Tuesday, April 23, 2013

When the F-Bombs Fall

When the news is all about an F-Bomb instead of real bombs, that's probably a good thing.
Red Sox slugger made news this weekend with his speech prior to Saturday's baseball game at Fenway Park.  Let's just say he accentuated his speech with some flowery language that drew cheers from some while others were covering their children's ears. Meanwhile, networks and the FCC might have been using strong language of their own as they realized that Ortiz had just dropped the F-Bomb on live television.
Soon came praise for Ortiz and his speech and criticism too. And t-shirts. They had to turn it into a t-shirt.
Now I'm not one to curse very often. If I'm talking like that, it is a sure sign of a wealth of discontent - and a warning to keep your distance.

Otherwise, I try to avoid such language. I hear it too often from too many people. I believe we should elevate our language instead of lower it into the gutter of society. I've seen quality and intelligent people suddenly appear and sound like lesser versions of themselves because of their language. It pains me to see and hear people represent themselves in such a way. If you sound and talk like a low-class buffoon, people just might see you as such as well.
But in the case of Ortiz, I cut him some slack. Thankfully, the FCC did also. They recognized the situation and gave him the benefit of the doubt. It was an emotional moment and his language reflected the power and defiance that it represented.
I remember a professor of mine in college talking about obscene language. His point was that profanity was properly used when describing things that are profane. He cited the phrase "War is hell" as an example - even though that is hardly obscene in today's speak.
Since then, I've seen a place for obscenity. I still don't like to hear it and I won't use it in any of my books. I figure the world has enough of it without me adding to the profanity-lace noise we hear.
I don't like to hear it for the sake of cursing or as a means to be funny. That's just idiotic and a ploy to make up for a lack of substance.
But quite often I hear strong language in songs and see the power and descriptive nature that it brings. In one song,  Bruce Cockburn sings with conviction, "If I had a rocket launcher, some son of a bitch would die." There's power in those words. Same with in his song, "Call It Democracy." He sings "You don't really give a flying fuck about people in misery." The obscene describing the obscene.
There's all kinds of debate now as to whether Big Papi should have his mouth washed out with soap or if it was the proper thing to say. Certainly, it wasn't something kids probably needed to hear, but it also provided children a lesson in where profanity might actually serve a purpose.Sometimes the situation is just that obscene.
Ortiz was speaking from the heart and speaking with emotion. He was talking about a week in Boston that was pretty hellish - and that's putting it mildly.
Sometimes when there are no words to describe something, an F-Bomb just might do. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

I See The Light

I see the light.
I see it in our thoughts and our actions. I feel it in our souls and our hearts. I sense it in our hope and our dreams.
There is light there. It may be obscured by darkness at times. But there is light.
The last week has been full of darkness. I've felt the effects of it all. I still feel a sense of anger, betrayal and hurt. There's been a shattering of trust and a shaking of my faith. I want vengeance. I want justice. I want my anger to defend my hurt. My open hand is a clenched fist feeling rage from within.
But anger, vengeance and more negative feelings doesn't fix the pain I feel. Evil only breeds more evil. It doesn't stop it. That clenched fist can punch something, but that usually only leads to a hurt fist - trust me, I know.
So, instead, I have light.
I have the shining examples of the heroes of the last week. I have the inspiration of people's word and actions. I have comfort in a community that feels some of the same pain as I.
I am encouraged that our light is far brighter and more empowering and greater than any evil. That encourages me and lifts me up despite feeling so down.
Just last week, I almost left Facebook. I was tired off all the griping, political propaganda, mindless blather that just filled my timeline with negativity. I was in a bad place and was tired of hearing the world's complaining. It was a "Goodbye, cruel world, I'm leaving you today" kind of moment. I was one click away. And I probably would have done it had it it not been for my need to keep an author page.
So my Facebook page remains. After Monday's bombing, it became my community. I felt their hurt and I took comfort in sharing it with them. It became my platform. I posted words that inspired me and enabled me to seize my day and not let others define it. Maybe it helped others. At the least, it shined a light instead in  a place that lacked it.

I was in New York City last month. I spent back-to-back nights at Madison Square Garden. The people there were amazing. From the parking lot attendant to the ushers and other employees of MSG, they were welcoming, friendly and frankly, a joy to talk with and interact with. It felt so wonderful to feel such kindness and desire to help and share their positive attitudes. It was a gift of grace and made me feel amazing because they gave such kindness to someone they barely new.
It reminded me of the power of love and living to help and heal instead of for blame and negativity. It was proof of what a feeling of community can do to lift up instead of tear down.
Since then I've seen the other examples. Just this week, a day after the bombings in Boston, I read someone griping how President Obama hadn't lowered the flag fast enough. Really? In this moment of mourning, this is what is important?
I read about someone who was disturbed by a stranger tossing a banana peel on his lawn. He proceed to approach them, curse them and disparaged their race - all in a matter of seconds - over a banana peel.
This week, we had the vote on gun control. When it didn't pass, I saw numerous posts of people gloating and mocking the president. It just disgusts me. Is this what we've become?
It is bad enough that our politics and leaders are so polarized that they can't get anything done for the sake of their people, but do we as citizens have to mirror that? As a nation and as humans, we're better than that.
We have so many wonderful things in common - our love, our hope and our humanity. Yet, it is our anger and our disagreements that set us apart. We let that darkness define us. We let our desire for blame and excuses overwhelm our hearts and dictate our actions and attitudes. 
We prove otherwise in these moments. Unfortunately, it takes tragedy like this and our lowest moments to bring out the strength and power of humanity. But it is still there.
A group of my high school friends have already begun plotting out a trip to the Boston Marathon next year in honor of our friends who died on 911 at the World Trade Center. Our answer to our anger and our pain is unity, solidarity and a fighting spirit to honor our friend and brother.
I'm not real good at forgive and forget. My heart doesn't forgive easily and my head forgets very little. As much as I've tried to shine my light and be illuminated by that of others, I still feel that anger, betrayal and hurt inside. This is a personal pain I feel. I still struggle with it. And I expect that I'll fail at times to live this truth.
But I know deep inside, my light is stronger than any dark feelings that exist. And I know that is the case with all of us. The world around us is what we make it. And we can make it right.
I can't make the world safer from bombers. I can't legislate gun control. I can't even prevent people, even those closest to me, from hurting me. But I can be strong. I can be a voice of love, peace and hope amidst a chorus of blame, bitterness and excuses. I can shine a light where it is dark. I can make some joyful noise where it is silent.
I see the light. I see it in me. I see it in all of us. It empowers us to illuminate rather than desecrate.
There will be darkness. There will be evil. But there is also light.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Too Close To Home

