If you’ve never heard Nina Simone’s version of George Harrison’s song “Isn’t it a Pity,” I can’t think of a more fitting day to do so. While Harrison wrote the song about the pain caused by broken relationships, Simone takes it to a whole new level. Small changes in the lyrics and the way she uses her incredibly heart-breaking voice to wring out every emotive nuance turns the song into something much larger than what it had been before. It’s about when societies break down, when our humanity tears apart, when we forget about who we are or could be, when we fail to see all the beauty around us, including inside us.
Joe Taysom wrote the following in Far OutMagazine about how Simone transformed Harrison’s song:
“[Simone’s] voice is one of the most incredible sounds that has ever graced the earth so when you mix it with George Harrison’s mercurial songwriting then you’ve got an emphatic mix and her cover of the former Beatles guitarist’s track ‘Isn’t It A Pity’ is a true delight. . . . . [Her]11-minute cover feels more like theatre than it does music as her voice takes the listener on a rollercoaster of emotions where she makes every word that came from Harrison’s pen years previously come to life. It was this ability to express another’s emotion which elevated Simone to legendary status and it shines on this effort.”
The song meshes so well with Martin Luther King’s messages of love:
“At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.”
“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”
“Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.”
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality. This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”
Simone’s version is long, 11 minutes, but I hope you will listen all the way to the end. I think you’ll be glad you did.
Like so many Americans, I’ve been struggling these past twelve days to wrap my mind around what happened on January 6: The attempt by the President of the United States to overthrow the government by inciting his followers to assault the Capitol and force Congress to overturn a free and fair election in which President-Elect Biden won by a landslide.
It was such a shocking thing to watch live, in real time, on TV. The horror of it still has not faded as we learn more and more about how it came about and who was there. As we learn what they planned to do to Vice President Pence and Speaker Pelosi. As we wait to see if further threats of insurrection will follow.
While the House immediately impeached Donald Trump for the second time, this time for inciting insurrection, we are waiting to see if the Senate will convict him, ensuring he will never be able to run for public office again.
And we are waiting to see if the majority of Republicans in Congress, who are now calling for unity and healing, will admit that Biden won the election fairly, as all the countless court cases, recounts, and investigations have proven. For there can be no unity or healing if nearly 80 percent of Republicans, as a new poll tells us, believe the Big Lie that the election was stolen from Trump.
But we citizens cannot wait for others to do the right thing. We cannot wait for a new administration to heal our nation. It’s not just the alt-right media that is promulgating the Big Lie. It’s not just government that’s divided. It’s WE, THE PEOPLE. And we must do what we can to dismantle the Big Lie and bridge the Big Divides that are threatening to destroy our country.
I have some ideas about that. But first let’s hear what Martin Luther King, Jr. has to say on his celebratory day.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“Tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there “is” such a thing as being too late. This is no time for apathy or complacency. This is a time for vigorous and positive action.”
“Those who love peace must learn to organize as effectively as those who love war.”
First, MLK reminds us, we cannot be silent. We have to speak out to our neighbors and family members, our local newspapers and political pundits, our state and national representatives. Wherever we hear the Big Lie about the stolen election being repeated, we must counter it with facts as relentlessly as they promulgate the lie. And we must do so not as adversaries, not with outrage or scorn, but as concerned citizens with facts and reason. Patiently, steadily, calmly. Over and over and over again.
Second, we must not wait. We must see this as the “fierce urgency of now.” We must do so with “vigorous and positive action.” We can’t wait until after the Inauguration, after the Senate trial, after the investigations and hearings to speak out, to dismantle the Big Lie. Those who erroneously believe the election was stolen are taking up arms against America NOW. Each of us individually cannot stop the collective action, but we can individually, one-on-one, each in our own way, by whatever means open to us, help to dispel the Big Lie and bridge the Big Divides wherever we encounter them, and especially in our own families, neighborhoods, and communities.
Third, we can join with others to do so. Bridging the Big Divides between Red and Blue, Black and White, the immigrant and native born, the privileged and disenfranchised, the wealthy and those struggling to pay the rent is long, hard work. Endless, it seems. And endlessly needed. We cannot shirk it, or wait for others to do it for us. But we need not do it alone.
Fortunately, there are lots of organizations working to address these disparities, reaching across the divides, working to find common ground. We can find these groups and support them locally or nationally, with our donations or as volunteers. We can support these causes on our media pages and blogs, as poets and artists, each in our own way, doing what we can.
There’s one cause I would like to take up. I’m not sure where or how, but I will be researching this, and I think it is essential for not only dismantling the Big Lies but bridging the Big Divides. And that is trying to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It was a policy that required the holders of broadcast licenses to both present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was honest, equitable, and balanced. It was introduced in 1949 and abolished in 1987 by President Reagan.
It was after the policy was abolished that all the hate-filled talk-radio shows began to indoctrinate their audiences with all sorts of Big Lies. It’s when unprincipled media organizations like Fox News, and now NewsMax and others became the propaganda arms of political parties. It’s when “alternative” “facts” began to compete with true facts.
We can’t build common ground if we can’t agree upon a common set of facts based on the truth. We can’t debate the issues, we can’t develop persuasive arguments, we can’t change hearts and minds if we are living in alternate realities.
The horror of January 6, 2021, will be with us forever, just as the horror of 9/11, and the horror of this Covid pandemic. And sometimes it seems that so many “horrors” are piling up that we just want to turn away from the chaos, turn off the TV, retreat into some private and soothing oasis. And sometimes, to save our sanity, to refresh our souls, that’s just what we need to do. But not now. Or at least, not for long. Because our Nation needs us to speak out, to do our part in dismantling the Big Lie, bridging the Big Divides, so we can HEAL.
Martin Luther King, Jr, once again, puts it so eloquently, this “fierce urgency of now,” and leaves us with a final aspiration of hope.
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”