You start a new project with good intentions. There are ambitions, promises, and hopes of rejuvenating your website. The next thing you know, you’ve spent a month of disbelief at home in the middle of a pandemic, worried about elderly loved ones, family and friends with asthma or immune deficiencies, and just a little bit about yourself. Meanwhile, your whole country is living in fear of a complete and total financial collapse. In the United States, we were already living a completely unsustainable way of life before we ever saw headlines reading “Novel Coronavirus” or “COVID-19.” The virus and our government’s inept response has exposed the raw nerves of all of our broken systems to the world: the failure of unfettered capitalism, a healthcare system that is tied to employment and politicians that care more about their own finical interest than they do about the health and well being of their constituents.
While certainly we need to hold our elected officials to higher standards, I would also like to take this time to reflect deeply on some unsustainable habits, selfishness and complacency in my civic and personal life. Sure, with great power comes great responsibility. But I also believe there are many ways – both big and small – that we all contributed the place we find ourselves in, dangling over an existential cliff at what seems like the end of the world. So, since I’ve got some extra time on my hands, I would also like to share my “Playlist for the Apocalypse” with you: 15 tracks to play while we watch watch the world burn, duck the flames, and hope for the best.
Several of these songs are from the 1960’s, another time of great unrest and upheaval in the US and around the world. Barry McGuire’s “Eve Of Destruction” is the first on the list. My mom was a little bit obsessed with the end of the world. When I was a small child, she read the book of Revelation to me for bedtime stories. So it makes sense that she loved this song so much, with its bleak outlook and allusions to the Bible.
And it’s a song for our time as much as it was a song for 1965. It’s both amazing and sad how much the social anxieties of 1965, sound like those of 2020: War, fear of Nuclear proliferation, senators that refuse to pass desperately needed legislation and policy reform, fear of Communism, and good ‘ol American made, home-cooked racism. Does any of this sound familiar?
In the coming days, I’ll share some of my thoughts, questions and observations about how we got here. The “City on a Hill,” the country that goes about its business on the world stage (almost entirely unchecked) occupying, bombing and sanctioning our neighbors in the name of freedom and democracy has always been slow to change, eager to concentrate power and wealth among an ever decreasing number of people, and prone to fail the most vulnerable people on the margins of its society. The present state of insanity that we find ourselves in did not begin with the election of Donald Trump. Nevertheless, here we are in a country with vast amounts of wealth, full of brilliant minds and access to some of the world’s most amazing technologies and we are leading the way in confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus and deaths related to COVID-19, the vicious respiratory disease caused by the virus.
Meanwhile, we have a cartoonishly outrageous and crude president spreading misinformation, encouraging militia groups, offering dangerous off the cuff interpretations of scientific data and holding what amounts to daily televised rallies during a crisis in the midst of an election year. To his credit, he is likely, at least marginally, more intelligent and politically savvy than mainstream media corporations like CNN and MSNBC make him out to be. And he’s also more of a populist than the truly fascist GOP establishment. But none of that makes him a good person and there were certainly more than enough egregious speech and behavior – prior to his administration’s mishandling of the virus – to make him unfit and unqualified to be President of the US. And he is certainly not the valiant defender of American values from an imaginary bygone era that FOX, Rush and all the right wing media make him out to be.
But the Decrepit National Centrists are not offering the American people much hope or change in this dark hour. A few years ago, I thought most progressives would have agreed that as long as systems of systemic oppression are in place all of us who benefit from those systems in some way – big or small – share the burden of the guilt until we eradicate such systems. Now it seems like as long as there is a D in front of the name, Democrats will do anything to defend their status quo, Wall Street appeasing, Centrist (read Reagan era Republican) candidate. In the case of Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden, it seems that means defending systems of oppression and becoming apologists for rape culture. I guess people really do become what they hate. But I heard somewhere that darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that:
Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace,
And you tell me over and over and over and over again my friend,
You don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction.