33 And 1/3 Under 45 – Track Twenty-two: The Rising

33 and ⅓ is a monthly music column by Ryan Lynch, exploring the records that keep him inspired in a cynical world

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This column was written on August 14th, 2020.

I woke up this morning, I could barely breathe
Just an empty impression in the bed where you used to be
I want a kiss from your lips, I want an eye for an eye
I woke up this morning to an empty sky

“Regular bad.” That’s how I’ve been answering the question “How’s everything going?” Let’s be real, no matter how lucky I’ve been, it’s not a fun time to exist right now. In the past, if you gave an answer like that, you’d get a follow up or a check-in from whoever you were talking to, but now you only get that if you say you’re doing great. I can’t shake that. That the norm is to be miserable and it’s weird if you’re having a good time. I can’t stop thinking about how normal that feels for so many of us, especially millennials. We’ve really never gotten a goddamn break, have we?

I search for you on the other side, where the river runs clean and wide
Up to my heart, the waters rise
Up to my heart, the waters rise
I sink ‘neath the water cool and clear. Drifting down, I disappear
I see you on the other side
I search for the peace in your eyes
But they’re empty as paradise
They’re as empty as paradise

I’m really at the end of my patience with the whole narrative about millennials being coddled and entitled. That we refuse to grow up and are in a perpetual state of adolescence. Sure, a lot of us wallow in nostalgia and are obsessed with the good old days. Remember Magic School Bus? That was my favorite show! I remember watching it after school when I was 8, and for the first time, realizing all the things that I never imagined could happen in a school! It was right after my 3rd grade teacher sat us down and told us what had happened in Columbine. What an eye-opening time to be a kid!

When I was 10, the World Trade Center fell and we watched thousands die on television. By the time I was 13, we were in two wars and the National Defense Authorization Act and the Patriot Act were codified, promising we would never have peace and we would never have privacy. By the time I graduated high school, the economy had the worst crash in 70 years. I got my driver’s license two days before Hurricane Sandy shut down my island for weeks. And I’m about to turn 30 while over a thousand people die every day from a global pandemic the rest of the world has gotten under control and the economy is in the worst crash in 80 years. So fuck off that we’ve never been challenged. Fuck off that we don’t know what it’s like to sacrifice. The only trophies we’ve been given are inherited tragedies and pain. Fuck off if you think this generation is too soft. Instead of turning into bitter reminders of what we’ve lost, we’re the first generation in decades trying to turn it into empathy. We want to abolish student loan debt, even though we’ve paid most of it off already. We want universal health care even though we’re young and doing fine. I just can’t tolerate this bullshit anymore. Look around at the world we’ve inherited and if this is what we’re entitled to, I just hope there’s a good return policy.

So what does all that have to do with noted young hipster, Bruce Springsteen?

I’ve been listening to a whole lot of his modern catalog, and few stand out as well as 2002’s, The Rising, which was written in the aftermath of the September 11th attacks. And the thing that keeps me coming back is the unbelievable sense of empathy I get from this record. While the majority of older white guys were calling for mass bombings and xenophobic genocide of the middle east, Bruce was doing what he always does, blending optimism and love with his genuine care for the people in his country, especially the ones most marginalized. From “World’s Apart,” a song he collaborates on with Asif Ali Khan, a Pakistani singer, and his qawwali group.

Where the distant oceans sing, and rise to the plains
In this dry and troubled country, your beauty remains
Down from the mountain roads, where the highway rolls to dark
‘Neath Allah’s blessed rain, we remain worlds apart

Sometimes the truth just ain’t enough, or it’s too much in times like this
Let’s throw the truth away, we’ll find it in this kiss
In your skin upon my skin, in the beating of our hearts
May the living let us in, before the dead tear us apart

A lot of the songs in this album deal with a pretty explicit reaction to the attacks, but so many of them feel like they can be applied to any of the horrific times we’ve had in the last 25 years. “We’re America, we can get through this! We’re strong, we’re tough, nothing can stop us!” has become this mantra that doesn’t mean anything to me anymore. We never get a fucking break from “persevering” anymore. I’m just so tired. Tired of being informed with today’s atrocities. Tired of how little half of this country seems to realize, no matter how obvious it is. I’m tired of once in a lifetime events happening every three years. I’m tired of mass graves, whether it be from an attack, a hurricane, a virus, or whatever’s coming next. I’m just so tired.

But we don’t give up, do we? If we did, we wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be out in the streets fighting against a plague to try to ensure some sense of justice in this injust world. Our elders have failed us. Refused to take any action on *motions to literally anything.* We look to each other for strength, because looking to the past, the systems that gave the people now in power support have been gutted and stripped beyond recognition. Yeah, we’re soft. But I’d rather be soft than cruel. No contest. We keep seeing our friends and family die and instead of support, we’re met with scorn, so yeah, we’re gonna disregard the politeness on our way to overthrow the status quo that killed them.

The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me, then you disappeared into dust
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs, into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

Regular bad. That’s the normal for us. Bad. Some days, I can barely keep it together and it’s only getting worse. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard an exasperated sigh followed by “Something’s gotta fucking give, man.” And this isn’t new for us. We’ve been living with this feeling our entire lives. But we deal with it. And we don’t let it make us calloused or bigoted. We internalize the pain and use it to build empathy for people who have it worse than us. This cruel, terrible world took my childhood, but I won’t let it take my future and I won’t let it take my soul. Not without a fight.

Can’t see nothin’ in front of me,
Can’t see nothin’ coming up from behind
I make my way through this darkness
I can’t feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far I’ve gone
How far I’ve gone, how high I’ve climbed
On my back’s a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight