Tuesday, January 19, 2021

We Are the Sentinels

 Every once in a while I will listen to some music that opens me up.  It is wonderful and, in a way, frightening.  Wonderful because it feels good to feel opened up. Frightening because it reveals what I may be suppressing.

I was thinking today about songs that are apt for the inauguration and the end of a national nightmare. Earlier, I thought of a song we used to sing when I was at summer camp.  It was called The Last Train to San Fernando.  I looked up the lyrics when I thought of the song, and apparently the song we would sing around the campfire had different lyrics than the original. 

The way we sang it, the refrain went:  "This is the last one. There'll never be another one. This is the last Train to San Fernando." At the end of the summer when many us were feeling sad because the camp was ending, we changed the lyrics.  On a Monday, we would sing, "This is the last one. There'll never be another one. This is the last Monday at Camp Chicopee." Then on Tuesday it would be same, until the final meal when we would croon, "this is the last breakfast at Camp Chicopee."

Well, we were sad then because of an end of an era. Now we are sad because we endured four years of an outrageous negligent era that has had, as a side effect, the needless death of 400,000 Americans. This is the last day of the nightmare.

Then I thought of the song from Les Mis: One Day More.  When I went on facebook I saw that a number of people had posted Youtube shots of that song's performance. "One more day. One day more."

Les Mis is so powerful; the story can open up the heart of anyone who has not cemented it shut.  One of my favorite songs is one that is actually sung by the bad guy.  Nevertheless, out of context at least, it is so powerful.  It often reminds me of my father, and then when my chest opens up, of opportunities missed.  

The song is sung by Jalvert, the bad guy, who is chasing Valjean, the good guy.  Jalvert, a cop of some sort, is chasing Valjean because Valjean once stole a loaf of bread and no minor offense is trivial for Jalvert.  So, the cop sings that he is going to do whatever it takes to bring Valjean to justice.  But if you can forget the plot for a moment, just think of some of the lyrics:  

Stars, in your multitudes, scarce to be counted. Filling the darkness with order and light. 

Stars, you are the sentinels; Silent and Sure. Keeping watch in the night. Keeping watch in the night.  

You know your place in the sky. 

You hold your course and your aim. 

And each in your season. Return and return, and are always the same.

The song reminds me of my dad because he did, when I was a kid and even when I was an adult, fill the darkness with order and light. He was a sentinel for his sons;  knew his place in the sky, held his course and his aim, and kept watch in the night.

The song is apt for today, though, because we all--in a democracy and for all humankind--are the sentinels. It is we-ordinary folks--it is our job whether we like it or not, to fill the darkness with order and light.  It is we--ordinary folks--it is our job to find and know our place in the sky, to hold our course and our aim, and keep watch in the night.

The soon to be ex president was elected on a fluke. People did not think he would win so they stayed home; he lost the popular vote by millions, and despite the electoral tally just eked through because he won three states by tiny margins.   This time, when we, the sentinels, acted the soon to be ex president--a narcissistic solipsistic, dissembler--lost all three of these states, and also lost two other states that had not voted for a Democrat in nearly two generations. And lost by 8 million popular votes.

The good news is that it is soon over.  The good news is that for a spell at least, my heart opened up this afternoon listening to music.  The bad news is that we are, indeed, the sentinels and we need to stay active,  and hold our course and our aim. Maybe that is good news too. Maybe that is what keeps our hearts open.

This is the last one. There'll never be another one. This is the last train ride with a national nightmare. 

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