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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Paxton’

Before the election, I made a personal promise to avoid immersing myself in the results.  This does not come easily for me – not only am I passionate about the causes I believe in, but I’m also a political junkie, born and raised in the Washington DC suburbs.  I follow every horse race and analyze the moves; if any networks would like to bring me on as an occasional commentator, I believe I’d be good at the job.  I’ll even get myself a pair of analo-glasses.

But, given my stands on the issues, I knew I’d probably be mostly depressed by the results of last night’s election, so I told myself I would stay away from the news.

Thus far, I have done a rotten job.  All right, I didn’t watch cable TV, but I did stay up way too late checking results as they came in, dying just a little inside with almost every race.   As a result, I’ve been depressed, impatient, and generally grumpy.  On Tuesday evening I caught myself snapping at people, and the results hadn’t even come in yet.  I’ve tried to keep a sense of humor – Tom Paxton’s Lament for a Lost Election has helped there (warning: not safe for work or children) – but when you’ve worked hard for something and cared deeply about it, it’s not that easy to just let go and accept that sometimes you lose.  Utah Phillips taught us to sing through the hard times and work for the good times to come, but he never said it would be easy.

As we navigate whatever emotional waters are for us tied up in current events, we need to remember that important as these events are, they are not all that is.  Ours is still a world of wonder and beauty no less than hardship and tragedy.  Remind yourself of the beauty.  Let it feed you.  If your soul is dry and parched, return to the well that nourishes you and drink deeply.

Go look at some art.   Listen to good music.  Sing.  Laugh.  Spend time with a child.  Read poetry.  Immerse yourself in spirit-filling prose.  Have lunch with a friend.  Walk into the November air and find the tree that has not yet lost quite all its leaves, but still shines in glory.  Discover the Autumn crocus and carry its image in your heart.  Replenish yourself, and greet the coming snows with gratitude.

There will be a time for the struggle; it has not gone away.  There will be a time to dedicate our energies once again to campaign for what we believe in.  Our work in that time will be far more effective if we come to it as whole people, spirits strengthened by the goodness around us.

Sometimes, the world can be hard.  Love it anyway.

Autumn crocus

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Today is the second anniversary of the mass shooting in Tucson, Arizona, in which six people lost their lives and Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head.  In the intervening years we have seen similar shootings at an Oakland, California college, a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, and, most horrifically, a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school.  Sadly, the actual list is far too long for me to recount – the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence lists over 70 mass shootings since Tucson, and that only tells a small part of the story.  Every day in the United States, gunfire kills 87 people – 8 of them children, 5 of those murder.  That’s over 100 Newtowns every year, and most of us don’t even notice it.

After the Newtown shooting last month several gun control opponents cited a mass stabbing in  China, correctly pointing out that no amount of gun control could not prevent violence or keep someone whose heart is bent on mayhem from committing it.  In doing so, they made the case for gun control far more effectively than I could have, because of the 22 children stabbed in that assault, not one died.

Guns do not cause violence, it is true – but they make it far more deadly and dangerous.  Suicides attempted with guns do not allow for second thoughts.  Violence committed with guns – especially with automatic and semi-automatic weapons – kills.  Too often it kills the innocent.  I understand the desire for freedom, for protection, for recreation.  I understand that the overwhelming majority of gun owners are decent, law abiding people.  But 2000 dead children every year is too high a price to pay.

It is also true that gun bans will not by themselves immediately fix the problem.  Our laws have been so lax, for so long, that the guns are readily available for those who would obtain them illegally.  Buy back programs help, but it will take a long time to solve the problem we have created for ourselves.  In the meantime, licensing can help, waiting periods and background checks can help, keeping the most dangerous guns limited to sporting facilities can help, and education can help.

Tom Paxton often writes what he calls “short shelf life songs” – songs in response to world events that he doesn’t expect to be relevant once the news cycle has shifted.  Two years ago he wrote “What If, No Matter” in response to the shooting in Tucson.  Sadly, the song remains all too relevant.

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