A fair amount of levelheaded moderation at dinner last night enabled me to rise with the sun this morning with less reluctance than late. Still squinting into the light streaming through the bedroom window, still nestled in my gray flannel sheets, I rested a moment listening to a Morning Edition report on Bob Edwards’ new book, ‘Edward R. Murrow & The Birth of Broadcast Journalism.’ The segment concluded with an excerpt from one of Murrow’s broadcasts on Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist inquisition:
We proclaim ourselves as indeed we are: the defenders of freedom wherever it continues to exist in the world. But we cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home. The actions of the junior senator from Wisconsin have caused alarm and dismay from our allies abroad, and given considerable comfort to our enemies. And whose fault is that? Not really his. He didn’t create this situation of fear, he merely exploited it, and rather successfully. Cascious was right: ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.'”
I groaned aloud. Once again, in its interminable genius, NPR — and specifically unceremoniously removed figurehead Bob Edwards — had made a bold and prescient statement without saying a word.
As I ran along the river shortly thereafter, streaking through the shadows into light, I found myself again considering the question of what exactly one can do to remedy the world’s minor and major injustices. What possible difference can I make in the war with Iraq? What possible difference can I make in the face of poverty, homelessness, AIDS, apathy, collusion, crime, sadness, et all?
Later, turning onto 47th Street en route to The MTV, I remembered a highly meaningful college course I took back in the day called ‘Reading The Farm.’ More than a survey of farm literature, Farm 101, as we called it, addressed the divergent American models put forth by Madison and Jefferson, the shift from individual to corporate agriculture, the ramifications of modernization on the farm and the environment, and the general disconnection of man from the earth. One of the most distinct and passionate voices in this realm of academia is an author and farmer named Wendell Berry. Simply, Berry is a staunch advocate of individual action. Change, he asserts, begins with the self, then spreads to the family, the community, the state, and so on. Simple, elegant stuff.
So I’m a junior at Syracuse. Winter is thawing. The semester is drawing to a close. The campus is celebrating with its annual Spring Fling (clever name, huh?) in Thorndon Park. The sororities and fraternities load kegs and hot tubs on their porches, but when the bands are done, and the kegs are kicked, no one possess the motivation to clean the up. The next afternoon, walking through the park with my then-girlfriend (now a Brooklyn-based painter) Erin, the place is completely deserted, but trampled, muddied, and strewn with every imaginable type of debris. I find a fully intact dinner plate caked in mud, for God’s sake. We step into the library, ask for some garbage bags, and do it ourselves.
Do it yourself.
How, then, do I manifest that instance into every instance? How does an individual affect positive global change short of dropping out of the system or going off the grid? Has my co-option into The Corporate Media softened me? Have my thirties and my vice presidential aspirations rendered me less virile?
All I know to do — and this may be a cop out — is be the best person I can be. All I know to do is build deep and meaningful relationships. All I know to do is to endeavor to be kind to everyone I meet, from the beautiful woman whose website I read voraciously, to the common barista at Starbucks. All I know to do is to vote, speak up, and sing out. All I know to do is argue for the substantive stories at The MTV, and to remind my peers that our audience is bright, enthused, and hungry for substance over form. All I know to do is contribute as much good to my world as I can in the only ways that I know how: words and music. And hope for some ripple affect.
Belle & Sebastian’s ‘If She Wants Me’ came on my iPod as I pushed through the revolving doors and stepped into 1515 Broadway this morning. It’s a breezy little Euro number that I more often than not skip. But today I let it play. It seemed to fit with the bright, blue sky, and the bounce in my step. And good thing: in some way, I heard it for the first time.
If I could do just one near perfect thing I’d be happy
They’d write it on my grave, or when they scattered my ashes
On second thought I’d rather hang about and be there with my best friend, if she wants me
Finally, just now, leaning on a colleagues’ door for one of those very-MTV informal meetings, I saw the follwing passage. Being that I don’t know The Bible (it’s Romans 12:17) so well, it came to me as kinda’ new. And it seemed to fit all the stuff I’ve been thinkin’ about today.
Avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath
Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.