Every day I read the news. Sure, I use CNN and Fox News, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, the Huffington Post and Drudge Report. But more often I turn to Al Jazeera, the Voice of Russia, Spiegel and Asia News network. I'm less interested these days in more of the same, so these international sources give me a bit more of a global perspective than I get with domestic outlets.
But most of all I visit Znet, Democracy Now! and Wikipedia. For news and analysis, Znet and Democracy Now! are preferable to anything else given the fact that neither boasts corporate sponsorship. Both are non-profit organizations that rely on donations to keep them going. So I know their coverage won't be skewed by the gun lobby or the military industrial complex or this or that corporation or bank.
Following news stories in Asia and Africa, the Middle East and Latin America - the Third World in other words - has awakened a new form of consciousness in me: the awareness of the profound poverty and suffering of a high percentage of the world's population. Much of this suffering can easily be demonstrated to be caused by economic and governmental policies of nations of the First World.
Yes, we've got it good here in the U.S.A. in a lot of ways. Those below the poverty line here live like kings compared to people who live in the shantytowns of Lagos, Nigeria or Rio or Caracas. But we're not immune to suffering. It's universal.
Last week, someone shot and killed twenty children and six adults at a school in Connecticut. The nation started mourning.
Then, a friend of ours lost her mother, who was killed by a drunk driver. Christmas seems strange, far away, detached from reality. "How can we celebrate?" my wife asked.
Then Thursday morning as I drove to work, I listened to an old CD: Steve Earle's The Revolution Starts Now. The album came out in 2004 around the time of George W. Bush's reelection and featured lots of great protest songs set to honky tonk and caustic rock among other sounds. By the second song "Home to Houston," I was openly weeping. How could he write such a song? The song bleeds with pure empathy.
I switched off the CD and switched on the radio. Joe Strummer's voice bellowed out. "Rock the Casbah" was playing on NPR. What was going on? I had an odd feeling.
I'd tuned in just at the start of a segment all about Joe and the Clash. Their turbulent career was briefly recounted, noting the political nature of their music. They even included a snippet of Joe from Westway to the World, (a documentary all about the band) a quote that I'd cut out of a fairly recent Rolling Stone magazine (and taped to my guitar) in which he says "We were trying to grope in a socialist way toward some future where the world might be less of a miserable place than it is." The tears came again.
It was a coincidence, nothing more. But if you try, you start to notice lots of these little coincidences. If you choose, you can allow them to have meaning. If you want it, these tiny coincidences can send a clear message that in spite of all the suffering, in spite of all the misery and poverty, the endless wars and the torture, the impending ecological disaster and the recurring financial crises, there is hope.