I don’t like to get too political in this blog, but serious times call for serious thoughts.
As Ted and I were driving to our polling place to vote on Tuesday, SiriusXM observed Blackout Tuesday by halting programming for three minutes of silence. The silence was preceded by a brief statement from SiriusXM CEO, Jim Meyer, who said the programming pause included “one minute to reflect on the terrible history of racism, one minute in observance of this tragic moment in time and one minute to hope for and demand a better future.”
Following the three minutes of silence, three meaningful songs were played on Channel 6–the one we were listening to. The first song was A Change Is Gonna Come by Sam Cooke. It includes a repeating chorus with the words “It’s been a long, a long time coming / But I know a change gon’ come, oh yes, it will.” The second song was If I Can Dream by Elvis. The first verse asks “If I can dream of a better land / Where all my brothers walk hand in hand / Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true?” The third song was Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay by Otis Redding. The lyrics to this song express a sense of hopelessness, especially in these words: “I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay / Wastin’ time / Looks like nothing’s gonna change / Everything still remains the same / I can’t do what ten people tell me to do / So I guess I’ll remain the same, yes.”
Ted and I were so moved by the silence and the music that we remained silent until the DJ came back on the air in “normal” mode. We later commented that the silence and those selected songs gave us a sense of hope, a belief in the possibility of future change, and a feeling that it’s time and it’s possible for all of us to calm down and work together for the good of all.
We contrasted SiriusXM’s message to the feelings created by the words of our President, who tweeted “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” and urged mayors and governors to call for military assistance, to use “overwhelming force,” and to “dominate” in their efforts to bring order to their cities. He warned protesters in Washington, D.C. that they would face “vicious dogs and ominous weapons.” He was immediately contradicted by Washington, D.C. mayor Muriel Bowser who replied that there were no vicious dogs or ominous weapons, and was flagged by Twitter for “glorifying violence.”
Maya Angelou felt strongly about the power of words. She said “Words have the power to bring out the best, or the worst in you. To lift you up, or tear you down. With your words, you can either empower or disempower, both yourself and those with whom you share your words. And that is why it is so important to pay close attention to the words you use.”
No one in our country has a platform equal to that of our President. While our population deals with the many stresses caused by COVID-19, by the unconscionable murder of George Floyd by police officers who promised to “protect and serve,” and by the resulting protests in over 400 U.S. cities, it is, at the very least, distressing that our President chooses words to instill anger, divisiveness, and fear, rather than to call for calm, unity, and change.