I write this in our moment of collective of lamentation. Once again, innocent lives are felled by mindless violence. It makes no sense really, the brokenness of the world. Where there is abundance for all, humanity’s default mode seems to be avarice as we let malice prevent collective progress. Flashing graphics and breaking news splinters the soul as we are told of bullets that cut short the lives of over 50 people. One of the most horrific of mass murders, yet we treat these things as water cooler talk.
It would be expedient to blame one factor or another and jump to talking points in order to politicize this issue. But perhaps we should take a break from injustice hunting and realize that his is more than politics and understand that the source of these social ills is way beyond partisan pettiness. What happened in Las Vegas is not an outlier but the rule. The tragedy is only grabbing our attention due to the sheer number of lives eradicated. Yet, each night—from Chicago to Boise and beyond—countless lives are taken by violence and bloodshed. We shed tears when the victims are many yet never notice when lives are nullified in ones and twos. But is pain any less or grief felt by loved ones meaningless when death takes place in drips instead of spates.
It just happens that this mass carnage broke loose at a country song concert. But the venue is inconsequential as is the shade of the people whose bodies stacked up as they ran from bullets. What matters is that people who bleed just like us bled and their families who shed tears just like ours would shed tears are currently crying in distress. In the age of market segmentation and customized information, we have grown distant from each other separated by technology and algorithms. But human suffering is human suffering whether the song is bluegrass, hip hop or jazz. We lose focus on this fact when the world keeps presenting injury through the blinders of exclusive justice.
We have grown accustomed to politicians mouthing concern and society feigning care only for the outcry to dissipate into silence—until the next outrage takes place. I am not preaching, I include myself in this criticism for I too partake in the hue and cry against injustice from afar as I ignore those who are broken at my feet. Life has taught me to be more mindful, to not neglect people who suffer near me in silence, yet it’s part of the human psyche to overlook the riches of misery that seem omnipresent. I understand why we do this; I realize why we check out instead of gazing into the navel of this world’s never ending distresses. I’s survival instinct; depression will kiss those who stare into sadness for too long.
But I think the problem is that we expect change immediately and in a big bang. In this quest for instant impact and a microwave revolution, it is disheartening when the ills of the world seem like they will never end. What if the solution is not finding the solution at all? Bear with me, let me explain. We are trained as a society to be result oriented, but justice is not a result as much as it is a process. What if we just do our part and leave the rest to that which is greater than us? The revolution is not an event, we can keep waiting for it to be broadcast on TV—it will never be aired. The revolution we want is more like an evolution; injustice is bent toward the arc of justice with small acts of kindness and gestures of togetherness.I was watching a video last night where Chris Hedges was talking about fascism (view video at the bottom). Let me say from the outset that Hedges is one of my favorite journalists. In a world where journalism has truly gone to the dogs, Hedges is a beacon of light in my book. He was discussing how corporations are destroying the world and the imperative behind reclaiming our nation from the hands of plutocrats. Yet, as powerful as his speech was, the most moving part—and the part that brought tears to my eyes—was when he started talking about a guy who was a product of rape who wrote a letter to his mother from jail.
I’ll let you hear the story that induced broken water from my eyes for yourself but I’ll give you a little snippet. If you go to the video below and start at 1:15:00, you will hear Hedges talk about a student in prison that he was teaching named Timmy. Hedges recounts Timmy’s song when he wrote a letter to his mother explaining how he took the blame for a crime he did not commit in order to save his half-brother. I will not ruin the experience for you but be forewarned—have some Kleenex near you when you start watching this video. Timmy is part of a collective of inmates who Chris Hedges taught and befriended. This is what I mean by making a difference in small gestures; letting people who are bracketed by darkness know they too are human will do more than a million protests and hashtags.
Click on the picture below to be directed to the webpage for Caged, a play that Chris’s students are working on together. Chris Hedges is doing all he can to make this play produced and get this song heard. We too can do our part to help people who are trying to help themselves and in the process be a voice and example for others. Upwards of 75% of ex convicts end up going back to prison because society makes it all but impossible to get a second life once people are marked as felons. We can make a difference and in the process alleviate a social ill. Join me in using social media to let the songs of these men muffled by cages be heard by spreading awareness of their project. You can find out more about the campaign that Hedges is backing and the men who are behind Caged by visiting their Facebook page (click here to like Caged the Play).Those who read my work on a regular basis know that the one theme in my writing is that of universal justice. Just because the people who are behind this play are mostly “African-American” should not be seen as catering to limited demographic. The issue of mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex is one that transcends race, gender and the endless ways we are made to shatter ourselves as a nation and a people. When a life is broken, our concern should not be contingent on that person’s skin, chromosomes or ideology. Pain is a universal language, though we experience hardship differently, we all go through it regardless.
Put aside beliefs and dogmas and unite around what we all have in common. Stop monopolizing pains and residing in separable grievances and realize that we are all in this together. Our pains are not the lesser when we accept that others have pains too; in fact our wounds gain meaning when we listen to others who hurt too. Listen to the songs of humanity not through hues but through the harmonies that we all share. Imagine humanity as a symphony with countless different instruments; our differences bleed away when we unite to make music. Our pains bleed away when we unite to hear each other’s stories.
I pray for the victims of Las Vegas and those who perished. May the families of the dead grieve and emerge on the other side remembering their loved ones with their hearts healed. May the survivors mend fully and not bear any burdens of guilt or remorse. For the rest of us, may we cherish each moment and not take life for granted for our time here on earth is but a mist. There is no way to make sense of these acts or the actions of madmen; but if there is a silver lining in any of this, may we find it by understanding our collective struggle and realizing our tethered lives. I hope we take a moment to reflect and not use this most horrific of acts to advance politics but advance justice sans identity or ideological differences.
These are the stories that bind us. Painful experiences are common to all. We are all sojourners in this world trying to make better of our lives. It seems few know our journeys and fewer yet understand our sorrows. Except we all share these hardships; we all struggle even as we smile for the sake of others. Chris Hedges said at the end “you can’t be whole until you find your song”. Don’t let your song be pianississimo, join your music with others and share your notes—together our burdens will be lessened. We can’t lessen injustice by ourselves, but together we can at least lessen the pains of those near us. One by one, as we join hands with others, the change we all want might eventually be delivered through songs. #FindYourSong
None is greater than the other; we are all the greater when we love and help one another::
If you appreciate the message behind this write up and you too want to share your song with others, share this article on social media using #FindYourSong. Make sure to follow @ChrisLynnHedges and @CagedTheDoc on Twitter.
Check out the Chris Hedges interview that inspired this article, if you want to hear the specific part I mentioned above, fast forward to 1:15:00 and listen.
Check out the Ghion Cast below where I discuss how we can overcome tyranny and oppression through unity citing stories ranging from Ethiopia, Haiti to America and how they all overcame repression through togetherness.
This is me sharing my song to the world, I am sure you have songs like this too. Peace and God bless us all.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Lij Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Lij Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.