Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Everyone can play a part

I got two wonderful emails a couple of days ago. One was from a woman in Australia, who has created an event that seems to involve her whole town. There will be two community choirs, three school choirs, and one church choir, all singing simple rounds or hymns, so that everyone in the audience can join in as well. It is being called a "concert and community singing"and everyone is welcome. The spirit of the event is just perfect - music that everyone can find accessible, and all done with a spirit of community.

The other email came from a woman in Washington, who is going to propose to her fellow choir members that each pledge to sing for peace at some point in March, in some way that fits into their ordinary life, yet is also not a regular part of their life. Some of her ideas were: to take a moment at work, at church, in a regular choir rehearsal, and get everyone there to stop and sing a simple song, thinking about why those words mean something and what the importance of peace is to each individual person. This, too, is exactly what this project is hoping to achieve - that people stop for a moment and think about whether this is important to them, and that people who may not ordinarily make those kinds of moments for themselves are invited to do so by a friend or colleague or associate.

Every way of participating is important - from the large formal events in concert halls to the individual pledges of taking five minutes out of a regular day to share this mission with others - or even to make a point of thinking about it for oneself. It is amazing to think of what kinds of personal connections can be made in this way, and what kind of influence ordinary people can have on those around them.

We all have the power to make a change - we just need to find our own ways to do so.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In Memoriam Tom Lantos

I read with sadness this morning of the death of Tom Lantos, US Congressman from San Mateo (CA), from cancer of the esophagus. TIME described Lantos this morning as "a congressman who never tired of the fight for human rights around the globe."

Lantos was the Chairman of Congress's Committee on Foreign Affairs, was a founder of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and was a member of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In his 27 years in Congress, Lantos established a reputation for speaking his mind and standing firmly for what he believed in.

The San Francisco Chronicle characterized Lantos this way: "In the nearly 60 years Tom Lantos spent in the United States, he never lost his Hungarian accent, his love for animals or his stubborn belief that political leaders have a duty to speak out against tyranny or oppression, wherever it occurs."

Many people will miss Rep. Lantos. Though I had never met him and have not lived in his district, I will miss his being a voice for California. I hope that his ideals - particularly that people have a duty to speak out against what they see as wrong, and to speak up for what they do believe in - will live on and that more of our politicians and citizens will live by those standards.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What does it take?

The front section of today's San Francisco Chronicle had a full page of articles about American violence. None of the articles were editorials - they were all news stories:

  1. "Gunman was long at odds with City Hall" - about the man who killed 5 people and injured a 6th at a City Council meeting in Kirkwood, Missouri, on Thursday
  2. "Student kills 2 in class, and herself" - a 23-year-old woman walked into a class at a vocational college in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, then left, and then returned and shot two of her classmates on Friday
  3. "Man stabbed wife, then girlfriend" - in Portsmouth, Ohio, a man who had been ordered to stay at least 100 yards from his wife, who was filing for divorce, entered her place of work and stabbed her, fled, then attacked his new girlfriend a few blocks away
  4. "Man gets life for killing wife, shooting divorce judge" - reporting on the sentence handed down on a man in Reno, Nevada, who has admitted that he killed his estranged wife and shot the judge who handled their divorce.
The page also had three advertisements. There were no other news stories.

There are so many daily reports of this type of violence, so many stories about the sadness and loss experienced by the families and friends of the victims, so many questions raised about the punishments inflicted on the perpetrators - and yet similar stories continue to appear, and similar acts continue to occur.

What does it take for someone to realize that taking an innocent bystander's life is a horrible thing? That killing someone with whom you have a difference of opinion is not the way to solve that difference?

How do we, as a society, change this phenomenon?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

All over the world

It's been an exciting week, with people joining the Song of Peace project from literally all different parts of the world. Last week we heard from two choirs in Georgia, plus one in Virginia, one in Ohio, one in Massachusetts, and one in England. This week, it's been a group from Colorado and one from Oregon - plus our first group in Australia. That means we're up to five official countries that have participants (with projects that are probable in three more), plus 17 US states. I wonder what this next week will bring??

Friday, February 1, 2008

One Month Away

It's February 1.

That means just one month to go before all the events start happening. We've had a lot of new groups join in the past month, and I hope February will bring in many, many more. It's inspiring that people are excited about joining this project, and feel that raising their voices is an important thing to do - wherever they are in the world. Thanks to all of you who are already part of this effort; if you're reading this and aren't yet part of the project, please join in - or invite a musician that you know to join us. Everyone is welcome.

And when March comes, I'll be inviting you to attend a performance!