Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Memorial Service in Tucson

Reactions to the Memorial Service in Tucson
It is sometimes amazing what will touch a chord in the soul of person. I sat down to listen to the speech on television like the rest of the nation. The commentators have been postulating all kinds of theories regarding this moment and this speech in the Obama presidency.
Unexpectedly, my emotions got the better of me when I listened to the first musical piece that the orchestra played. It was Aaron Copland’s “The Common Man.” I have heard portions of it in the movies but not the entire piece. Suddenly tears started to emerge and gently flow down upon my cheeks.
Why did that happen? I suspect that this music reminded me of the majestic dignity of the American person. Our great arms and shoulders lifted this nation to greatness. Our muscles and the integrity and unity of spirit has made this nation the beacon of light for all who aspire to a better life. There is a quiet dignity of this music as if I was walking inside Arlington’s National Cemetery through the rows of soldiers who gave their lives to protect what we all value as our freedoms, or our way of life.
Somehow the music lifted my spirits beyond the political pundits and the debates raging on public policy issues that have surfaced since the alleged shooter went on a crazed rampage of killing last Saturday. Maybe the music captured some pent up emotions from this tragedy that finally rose to the surface when I heard the brass and the percussion of Copland’s “The Common Man.” What makes this country great is the everyday citizen. It is the person who grows up and never looks for the limelight but who raises a family, pays their taxes and enjoys the fruits of their labors. And then that moment arrives when an emergency occurs and the average decent person rises to the occasion and sees the challenge that a community or a nation faces. The common man, the American man and woman rises in spirit and body to the occasion. The American, robed in dignity and glory, and in quiet humility gets the job done for the welfare of the community. That is the common man, the first responders; the people protected and initially cared for the wounded until they could be transported to the Hospital.
What I love about being an American is in those moments of great adversity how we face challenges and overcome obstacles and perform in a righteous and humble fashion. The music of Aaron Copland allowed me to see something in us that words could not communicate.
I know that there are many issues which I feel need to be debated in our community about the continuing tragedy of gun violence and treating the mentally ill. We own this problem and it is an American problem. But before we tackle these issues in the public domain there must be a spiritual connection to enable us to have the dialogue and fix what is hurting our culture.
Music can lift our spirits and inspire us  to  our task which  is a noble one and  that the events of Tucson will propel us to a better place securing  our country’s future.


Mary Green said...

Hi Brad,

Beautifully written and expressed. Copland's Fanfare for the Common Man really does capture the American spirit - pretty amazing for the Jewish boy from Brooklyn who had not been out West before writing it. It was one of 10 Fanfares commissioned during WWII (1942, I think). If you want a deeper experience, listen to the Finale of his Third Symphony, based on the Fanfare. It ends in a blaze of brass and percussion.



Rabbi Arthur Segal said...

Shabbat Shalom B'Brad, to you, your family, to your congregants:

You mention song. And music does communicate in a way that words cannot.

We start Shabbat Shira, the Sabbath of Song , in a few hours. How ironic that our Haftarah gives us the song of Deborah, when our own Debbie Friedman, Z"L, a singer and composer of Jewish Sacred Music, that touched our souls, passed this week.

Allow me to please end with an uplifting thought, as it has been a rough week. Our sages tell us that the birds in the sky joined our ancestors in their singing; for this reason it is customary to put out food for the birds for this Shabbat.

Like the rainbow, the singing birds remind us of God's eternal chesed v ahavah for us, no matter how much we silly humans muck up things.

Shalom Aleichem le Chaim.
Go towards peace to towards life.

Shabbat shalom uvracha my dear friend,
Rabbi Arthur Segal