Archive for September, 2014

The stunning manifestation of the better angels of our nature…

September 20, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s hard to get my head around stuff sometimes.

It’s been a tough week for NEPA. A police officer, a husband, a father, was gunned down like a deer during hunting season. We don’t know why. The man who allegedly pulled the trigger is still out there, eluding a massive manhunt. Everybody is on edge. From what we’re being told about the suspect, nobody expects him to go quietly. We all fear more officers falling. I hate to even write that sentence. But I can’t get the thought out of my head.

Pennsylvania State Police and Troopers from nearby states line streets outside St. Peters' Cathedral in Scranton, during funeral procession carrying slain Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Corporal Dickson to the Cathedral for his funeral serviceCpl. Byron Dickson was laid to rest earlier this week, honored by his law enforcement brethren from around the nation in a moving ceremony covered live by local TV. The street in front of St Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton was 20 deep with police standing silently in formation, some stoic, some in tears. All there for the same reason. The brotherhood of man. The manifestation of the better angels of their nature.

It never seems to fail. The worst in us brings out the best in us.

I think of Dickson’s wife….with the eyes of everyone on her….never wavering. Never breaking. Showing her 2 young boys what dignity really means. I think it’s the sort of strength that we don’t know we have. For the rest of their lives her sons will remember that in the face of a swirling vortex of pain and confusion, if they fell, their Mother would be standing over them with hands outstretched. It was awe inspiring. It dawned on everybody….at precisely the same time….that this would not break her.

We learned bits and pieces about the alleged shooter. Rumors are rampant….but nothing seems to stick. It seems so depressingly familiar in our society though. Some middle class non-descript white guy, loaded up with anger and ammo, feels the need to lash out….to inform that world that he’s sick and tired and he’s not gonna take it anymore. So he builds a little fantasy camp in his own head…..and elects himself judge, jury, and executioner. Another little man searching for platform shoes. We’re not really shocked when these guys show themselves. It’s when they could be hiding in the woods behind our homes that we start to screech about it.

From all accounts Cpl. Dickson was a good man. A decent man. The kind of person that is all around us, but we rarely notice. They don’t call attention to themselves. They don’t dress up for the cameras. They don’t lose themselves in make believe. They spend their days doing quietly heroic things. They go to work and earn their pay. They tuck their children into bed….hold their wives….and prepare to do the same the next day. They serve. There are 1000 Dickson’s for every Eric Frein, maybe even 10,000 to 1. What’s sad is we don’t realize this…..because it’s the loudest who carry the day. We live in a maelstrom of noise.

I don’t know when this is going to end. It could be today. It could drag out. There’s so much we don’t know. Frein could be holed up nearby. He could be long gone. He could be laying in the woods with his own bullet in his brain. Time will tell. But it will end. The cameras and the talking heads will move on to the next piece of drama….and those left behind will have to pick through the wreckage alone.

But then again, maybe not. Cpl Dickson’s wife and children will surely be looked after by thousands of guardian angels in blue….each knowing Dickson would have surely done the same for them. Because that’s what good folks do. There is no greater goodness than goodness displayed when others are not watching. It travels from one heart to another. There is no better connection.

So yea….as horrifying as this ordeal has been, it’s not the crazed savagery of an Eric Frein that I’m left with. It’s the stunning collection of hearts that honored the fallen. It’s Mrs Dickson and her young boys. It’s the way a community that can be selfish turned selfless.

I’ll say it again. It was the stunning manifestation of the better angels of our nature.

Cynicism is cheap and easy. It’s also a distraction.

My fervent hope is that this ends with no more grieving widows. No more fatherless children. No more mothers burying sons.

In a bit..


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I’m not mad at U2….just so you know…

September 17, 2014 1 comment

We live in interesting times.

bonoSo yea…I’ve always considered Bono a bit of a meathead. Anybody who is not blind and wears sunglasses indoors is not to be trusted. And who among us doesn’t have that Live Aid mullet seared into our noggins? . The longstanding Dublin joke “What’s the difference between God and Bono? God doesn’t walk around Dublin pretending to be Bono”, makes me laugh and wince at the same time.

