The following editorial is not a forum for political analysis. The Huntington News is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. Our editors, reporters and photographers span across various parts of the political spectrum. Our columnists, both in the opinions section and the political blog, express their individual viewpoints, as do the many people who submit op-eds and letters to the editor. The editorial board, however, wishes to address all Huntington News readers, especially on the eve of the inauguration.
This Friday, Donald J. Trump will be sworn into the highest office in the United States. He will become America’s—our—45th president. We welcome the right to assemble peacefully, as we have for nearly 229 years, because that right gives people the opportunity to voice their opinions and gather for a common cause.
Many of us half-jokingly equate Inauguration Day to the beginning of the end. Many of us are excited about the prospects that come with his administration. And still others—too many—have decided to hide from politics for the next four years.
According to a blog from The New York Times published just before the 2012 presidential election, the Democrats became the party of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, and the Republicans “forged an alliance” with the religious right. The polarization had begun to solidify by the 1980s, the blog said.
In the late 1960s, Leonard Bernstein—a Massachusetts native, son of Russian-Jewish parents, socially liberal activist and now-famous composer—was commissioned to compose a piece for the inauguration of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. To much surprise, he elected the Roman Catholic Mass as his artistic medium. In 1971, “MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers”—a 32-movement, nearly two-hour musical piece—made its grand debut.
The piece was so politically incensed that the FBI sent President Richard Nixon a warning that the Latin text might contain coded anti-war messages and Bernstein was mounting a plot “to embarrass the United States government.” Nixon, who was advised not to attend, was absent at the premiere.
The piece reads, in part:
Half of the people are stoned
And the other half are waiting for the next election
Half the people are drowned
And the other half are swimming in the wrong direction.
As is the case with a great deal of art, this continues to resonate in the early days of 2017. Please, don’t wait for the next election. Don’t wait for your party to be in power. Pay attention to what’s going on at all levels of government, from U.S. Senate bills to mayoral elections. Take direct action. Call your representatives. Write op-eds and submit them to local papers. Vote in midterm elections. No matter who you are, you cannot afford not to be involved. This country cannot afford further disillusionment with our political system.
We all have a little bit of “I want to save the world” in us. That’s why we, The Huntington News editorial board, are journalists. That’s why we, the members of the Northeastern University community, are involved with this academic institution, founded as a place of discussion and growth.
Be hopeful for the future of America. If nothing else, be an optimist out of spite.
Photo courtesy Matt Wade, Creative Commons