Archived Story

Convergence in the New Year

Published 3:59pm Monday, January 4, 2010

On the first day of this New Year, 2010, my friend Jacob sent me a computer link to a video presentation that was touching and thought provoking. Jacob and I have been friends for more than 40 years, beginning in the anxiety laden barracks of the U.S Army at the Presidio in San Francisco, where we were each waiting for the government to rule on whether our claims for conscientious objection to carrying weapons would be honored. The video presented a rendition of the Beatles song, All You Need Is Love as performed by people in 156 different countries.

The producers of the video had gone to great lengths to get the various performances in the same key and at the same beat. By splicing together numerous pieces of the different portrayals of the song from individuals to groups of two to a dozen or more playing instruments or singing a coherent and seamless musical composition emerged. It was stirring and at the same time made me think about the connectedness that those differing people from those divergent places in our world shared among themselves and with me as I listened.

Later the same day, I was doing some research about a story Im trying to write and stumbled across a reference to an organization called The Civility Project. The current project was founded by Mark DeMoss and is reminiscent of a similar effort 12 years ago by P.M. Forni of Johns Hopkins University. Although a few liberal leaning pundits are calling the effort by the conservative leaning DeMoss a sham, the principles invoked are hardly assailable.

DeMoss writes: The Civility Project [is] a collection of liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, blacks and whites, and people of various faiths or no faith — who agree that even in sharp disagreement, we should not be disagreeable.

Participants are invited to Take the Civility Pledge, which is as follows:

* I will be civil in my public discourse and behavior.

* I will be respectful of others whether or not I agree with them.

* I will stand against incivility when I see it.

Whether DeMoss has a secret agenda that involves backtracking from the bombast of the far right without any intention of engaging in proper dialogue or not is of little consequence to me in the present discourse. Im interested in seeing people treat each other with more respect. I am weary of hearing the constant name-calling, belittling, and insubstantial argumentation that has taken over the so-called news spokespersons of both the left and right. There are some prominent names from the Democratic party on-board with this project and I feel reassured that at least some are willing to try a new tack.

Then, the second day of the New Year arrived and I received a link to a second video. This one presented, War/No More Trouble, a Bob Marley song. Again, numerous artists from different countries performed the same song in the same key at the same beat. This is an anti-war, anti-racism anthem. The performers are part of a group known collectively as Playing for Change. They have built a portable studio that travels around the world with the intent of bringing together in music the voices of the planet in pursuing peace and understanding. I researched this group a little and decided to buy their CD both for the music and for the purpose of advocating change with my checkbook.

Altogether, theses three convergent events have given me a great deal of encouragement about this new year. Of course, there is still plenty of bad news to keep me from sailing too high, but after the tough days of 2009, its nice to have a little hope, a little belief that there are those out there who are continuing to push the world in a different direction Change We Can Hope For. I forwarded the links to these two songs and the Civility Project website to many friends and asked them to do the same. Doing the small things creates larger things.

If you are interested in having the links, e-mail me at arthurben@charter.net and Ill send them to you. Please put Links in the subject line.~ Birdland written by Don Weathington

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