It is easy  to  feel desensitized with all that we see in the news these days.
Some horrific event happens somewhere far away. It grabs our attention and tugs at our hearts. Yet it still feels like a television show, being acted out on all the cable news channels we're riveted to.
I even feel that in the newsroom. Some breaking story involving a murder or something tragic, it just feels like a story. There's no human face to me and no connection.
I have a connection to Boston. I lived there. I worked there. I've been to concerts at almost every venue around the city. I've been to sporting events there, including the Boston Marathon. When I first learned of the bombing Monday, I knew all kinds of people who very well could have been in the area.
During 911, as I sat horrified and stunned at what I saw, it still seemed like some bad action/disaster movie. I knew one or two people that lived in New York but I felt no true connection to the city or its people. Little did I know at that time that one of my childhood friends had been killed in the World Trade Center that day. A life I was still mourning just a week ago today on his birthday.
Boston isn't some far off city. It is the city I went to as a kid on family vacations. It was the big time for a kid from a somewhat small town in Maine. I learned the nation's history by walking the Freedom Trail and taking in all the sights of our nation's rebellion. I still remember walking from the place of the Boston Massacre with my Dad to Causeway Street for the Celtics game that night. It felt like we had walked all over Boston. It's probably only a few streets away. The name Crispus Attucks still sticks in my head. He was the slave merchant killed in the Boston Massacre.
As a kid I visited Boston quite a few times, attending Red Sox games on a occasion. We'd go to the aquarium, hoping to see Andre the Seal in his winter home - or his girlfriend Smoke. My very first Red Sox game was on Patriot's Day. We went and watched some of the Marathon afterwards. I was an excited kid with a brand new Sox hat and innocent to the world in the big city.
Our high school senior trip was to Boston. Then when I went to college it was on the North Shore. Our freshman trip was going into the city. I'd go into Boston for sporting events and concerts. Then I lived there, living off outer Beacon Street while I commuted through the city every day to work at the Boston Globe. The majority of my record collection comes from Boston. When I wasn't working at the Globe, I sought out record shops all over the city. I have a Luxman stereo unit because of a store I saw one in near Boylston Street. I learned that the Luxman had far greater wattage than it was listed. My neighbors are still thrilled about that.
As an adult, Boston has still been a frequent destination and a home away from home. There were more concerts. There were games at the new Garden, including the Frozen Four and the Hockey East Championships. I was elbowed, pushed and shoved at Filene's as crazed potential brides tried to outrace my sister for a wedding dress. I tried to read War and Peace on Boston's subways on my way to work - and failed.
 I went to the Boston Marathon one year. My brother-in-law was one of those runners for charity, like those that were approaching the finish line Monday when the bomb went off. He was running for Dana Farber and his daughter, a courageous cancer survivor. We were a mile from the finish and his kids met him at the finish line and crossed with him.
My experiences are probably just like everyone else I know. When the news broke Monday, there were a wealth of people I knew that could have been there. My sister and her family still live in the area. I have friends that are runners. They could have been in the race or spectators. There were media members that I knew. They were locked down in the hotel. The same hotel where we celebrated my brother-in-law's accomplishment a few years ago.
Fortunately, through Facebook, all the people that I knew that were there got back safely, friends and colleagues. They're safe but traumatized. The innocence and spirit of Patriots Day in Boston may never be the same.
These events are the kinds of things we see on TV. They happen elsewhere. They don't happen where we live. Boston isn't my residence. It isn't my backyard. But it feels pretty damn close.And knowing how many friends and family I have that could have easily been there, it was too damn close.
Whether it be these kinds of events or the rash of shootings, they seem to be getting closer. I drove by Newtown, Connecticut a few weeks ago on my way to New York City. Suddenly, there it was, an even more real place to me than what I saw on TV.
It all makes me wonder what is happening to this world. These things didn't happen when I was a kid. We didn't worry about school shootings. I didn't wonder about going to Boston and wondering if terrorism might strike.
Bill Richard and his family were in Boston seeking the kind of joy and memories I shared with my family. His son was killed. His wife and daughter severely wounded. Two brothers lost legs. Many others were injured, wounded and scarred for life. Many of them are children. All of them were enjoying a beautiful day, celebrating life and enjoying Boston. Something we've all done.
We can all debate the how and why the escalation of violence, evil and hate has risen to the level it has. I don't know all the reasons. I don't know all the answers.
I just know it feels closer than ever today. That's scary and heartbreaking. And amidst
all that hate, I simply search for peace and hope and love.