Lately, I’ve been wondering how I’ve moved from “It’s a Wonderful World” through “It’s the End of the World (as We Know It)” to, simply, “Wake Me Up (When It’s All Over).” When did I actually give up?
Sure, I still see blue skies, white clouds and the colors of the rainbow, but friends greeting each other with handshakes on the street… not so much. Many of my own friends are still waiting for the time when embraces – even handshakes – are less risky than bumping elbows or just staying home, period.
And instead of the smiles Louis Armstrong describes, I get the side-eye glare from strangers in the grocery store. Some (like I do) give others a wide berth while checking out at the liquor store. And what about dining indoors … is that okay now, depending on which county in the wonderful world I’m in at the moment?
Then there’s the complete breakdown of civility, which, in my opinion, has already fast-fueled the end of the world as we know it. Punching, teeth-knocking bloody assaults … at 30,000 feet? C’mon, man. Brawls in parking lots over close-in spaces or knock-down drag-out brawls because of rules/mandates/fill-in-the-blank choices? On that note, R.E.M. aptly points to “earthquakes” and “hurricanes.”
My firm vote is that civilization’s already been irrevocably altered by global forces of the Internet and distinctly unsocial social media. Anonymity has long provided cover for people and actions and Internet trolls have jumped right on that. The image of hiding behind a computer screen conjures up all manner of evil-doer-wannabes spending their days scrolling through other people’s lives for the sole purpose of belittling, degrading and, often, threatening them.
And, honestly, I’ve never believed – until the past few years, that is – that I’m a defeatist, but, truly, I am simply worn down. Compassion and empathy are endlessly warring with trauma fatigue and sheer exhaustion, fumbling around in the darkness, Avicii decries. I’m ready – ready, I say! – to dive underneath the feathers and let the rest of you work all this out. Seriously, just wake me up when it’s all over.
I also have to wonder, though … what must R.E.M. and Avicii know that Louis Armstrong did not? Conversely, what could Satchmo see of our world that we others now can’t?
And yet, and yet … just on my way home from Target (masks still required) to the car wash (Hallelujah!), I heard Bono, Martin Garrix and The Edge assure me that “We Are the People (We’ve Been Waiting For.)” Think of it, we are the people we’ve been waiting for. We are the people in pools of light, we are the people who don’t fear the fight.
Finally, finally … this is the message that’s (forgive me) music to my ears. “Making a difference” feels too trite to me. “Changing the world” feels too helpless, too often … but what if, just what if we are the people, we are the people we’ve been waiting for?
Then … go ahead and, as Wham! would say, “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go!”
Andrea Doray is a writer who envies lyricists their words. Contact Andrea at firstname.lastname@example.org.