I have been struggling with an essay: “Six Ways the Sixties Changed the World.” It wasn’t until I saw Disturbed’s cover of “The Sound of Silence,” written by Paul Simon, that something clicked, and I realized why I was having problems defining how my generation changed the world.
I have believed the world is a better place because we fought for and won civil rights for minorities. But is it? One only has to look at the police riots in Baton Rouge, the legal murder of thousands of citizens each year by the police, the profiling and intimidation of minorities, the erosion of voter rights, and the cycle of poverty in minority neighborhoods to realize civil rights for all people is illusionary.
I have believed the world is a better place because we fought for and won women’s rights. But is it? Women are still paid less than men for the same work. Convicted rapists receive a slap on the wrist, if even that, from male judges. Women are still blamed for “enticing” men to rape them. Women are still blamed for “original sin” and dishonored in Christian, Orthodox Jewish, and Muslim communities. Women’s reproductive rights are being denied, as is basic reproductive medical attention.
I have believed the world is a better place because we fought for and won freedom of speech. But is it? The Patriot Act and Homeland Security have silenced dissenting voices more effectively than any previous laws; more effectively than even the McCarthy era of black lists and imprisonment during the 1950s.
When Simon and Garfunkel first sang about the Sounds of Silence, back in 1964, it was a warning: Don’t let silence wall you in. It’s not too late to reach out, touch someone, become involved. My generation responded by taking to the streets, by peaceful protest that shut down the draft, ended the Viet Nam war, demanded civil rights for minorities and women. We shut down roadways and bridges and universities. We occupied courtrooms and war rooms and government buildings.
We made our voices heard within the Sound of Silence. We had hope. We knew we could enact change and growth. We knew our changes would endure.
Disturbed’s new release is dark and desolate. The official video shows people moving slowly towards, and then standing beside what could be the River Styx that divides the living from the dead in Greek Mythology. The artists, musicians, and thinkers are isolated and weary. They trudge towards a boat and float across the river; as if giving up and giving in.
But that was never the intent of the original song. Disturbed’s powerful interpretation of The Sound of Silence needs to enflame its audience to take action, not tell them they are already defeated. Each generation must rise up and fight for liberties, fight against injustice, fight their own inertia and take action to bring about change.
“Hear my words that I might teach you. Take my arms that I might reach you.” Words to live by.
Please, reach out and touch your friends – don’t settle for the isolation of virtual communication; texting instead of touching.
Please, set down your phone and tablet, turn off your computer and walk outside; feel the sun, the wind, the rain. Hear the sounds of interaction and interconnection we share as humans.
Please get involved. You can’t solve every problem facing us today, but choose one, just one, and work for change.
Please, take action with others of like mind. We need to raise our voices as one and prove Disturbed’s Sound of Silence is not our reality.