An Orlando Commentary…and Twelve Songs of Peace for a Grieving Nation

What the world needs now…is love, sweet love – and a little peace.

As this country – my country – comes to grips with the latest act of heinous terrorism committed on its soil, we find ourselves once again asking all the familiar questions: “Why?”  “Why here? “Why these people?”  “Why didn’t the authorities see this coming and prevent it?”  “What will we do about it?”

“What can we do about it?”

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With over 100 people being either killed or injured, the tragedy in Orlando (at the Pulse Orlando nightclub on Sunday, June 12) is being called the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, with its perpetrator reportedly claiming allegiance to ISIL in a call to 911 after the first barrage of shootings occurred and before he was ultimately terminated by law enforcement authorities.

Politicians – particularly the presidential hopefuls – have gone on record expressing their condolences to the families of victims and their condemnation of the violent acts.  True to script, some will be more politically correct in their expressions than others, while others will condemn those who are “too politically correct” while implying that something like this would not have happened under their own administration.

Musicians and other celebrities will express their own outrage with statements that will sound too much like public service announcements.  Their fans will gobble it up as heartfelt and authentic (and many will be so), while other people (usually the artists’ haters) will view their statements as convenient or hollow, doubting that anyone with megastar status could also have a heart or a shred of decency in their still-human being.

The fact that the apparently targeted victims in this case happen to be of a particular group – the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (or LGBTQ) community – will be leveraged by people on both sides of that debate.  The LGBTQ’s supporters have and will continue to rally around their own and correctly state that an attack on any one of us, regardless of sexual or gender identity, is an attack on all Americans.  (Rallies were held as far away from Orlando as right here in Chicago later on June 12.)

The LGBT community may also question – again, perhaps correctly – whether the amount of outpouring of support from other fellow Americans is somewhat muted by who (or of what persuasion) the victims in this case were.

Then there are those people on the other side of the LGBT fence – or maybe even some who are silently part of the LGBT group – who will awkwardly declare their support for those victims and their friends and families, fearing that any such expression might confuse (or even ‘out’) themselves regarding where they stand on the underlying issues of sexuality and gender.

A flyer advertising Pulse Orlando's "Latin Night" on June 11, 2016
A flyer advertising Pulse Orlando’s “Latin Night” on June 11, 2016

There’s also the issue of race.  It’s been reported that there were about 300 partygoers at Pulse Orlando celebrating “Latin Night” when the shooting occurred.  This scenario plays out against the backdrop of a presidential nominee still pledging to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico while awkwardly stating that “the Mexicans are fine” as he defends his stance.

While this sensitive connection hasn’t been exploited by the media, the fact that a U. S. nightclub celebrating a certain ethnic group or heritage came under siege by a radical extremist cannot be good PR for a country who is one November away from potentially electing a president who seemingly perpetuates separatist views on our Latino neighbors to the south.

Leaders of other oppressed communities will question whether the outpouring of love for this particular group of victims is too much, and whether they would have received the same levels of public sympathy had it been their people who were targeted.  They’ve seen time and time again over our country’s history where this human tale of tragedy has played out in their own communities and the public’s (or government’s) reaction – in their views – has been too little, too slow or too late.

All of these issues and more will continue to play out as we attempt to understand the acts of one deranged man who somehow felt the best way to resolve his own hatred of people was by dispensing a semi-automatic weapon in a club full of innocent victims.  We listen with our mouths gaping as a confused (and still grieving) father attempts to explain the acts of his now-deceased son while recalling his offspring’s violent reaction to seeing “men kissing each other” a month earlier, or while explaining that his son could not have been radicalized by extremists because he hadn’t grown a beard “as they all do.”

We also listen as some say let’s seek “payback,” without knowing whether the perpetrator’s acts were “ISIS-inspired” or “ISIS-directed.”  The news media will continue to speculate about which scenario played out on Sunday.  (I, for one, believe the former is much harder to defend against than the latter, which itself is no easy task.)

We talk about exacting this payback while failing to look at ourselves and the role we and our media might have played in the tragedy.   We fail to look at our own irrational views about race, religion and gender or how our media portrays them.  We fail to hold that media accountable when it allows misperceptions, exaggerations and altered truths about any group of people to fester until it pushes that one person over the edge to “correct” the situation as he sees fit.

Yet the drumbeat of all our stereotypes, fears, conspiracies, political referendums and other sources of division will continue to play on, until the next such tragedy has us all asking the same questions over again.

Will this latest American tragedy become yet another referendum on LGBT or race issues?  Will it become a political hot potato on issues of radical groups and terrorism?

Will it unify us as Americans like 9/11 did nearly 15 years ago…even if only briefly?  Or will the issues above continue to drive a wedge between us as we settle our disagreements with vitriol and yes, even more violence.

The cynic in me holds out less hope.  The optimist in me believes that this latest act can lead to positive change.

Only time will tell.

In the meantime, as this is still a music blog site, I offer my memorial honoring the victims of the June 12 Pulse Orlando shootings with a dozen peaceful songs that I hope will offer words of encouragement to the families and friends of the victims and to a country in urgent need of healing (and not just from the acts of June 12).

These songs recall a time in our history when peace – especially within our own borders – was more the focus, when brotherly love was celebrated (even in the midst or wake of so much turmoil in this country and abroad), and when artists were less self-promoting in their messages (or at least more thoughtful in how those messages were delivered).

In no particular order, I offer these twelve songs as djrobblog’s songs of peace:

Headline for Djrobblog's Twelve Songs of Peace...for a Nation in Need of Healing
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Jun 13, 2016 - youtube.com - 68
"What the World Needs Now Is Love" - Jackie DeShannon (1965)

The legendary team of Hal David and Burt Bacharach wrote this classic tune and Jackie DeShannon was the first of over 100 artists to record it (a list that includes fellow legend Dionne Warwick). In the above video, Jackie sings this waltz with all the enthusiasm a world full of love deserves. The result was a top ten pop hit for her in 1965.

May the slain victims of the Pulse Orlando nightclub shootings all rest in peace, and those who were wounded heal fully and quickly.

DJRob

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