But still. I can’t fault a guy who wants to change the world. The man’s heart is in the right place. His head might be up his hole….but his heart is where it should be. Front and center. He’s famous…and he takes his fame and rams it down the throat of the political powers that be..goading them to do unto others and all that. You know….their jobs. And he’ll suck up to anyone…from the rightwing crazies to the most deluded patchouli smelling lefty. Anything to get shit done.

But really…the most important thing is that he’s smart enough to be in a band with The Edge, the kind of inventive guitar player that comes along maybe once in a generation. Together they front a great rock and roll band (solid drummer in Larry Mullen…and the Ringo Starr of the bass guitar….Adam Clayon…the luckiest sod in the world of music…the man who puts the “dum” in ‘dum-dum’). Since I was in grade school they’ve been making great music. Some great albums. Some not so great albums. But a remarkable string of brilliant songs. Maybe 25 or 30 absolute classics. Not many can say that. They deserve their acclaim. Nobody sounded like U2 before U2 came around. Now, everybody sounds like U2…..which everybody conveniently forgets because it makes them harder to make fun of.

Their mistake is growing old, which you’re not allowed to do in rock and roll.

And always trying to top themselves, which is admirable, but when the smallest gig you’ve played in the last 20 years is a soccer stadium…it’s quite easy to go from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Enter Apple….and enough money to forgive the crushing debts of 3rd World nations. Something near and dear to Bono’s heart.

Enter irony.

Enter the jackals….pushed over the edge by a free album they didn’t ask for. Cue national hysteria.

“Songs of Innocence” is, for the most part….vintage U2. It’s a solid record with a few horrid clunkers that I’ve already deleted (see how easy that bit is?)…but I’m more than happy to take the boys up on their offer of some free tunes. When they are good…..there are not many that are better. I’m still willing to listen. Maybe this makes me old too. I don’t give a shit. Rock and roll has been around longer than I’ve been alive. I’m quite content for it not to die before it gets old. Plus….as a guitar player I’d be willing to pay to listen to The Edge tune his guitar. So yea…there’s that.

Apple paid something like $100 million bucks to give this new U2 music to us….which makes sense to people in Apple’s boardroom I suppose….but then I don’t spend my days worrying about Apple’s finances. If they offered me $100 million to release my records for “free”….I’d probably say yes too.

Just about everybody is mad at U2 now. Apple was forced to create some sort of “remove U2” instructions….as if Bono was nasty spyware that could do irreparable harm to the entire internets.

Meanwhile I sit here typing these words…..with Songs of Innocence blaring into my skull..feeling superior because I didn’t get the album via an illegal download….which I hear some people resort to from time to time….though I of course would never stoop to such lows. Cut to the clearing of my throat now.

Plus, Bono is singing about how cool the Ramones were. How can anybody have a problem with that?

We live in interesting times. Terrorists post videos of themselves be-heading innocents….in the name of some god or another….and we watch in worried fascination….after fighting rush hour traffic and getting home and closing our garage doors…hunkering down. Isolating.

We are moments away from yet another carpet bombing of Iraq….which is beginning to feel regimented. War in high definition this time….on large screens.

Football players are beating on their wives and children….and smiling for the cameras. We are so appalled that we watch the NFL in even greater numbers. That’ll show ‘em.

And yet…..some cool free music from an outstanding rock and roll band drives us to twitter to vent our collective spleens. Apparently, next to unexpected Bono….the only thing that gets folks this worked up is Facebook game requests.

As for me? Bring on the music boys. Make it loud and hummable. Give me guitars. Some drums. Even Adam Clayton’s bass. And let Bono wail over the top of it. I’ll survive.

Categories: Uncategorized