However, that is not to say that I have been paralyzed by the frightening results of the election. If anything, during these past two weeks I have tried to keep myself busier than ever, in part to avoid having to sit for too long with the storm of emotions currently raging in my soul. As I alluded to in my last post, employing a coping mechanism I learned from my parents, one thing I have done is throw myself even more deeply into my work with Atlanta Studies, working more hours than my fellowship technically requires but enjoying the many small but satisfying accomplishments of the work. At the same time, I have also increased my political activism - something I certainly didn't learn in my liberal but politically quiescent home - which among other things has included calling those representatives I recently voted into office every day on a variety of different issues (including most prominently the appointments of professionally unqualified anti-Semites, Islamophobes and white supremacists to major positions in the White House) and taking part in a non-violent protest march this past Wednesday.
But even with all this increased activity keeping me busy, in my down moments I still find myself "unable to concentrate, overwhelmed once more and grasping for an answer . . . to the question of what I, and we, do next." As I mentioned last time, one of the primary places I have been pursuing such answers has been in the words of others. And it is in the words of one of my former Vassar professors that I have found an explanation for why I have not only spent so much time reading in the past two weeks, but also listening to music. As my former professor Hua Hsu wrote a little over a week ago in this beautiful piece in the New Yorker:
"What’s the point of listening to music during a moment that seems so fraught? In the shadow of all
the material changes that might soon come, talking about culture can feel like a waste of time, a
momentary distraction on the way to a total despondency. But American music is a chronicle of joy and pain,
a version of the past that floats alongside official history . . . [and] we find the raw materials for the new
world where we can, even in sound."
First, there is this absolutely gorgeous cover of a Staples Singers' civil rights anthem that the incomparable Rhiannon Giddens released just a few days after the election as a preview for her forthcoming 2017 album. I don't know what exactly the "new world" we build together will look like, but I'm sure as hell the only way we get there is by marching down Freedom Highway each and every day.
The abrupt unveiling of a secret final Tribe album this fall isn’t so much a surprise as a molten ball of star
junk crashed straight into a darkening discourse, out of time and yet right on time, familiar but not quite
like anything else in today’s musical landscape.
Now to end this post on the power of music to feed our imaginations in this frightening moment, in light of her recent passing I thought I'd leave you with a video of Sharon Jones' unbelievable soul version of what should be our national anthem, Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," which just beautifully demonstrates the power of the very American cultural pluralism that white nationalists are now attempting to destroy.