— ABC7 News (@abc7newsbayarea) February 16, 2018
I am so deeply saddened by the deaths of 17 students and teachers in this most recent act of violence.
I’m even more saddened that so many people will simply continue to go on with their lives as if nothing happened. “Many people” includes members of Congress and members of the Senate.
It includes people who just don’t understand that it really does matter what happens to other people. Just because you didn’t know them personally doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you. It affects me deeply. But now, I seriously wonder if it even registers at all with some people. Maybe there are some who really and truly don’t care at all.
I’ve been writing songs for victims of violence for nearly four years now. However, it saddens me that they’ve largely fallen on deaf ears. I’m often asked: “Why do you write songs for victims of violence?” Or, I’m told: “Your songs are too sad.”
Maybe we need to stop pushing sadness away. Maybe if we all embraced and accepted the sadness, it would wake us from this nightmare that we continue to live. I wrote every one of those songs because I was deeply overcome with grief for the victims of violence. I had no choice but to write them. I’m deeply overcome with grief today—and this time, I have no words to put to music.
I struggle to find performance opportunities and to get any media support (Elephant Journal excluded). I feel despair. I feel broken. One of the first songs I ever wrote for a victim of violence was for a child from Sandy Hook. I had followed a blog this child’s mother created in her memory. Then her father released an album dedicated to her. I was so deeply moved by this love and devotion that I wrote the song, “Rain Makes the Flowers Grow.”
When I reached out to some people to share what I had written, I received very negative responses from some of them, accusing me of “using” this child and exploiting her for personal gain. This made me feel wretched. All I ever wanted to do was to use music and deep empathy to spread healing and love.
I have no connection to Sandy Hook School, and I have no real connection to Connecticut; and yet, I felt deeply moved—enough to write a song for a child who’d lost her life there. Are we that isolated from each other and so full of distrust that a genuine and authentic effort to share in that pain and reach out in kindness is rejected, and it’s assumed there must be some ulterior motive?
I’ve continued to write songs for victims of violence—for the Boston Marathon bombing victims, the “Charleston 9,” the victims of the attack on the Bataclan in Paris, the Portland train attack victims, teen suicide victims, and the victims of Pearl Harbor. I’m also feeling the despair of trying to share these songs with the world. But, I guess it’s easier to not feel the pain. However, I didn’t have that choice—I feel it so deeply.
As these shootings continue—and the coverage is all over the media—it distresses me on a deep level. Young white males are carrying out these acts. Why are they resorting to violence? I can only come to the conclusion that they’re suffering inside and have no outlet to release the anger, despair, and hopelessness they feel. So, they turn to violence.
I find music to be a powerful outlet for releasing the strong emotions I feel. Others use art, poetry, or literature—yet, music and the arts seem to always be on the chopping block in the education system. They’ve been given very little value by society. So many programs have been eliminated, and there’s little support for the ones that do exist. If we made the arts the priority that it should be, perhaps we wouldn’t be reading about so many shootings.
And, look at the male role models in popular media. Many of them are tough, taciturn, and show little emotion. When they’re confronted with adversity, how do they respond? Why, they respond with violence of course. We’re teaching children, boys in particular, to box up their emotions and to stuff them somewhere deep, so they can’t feel them.
However, it’s our vulnerability that allows us to feel compassion for each other. And, it’s feeling the immense sadness that gives us the opportunity to heal. Grief should not be something that is suppressed. Having overwhelming compassion and empathy is not a weakness. It’s a strength and an acknowledgement that we are all connected—that we all come from the same source, regardless of what religion you follow (or don’t).
We need to care about what is happening to each other. Deeply. Let the tears fall. Let yourself feel the devastation and the despair. Imagine you’re one of the parents whose child won’t be coming home from school today. Let yourself be overcome with grief. If you don’t feel anything at all…maybe that’s part of the problem. We need to heal as a society and take steps to ensure that this will not continue.
We need to allow ourselves to feel, so that our children will know it’s okay to feel broken, to feel rejected, to feel despair. My guru, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, said: “Sometimes the heart will hurt…but it hurts more to live life with an empty heart.”
My heart hurts, but I’m not giving up. I’m holding on to the hope that I can manifest the beautiful world I so desire to be a part of.
Author: Victor Johnson
Image: Twitter @abc7newsbayarea
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson