House Remembers the Middle

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How can experience lead us to understanding?

Welcome to the season of elections, where things are black and white (or should I say blue and red), good and evil, and there is no in between. This has become tiresome to many Americans.  Now, both candidates in the upcoming presidential race seem much more centered and less willing to polarize than past candidates. This is evidenced by how Craig Detweiler and John Marks’ film “Purple State of Mind ,” about the political and religious divide in our country, seems to resonate with so many people (Click here for trailer).

There is a call for a dialogue between the poles. Or, at least for people to admit that there is ground in the middle and how complicated standing on that ground can be. When the war in Iraq began I remember my grandfather, a navy veteran of WWII, telling me how much it pained him to see young men and woman going off to war. At the time I was in college.  Everywhere I turned, all I saw were those who opposed the military and the war, and those in favor of the military and for the war. But my grandfather’s reaction was much more nuanced. It was refreshing to me, as I lived in a world of polarized opinions.

Then I heard Griffin House’s song “I Remember (It’s Happening Again)” for the first time at The House of Blues in Chicago. This performance was before House ever recorded the song and was a moving experience where tough questions were asked, arguments weren’t made for or against, and a room full of concert goers quietly listened to the pain and confusion that polarization has created for many in our country. And therein lies the power of art. Art conveys an experience, while facts and numbers convey a debate. Maybe that’s why Neil Young’s latest album, “Living With War,” wasn’t as much an artistic success as it was a political success, as Young seems to be creating a debate, not an experience with his art.

Maybe we need more experiences and fewer debates. Maybe that is the role that art has to play in our country right now.

“I Remember (It’s Happening Again)” lyrics:

Well my grandpa fought in World War 2, my uncle fought in Nam.
My father was too young he went to school and met my mom.
He heard Dad always told us stories around dinner time.
And there’s one he told when I was young that sticks out in my mind.
He said ten years after daddy taught me about the birds and bees.
I was stranded in Pearl Harbor fighting off the Japanese.
When the kamikaze pilots came and dove in without warning.
I was on the Arizona on a warm December morning.

I remember when I was a younger man.
We were soldiers fighting in a foreign land.
Now I’m older, and it’s happening again.

And it was hard to have forgiveness for the things they did that day.
And our president decided we should make their people pay.
So we dropped on Nagasaki and we cut ‘em down to size.
And the one we dropped on Hiroshima left them vaporized.
I heard some Christians say, what would Jesus do?
What if you were on the wrong side, would he point the gun at you.
And they read through every word of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and John
So they could see if killing was the side that Christ was on.

I remember when I was a younger man.
We were soldiers fighting in a foreign land.
Now I’m older, and it’s happening again.

And they separate the Church and State and keep God out of schools.
So our governments can educate based upon their rules.
The people start to wonder if our politics makes sense.
When religion is our best excuse for national defense.
And when our citizens start saying that our wars are not ok.
And Washington keeps telling them God loves the USA.
And they teach us history so we can learn from our mistakes.
And this generation wants to know how many years it takes.

To change the way we treat our neighbors all across the land.
Cause if we don’t change our hearts we repeat the past again.

I remember when I was a younger man.
We were soldiers fighting in a foreign land.
Now I’m older, and it’s happening again.

My grandpa finished talking we went walking he and I.
I was thinking about the future and how I was scared to die.
Now my best friends’ over seas in the desert where it’s dry.
Fighting for our country and I need a reason why.

I remember when he was a younger man.
Now he’s a soldier, fighting in foreign land.
Now were older, God bring him home again.