Dear Rock Music
By Sammy Younan
May 1, 2007
Editorial Note: This is the first of six posts in the Life section that is a collection of letters from writers as varied as the choice of topics. They are just our creative way of composing our thoughts. Some of them address society’s ills, some are sarcastic, some have hope, some are critical. All of them are passionate. Enjoy.
Dear Rock Music,
It doesn’t matter if you are punk rock or indie rock; the beat, the spirit and the power remain true—as do the conviction, the strength and the incredible way you shape my life, my thoughts and my feelings.
Currently I’m in Kenya organizing AIDS drugs for a pharmacy: I know it’s not much nor will my face ever grace a stamp like most of my heroes. Still I unpack the boxes, sort the drugs, fueled by occasional glimpses of the sick trudging in all heavy spirits but wearing bright smiles.
I’m here because you told me I can make a difference. Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights! / Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights! / Get up, stand up: stand up for your rights! / Get up, stand up: don’t give up the fight!
I’m here because you said I matter. It’s not why you’re running / It’s where you’re going / It’s not what you’re dreaming / But what you’re gonna do / It’s not where you’re born / It’s where you belong / It’s not how weak / But what will make you strong.
Rock, you clearly and loudly proclaimed that every situation arrives laden with potential and that it’s up to me how I’ll respond, in goodness and kindness or perhaps with the cold shrug of despair. It’s time we saw a miracle / Come on it’s time for something Biblical / To pull us through.”
I remember growing up, a child of immigrants shuffling between two cultures: our former home, our new home and finding both ill-fitting, like hand-me downs. I was unhappy until the discovery of that awesome Pandora’s Box of popular culture which instantly transformed my life. There was a culture with its own language and heroes and battles and fashions; at last I had my own culture. Instantly I adopted this new pop cult. A new culture that even had its own distinct music. Powerful, frightful, occasionally decadent music that roused me from the slumber of mediocrity, continually igniting my spirit with fresh bouts of inspiration. Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up! So thank you, Rock, thank you!Rock, you remain my temper. When you aren’t getting fat off of success you push me to get upset, to get angry, to throw off the warm comforts of apathy and to start thinking about solutions, to start thinking about love.
Perhaps saddled with guilt your best stars eagerly become mouthpieces for charities and social politics offering us all kinds of solutions. Your melody persists and won’t leave my head telling me that in the social economics of love, demand overwhelms supply.
Because of where I live in the world I can afford to grow indifferent. Sadly even you’ve shown me how ugly and often indifference is accepted and allowed to flourish. Indifference is cheap and readily available. Yet your noise pressures me to stop purchasing indifference and begin cashing in my anger. And if you can make enough noise you can bring attention. Noise renders in the invisible visible.
Rock you are my conscience. All too often I live without compassion. I shriek with childish delight at the triumph of karma over grace, my voice ringing out among all the others: You got what was coming to you! Your songs echo in the walls of my heart like a noisy tenant I cannot successfully evict. You remind me to be compassionate, to choose compassion even when I do not feel like it. You whisper endlessly about grace and not always for others but oh so desperately for my own life.
Love will never succeed if I remain passive or quiet, if I accept the established status quo. It saddens and sickens me to see you accept anything less than extraordinary, all too often you end up becoming the status quo. But thankfully there are enough rebels in rock to keep the faith and fight the good fight.
Rock, you are my teacher. Listening to you I have heard and learned about the violent divisions in Ireland, diseased ravaged Africa, police brutality here in America, racism, sexism, so many isms I’ve come across. Your best rockers never remain quiet or easily silenced, distilling education into three-minute infectious melodies. You’ve shaped my political views, pushed me to believe in change, to boldly fight for social justice while being a pacifist. You’ve shown me what happens when we burn out, consume way too much, lose vision and hope, giving into cynicism and despair. May I avoid that road and instantly apply the best lessons you have to offer.
Rock, you are my imagination. Though you are faced with the same realities as I—where love isn’t always reciprocated, where it feels like evil triumphed over good—this is not all you see. You imagine a better a brighter more holistic world where there is enough healing and food for all of us. You are the sound of rebellion, of frustration and the battle cry to begin seeing things anew. You resuscitate my imagination from the pit of cynicism, infusing it with the splendor of hope and the majesty of love. Let me never accept what is but always eagerly work for what should be.
I know I can’t repay you, but I can live like you’ve made a difference in my life and that’s why I am here in Africa. I believe in you, but you believed in me first, and that’s the greatest gift. How could I not want to keep you alive and want you to positively shape and redirect lives as you’ve so dramatically done with mine? Thanks … it’s not even close to enough, but it’ll have to do.