Election reflections, Beatle-inflected
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- The Beatles in musical context, 1963-1965 - December 1, 2016
Like many Americans, I’ve found this week emotionally exhausting. In the aftermath of this election, blogging about the Beatles seems ridiculous, so I offer these reflections with the hope that they may be helpful. However angry we may be, may we return no one evil for evil. May these times make us stronger and more determined to oppose injustice with love, and not hate, in our hearts.
Because my mind remains an ill-disciplined jukebox apparently no matter what is happening in the world, I had lots of bits of songs in my head all this week. Music, like literature, is one of the things that can keep us sane, and four lines in particular kept replaying for me — one line each for each Beatle.
“Living is easy with eyes closed” — Lennon’s great line about fooling ourselves is one of my favorites. To me it’s a reminder that it’s tempting, when confronted with painful reality, to disengage. But the price of doing so is too high for others and for ourselves. We have the responsibility to keep our eyes open, to bear witness and to act.
“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there” — this is from one of the Harrison songs I listen to most often. It’s a warning, to me, to be mindful about intentions and destination. We’re each responsible for deciding what we value, how we’re going to live in order to get there, and what kind of society we want to build. Only that kind of clarity makes progress possible.
“It don’t come easy” — Whatever Ringo meant by this line, it underlines for me that the work required in times like these isn’t simple or fast. If we’re honest, we have to start by examining ourselves. This election has made me realize that I haven’t fully understood how privileged my position as a straight white woman in this country is. And also that I have to speak out when I hear any group being demonized — immigrants, LGBT people, people of color, and yes, working-class white people. There’s no shortcut to unity; we’re going to have to cultivate compassion for people even as we stand up to bigotry and intolerance.
“When you find yourself in the thick of it, help yourself to a bit of what is all around you” — These lines of McCartney’s remind me that it’s always possible to pause in the moment, to resist reacting self-righteously and thus feeding the forces that divide us. Such a pause opens the possibility of confronting wrongs with a resolve that is free of hostility. It can also help us remember that we are not alone, that around the world there are millions pursuing justice and understanding.
I feel broken by the aftermath of this election. As I seek to understand and take action, I’ve found Buddhist teacher Gil Fronsdal’s words especially helpful. In this talk, which you can stream for free, he offers a perspective on finding insight and strength in these times. He’s eloquent on the need to slow down, dig deep, and plant seeds of real change. May each of us, and all of us, find ways to do so.