John David Kudrick

putting words to work for you

Category: Musings

Seeing and Hearing Things: 9-11-18

“What If…?”

Speculative fiction that reimagines the president’s “9/11 Address to the Nation” from 2001:

Good evening.

Today, humanity’s foundational pillars of existence—love, peace, mercy, and compassion—came under attack in a series of deliberate and deadly terrorist acts. The victims were moms and dads, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, friends and neighbors. Thousands of lives suddenly came to an end because of these attacks. The pictures of airplanes flying into buildings, fires burning, and huge structures collapsing have filled us with disbelief, terrible sadness, and a quiet, unyielding anger. While anger is a natural reaction to such aggression, we must resist the desire for revenge. These extremists intended to stir up a hornet’s nest and further fan the flames of war and hatred in our world. But they have failed. Rather than seek vengeance out of bitter anger, our country will link arms with every willing nation to counter evil with the love, peace, mercy, and compassion I’ve already mentioned.

Today, our world saw evil—the very worst of human nature—but the world also saw some of the best of humanity: with the daring of the many rescue workers, with the caring for strangers and neighbors who came to give blood and help in any way they could, with the joining of hands and hearts here and all over the globe.

Immediately following the first attack, I implemented our government’s emergency response plans. Our emergency teams are working in New York City and Washington D.C. to help with local rescue efforts. Our first priority is to get help to those who have been injured, and to take every precaution to protect humanity against further attacks here and around the world. Beyond this, the functions of our government and economy will continue without interruption.

I appreciate so very much the members of Congress who have joined me in strongly condemning these attacks. And on behalf of the American people, I thank the many world leaders who have called to offer their condolences and assistance. America and our friends and allies join with all those who want peace and unity in the world, and we stand together to win the war against terrorism.

But this war will not be won with the typical weapons of this world: guns, tanks, missiles, and military personnel. Fighting fire with fire only creates a more dangerous blaze. Meeting violence with violence only produces and perpetuates more violence.

Rather, keeping in mind humanity’s pillars of love, peace, mercy, and compassion, we must learn the truth of what it means to turn the other cheek—not to roll over and shrink away from this brutal assault, but rather to practice peaceful, nonviolent resistance, as modeled by so many great figures throughout history: Jesus Christ, Mohandas Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King, just to name a few.

Nearly every religion has had its extremists who attempt to justify evil in the name of their god. The history of my own Christian faith has seen horrible acts committed in the name of a supposedly loving, peaceful God: from the bloody mass murders of the Inquisition overseas to the oppression and subjugation of the Native peoples here in our own land, and of course our justification of slavery and treating an entire race as less than human—continuing even years after slavery officially ended, with the ghastly, nearly incomprehensible slaughter of African Americans by lynching, burning, and torture at the hands of domestic terrorists.

And so, in response to these international terrorists, I am thankful to have already talked to peace-loving Muslims who have decried these attacks. Like me, they want to see a new world order of peace and unity regardless of race, religion, gender, or anything else that we have allowed to fracture humanity. So we will join with any and all who desire this as well.

Together, we will respond with love: seeking ways to bring real, relevant humanitarian aid and help to those suffering around the world, no matter where they reside. We will respond with peace: seeking ways to build bridges in every corner of human existence rather than build walls that divide. We will respond with mercy: seeking to offer empathy and restorative justice rather than vengeance and retribution to those who hurt us. And, finally, we will respond with compassion: seeking always to look for ways to be a blessing to others, remembering that we are all part of the great global family called “humanity,” and in doing so that we might live out those well-known but too often unpracticed words of Christ: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.”

In closing, I ask for your prayers for all those who grieve, for the children whose worlds have been shattered, for all whose sense of peace has been threatened. And I pray they will be comforted by a Power greater than any of us, spoken through the ages in Psalm 23: “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”

Let this day be remembered as a day when all people on this earth unite in our resolve to be peacemakers. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to bring about a world that can more powerfully experience the reality of a global community of love, peace, mercy, and compassion.

Thank you. Good night. And God bless humanity around the world.

Note: Watch and/or read the original address here.

Seeing and Hearing Things: 8-30-18

A Poetic Storyteller

Just finished reading the hefty autobiography of Bruce Springsteen, Born to Run. As long as it is, I wonder how much got trimmed along the way by the author himself, as Springsteen the songwriter is an incredible poetic storyteller and knows the value and power of words (and music as well) … and it’s not like he could ever include everything anyway (was still sad that the book didn’t talk about his participation in the making of “We Are the World”).

Appreciated that he didn’t hide himself (completely, at least) in telling his story, and offered his usual raw look at life, including his own struggles:

Otherwise, if you’d like to hear/see some of Springsteen in action not only as a performer but most of all as a wordsmith, check out some these favorites of mine, which would be material enough for a writing course on their own:

“Thunder Road” [listen for “There were ghosts in the eyes…” and the next line about Chevrolets — such stark visual word-painting]

“Jungleland” [listen for the line about the barefoot girl — more great imagery thanks to little details]

“Streets of Philadelphia” [opening lines so brutally personal, from the point of view of the narrator: mainly Tom Hanks’ character in the movie Philadelphia, and yet such common emotions for all of us at one time or another in life]

“American Skin (41 Shots)” [tackling a lightning-rod issue with this one … studio version with lyrics here]

“The Ghost of Tom Joad” [kind of a culmination of how he taps into creating music that isn’t afraid to speak to modern culture … studio version with lyrics here]

PS: Found an Apple interview with Springsteen and really liked this line from him when asked about writing a book rather than song lyrics:

“You gotta find the music that’s in the words themselves.”

Sage wisdom for writers of any kind …

Seeing and Hearing Things: 8-20-18

The first entry in what might be an ongoing series of musings about things that have caught my attention, whether it’s something I’ve read, listened to, or seen in everyday life:

 

Turning Cheeks … or Stomping Them?

At Pittsburgh Mennonite Church yesterday morning, Matthew 5:38-42 was one of the focal points throughout the service:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” (New Revised Standard Version)

On my way home from church, I stopped at a grocery store and saw someone wearing a T-shirt that had this on the back:

On the journey of life, and in regard to what we believe and hold dear to our hearts, we are all where we are. Yet what a striking contrast between the words of Jesus and the words on the shirt.

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