up to be the 80s Reagan’s and yes, red hats remind us that the desire to segregate remains strong. The marches must go on. And as we march we must remember – it was not a sense of “we’re doomed” that drove people across the bridge in Selma.

I didn’t defriend or block any Trump voters on facebook. I actually talked someone out of voting from Trump when I should them a speech from Trump where we said he would proudly eliminate her job. I get why many are turning their backs but I’m not sure that’s the answer. Nelson Mandela shook hands with his captors upon release from prison.

Sing your songs. Many who voted for him rationalized injustice, ignored racism and embraced their fears. Sing your songs. Let them know. You’ll be surprised how many will hear you.

It’s easy to feel like being creative is a waste of time. But look at many of your favorite artists and movies. I don’t need to see your collection but I know some if not many were inspired by times such as the one we’re in.

Sting sang about fields of gold but he also sang about the exploitation of the working class. “Brass watch, a check, maybe three weeks to live…”

Every look up the “Sunday Bloody Sunday” U2 sang about?

The heavy metal I grew up on featured some of the harshest criticism of war out there. And speaking of, the final episode of Blackadder Goes Fourth – a sitcom – is possibly the most powerful piece on World War I that I’ve ever seen.

Children are being ripped from their families. I’m seeing the new tax laws just brutalize people’s finances. Around the world, we are no longer being recognized by the allies with whom we defeated genuine evil.

Future generations are going to look back on these very days and ask “How?” Just as we do looking back on the insanity of slavery and the absurdity of segregation.

So sing your songs. We need them. Nope. It won’t fix everything. It won’t replace practical action like protest, volunteering and getting involved. But they will help.

We need to laugh. We need to hope. We need to be inspired. We need to counteract our worst ugliness with our purest beauty.

In pain? Sing your song – someone else in pain needs it. Badly.

Helpless? Sing your song – it will help someone else.

Hopeless? Sing your song – it will bring hope to others.

Sing your songs. They will drown out the vile hatred that comes screaming from under a red hat.

My signature for all my writing correspondences for a while has been “Keeping fighting the good fight.” It’s a phrase that can be traced back to the Bible. And I used it as an anthem of encouragement to my fellow writers as we all face times of rejection and self-doubt. It takes on a much more literal meaning nowadays.

So dear reader, we will talk more soon. Until then, keep fighting the good fight and sing your songs.

Below is one of oldest and dearest friends who’s been an inspiration to me, Genevieve, singing her song on one of the Sing for Hope pianos in New York City. Go on and give her page a like, then go sing your songs.

https://www.facebook.com/genevievemusicpage/videos/634820003545975/

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