Don’t Be Afraid: We’re in This Together

You may be scared right now. Or feel gripped by anxiety. Or responding to all of this by becoming deeply cynical about this country or the political process or your fellow Americans. Or maybe you’re feeling overwhelmed with a sense of impending doom.

Just remember this: you are not alone. We’re in this together.

A lot of people share your fear and/or anxiety right now. Anxiety about the next four years is real. But it’s not something you have to go through alone.

Talk to friends. Talk to your family. Join a group. Find a constructive way of coping. (And if you feel like you can’t, consider seeking the help of a mental health professional. It’s OK. It’s become a very popular option since Election Day. You’re not alone and there are people to help you through this. Sometimes we all could use a little help, right?)

Let’s respond to this by becoming us again. Not just connected on the internet, but in real life. Strengthen your connection with your friend, family, and the groups & organizations that matter to you.

Let’s form new groups and build new things…and leave the haters wondering why the hell we’re still smiling.

To borrow a phrase from a wise woman I know, let’s all be peaceful warriors.

Let’s figure out ways to:

A – Accept reality
C – Create a vision for the future
T – Take action

…it’s up to you to decide what those pieces – reality, the future, and action – mean…just as long as we take small steps to initiate progress.

Remember, America isn’t all that different than we were two months ago. America didn’t die on Election Night…and it’s not going anywhere.

This country isn’t just the government and the government isn’t just the president.

Sure, we’re in for a rocky road (possibly the understatement of the year), but democracy is messy…and it’s about to face its greatest test that it has faced in a while. Don’t get me wrong: it’s gonna be a strange four years.

But let’s respond with hope, optimism, and connection.

Let’s find the good people, music, books, and films…

And be our own lights shining through the darkness. This isn’t the apocalypse. It’s a chance for a new beginning.

Let’s treat people with kindness and respect. And start to understand what they’re going through…eventually understanding the arguments of those we disagree with so well that we can articulate their arguments as if they were our own.

Let’s help each other. And stand up for those that can’t stand up for themselves.

But first, tell yourself you’re going to be OK. Then tell yourself we’re going to be OK. Why? Because we’re in this together.

“We don’t need to be in our silos fighting for justice”

Some interesting lessons and reminders about

  • managing quick growth
  • investing in your community
  • taking the long view

from the Black Lives Matter movement in this Fast Company article.

“Our leadership is the people on the ground,” Tometi says. “We looked back at our history books and looked to our elders who shared with us lessons about what happens to organizations when all the decisions are made by one or two or three people. If something happens to them, the organization is defunct.”

What Makes Cities Work?

I’m a sucker for travel journalism. Even better when someone can connect the dots. This piece by James Fallows on what makes cities work is a must-read.

By the time we had been to half a dozen cities, we had developed an informal checklist of the traits that distinguished a place where things seemed to work. These items are obviously different in nature, most of them are subjective, and some of them overlap. But if you tell us how a town measures up based on these standards, we can guess a lot of other things about it. In our experiences, these things were true of the cities, large or small, that were working best:

  1. Divisive national politics seem a distant concern.
  2. You can pick out the local patriots.
  3. “Public-private partnerships” are real.
  4. People know the civic story.
  5. They have a downtown.
  6. They are near a research university.
  7. They have, and care about, a community college.
  8. They have unusual schools.
  9. They make themselves open.
  10. They have big plans.
  11. They have craft breweries.

Source: Eleven Signs a City will Succeed

To “nurture American creativity, to elevate the nation’s culture, and to sustain and preserve the country’s many artistic traditions”

The current state of the arts in this country is a microcosm of the state of the nation. Large, mainstream arts institutions, founded to serve the public good and assigned non-profit status to do so, have come to resemble exclusive country clubs. Meanwhile, outside their walls, a dynamic new generation of artists, and the diverse communities where they live and work, are being systematically denied access to resources and cultural legitimation.

Source: The National Endowment for the Arts at 50: Is the Future of Arts Funding a Positive One? – The Atlantic

What Can We Learn from Nashville about Building and Supporting a Music Community?

Looking forward to reading a new book, Beyond the Beat: Musicians Building Community in Nashville, which:

identifies the rise of three new types of musicians, or “artist activists,” who take a more active role in shaping their careers and communities: “enterprising artists” who are entrepreneurial and career-focused, “artistic social entrepreneurs” who combine music with a social mission to build community or maintain social spaces, and “artist advocates” who are remaking unionism for music and the arts (a few of whom are chronicled in the book). These three types of artist activists not only work to develop their own careers, but to support and help one another. In turn, they have created an inclusive peer community, strengthened the broader network of musicians, and bolstered the very fiber of Nashville and its music scene.

Also interested in reading about what the city of Nashville has done to support music:

Local public policy has sustained musicians and the industry in several ways. On the demand side, economic development has focused on music-themed tourism, museums, and festivals that attract consumers of music and related retail and hospitality services. On the supply side, the city has encouraged the development of affordable housing for musicians and other artists, as well as arts districts that provide studio, performance, and display spaces for performing and visual artists, and their fans.

Source: What Drives Nashville’s Music Industry – CityLab

On The Clash and Joe Strummer and the Birthday / Tribute / Benefit Show at The Middle East tonight

Banging this out on just a few hours sleep so bare with me.

“And so now I’d like to say – people can change anything they want to. And that means everything in the world. People are running about following their little tracks – I am one of them. But we’ve all got to stop just following our own little mouse trail. People can do anything – this is something that I’m beginning to learn. People are out there doing bad things to each other. That’s because they’ve been dehumanized. It’s time to take the humanity back into the center of the ring and follow that for a time. Greed, it ain’t going anywhere. They should have that in a big billboard across Times Square. Without people you’re nothing. That’s my spiel.” – Joe Strummer

When I was a kid growing up in VT, I just listened to whatever was on the radio – oldies when my mom was driving; country when my dad was driving; WEQX, an alternative rock station when that started up in the mid-80’s.

It was probably around that time that one of my friends played me The Clash, The Ramones, and the Sex Pistols.  (We were a little late to the party in Vermont.)

The Sex Pistols were raw and exciting, The Ramones were fast and fun, but it was the first Clash album that really took hold of me.  It was the combination of smart, socially conscious, occasionally political lyrics with those guitar / bass / drum sounds which sounded more urgent than whatever else I was listening to at the time.

“Career opportunities…the ones that never knock…every job they offer you’s to keep you off the dock. ” – The Clash

I later fell in love with Give ‘Em Enough Rope and London Calling, plus parts of Sandinista! and even some of the songs on Combat Rock.

I devoured those albums and collected everything I could.  They’re probably the only band whose albums I had on record, cassette, and CD.  I’ve had other favorite bands since, but they were the first.

“We aren’t particularly talented. We try harder!” – Joe Strummer

I have a lot of influences on how I lived my life and how I want to live my life in the future, but I’d have to include this band, The Clash, as one of them, which seems strange to say.

My takeaways were:
•    if you tried hard enough at something, you could do it
•    if you wanted to live your life treating people with fairness and respect, it’s possible
•    being into punk music and politics are not mutually exclusive
•    that punk rock doesn’t have to be dumb
•    that punk rock can mean being excellent to each other
•    that there are things in this life worth fighting for
•    that music can have power even if it’s just to give someone a voice
•    that you never stop learning
•    that anything is possible

I don’t think they said all of those things but that was the essence that came through in the music.

“It’s the best years of your life they want to steal” – The Clash

So tonight, we start what I hope will be an annual tradition.  The bands Stray Bullets, Far from Finished, Jason Bennett and The Resistance, and Dave Wells are going to be performing the songs of The Clash and Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, as well as some of their own, at The Middle East DownstairsDJ Krezner (Roots and Razors) is going to spinning tunes in between bands.

The proceeds will go to Strummerville, a foundation that Joe Strummer’s family set up after his passing.  The bands have put their time into this, I hope you can come by and support them.  It is Joe Strummer’s birthday today and I hope he’d be proud of what’s happening here tonight.

“The future is unwritten.” – Joe Strummer