This picture above was taken by photojournalist Kevin Carter in 1993 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Photography in 1994. What does it mean to you? Is it real? Yea. That is a vulture and that is a starving child. Is it true? Can there be any doubt? Is it honest? You decide.
So I just finished watching the Rush documentary “Beyond The Lighted Stage”. And whether you are a Rush fan or not, you should watch it. It’s real, it’s true and it’s honest. It’s about the music and very little more. It did not dive into any of that sordid bullshit about drug use, infidelity, hatred, etc. Did they do those things? I don’t know, Geddy Lee makes reference to “being high” and that was about as sordid as it got. They focused on the band and their rise to the success that they now have and have enjoyed for over 30 years now.
The most personal thing revealed is watching the three members, Geddy Lee, Neil Peart and Alex Leifson discuss what happened when Neil Peart lost his wife and only child in the span of 12 months. Read the book. Outside of that, the talk was always about the music. And the relationships they have with each other, their music and their fans.
I had always been a fan of Rush. The Moving Pictures tour was the third concert of my life (fourth if you include the John Denver concert….I don’t). And after watching this I came away with a new found understanding of their band dynamic, the way they make music and the bond between them. As a result it has re-kindled an interest in their music. I watched “Beyond The Lighted Stage” feeling that I was watching something honest. There was no pretense, there was no posturing, it was just guys talking about music. They have what I have always felt a rock star should embody, humility. Their job is different, but it is still a job. Everyone poops.
But is rock and roll always honest? Should it always be honest? No, I don’t feel that it should. Where Rush may represent all that is honest in rock and roll, there are other cases where the lies and the deceit make for more interesting stories. I recently watched the Rolling Stones watered down version of “Cocksucker Blues” ridiculously entitled “Stones in Exile”. OK, maybe they were in exile, but let’s be honest isn’t “Cocksucker Blues” an infinitely better title? Nonetheless, it had very little to do with the music or band dynamic. that is to say about 2/3 of it talked about the drug use and the shenanigans that was their process back then. I mean, I enjoyed it cuz by all accounts most of them should be dead by now given their drug and alcohol intake, but the music geek in me wanted to see how all that drug use and so on influenced their album. So while it contained elements of reality, truth and honesty, it was most certainly not all three. There is no way the Stones could have been as fucked up as that movie makes them out to be and still create what they did. I hate to burst the bubble, but it’s impossible.
Now get ready for the jarring segue. I live in NYC and much ado is being made about this Islamic information center being built and I have some mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, I don’t give a shit. But on the other, I don’t really care. “But my God Keith, you live in NYC, how can you not care?” Well, I’ll tell you. No one really knows what the fuck is going on because no one is giving us an accurate or complete description. There is no real honest, true or real portrayal of what it is all about. Most people think they are building a mosque, they’re not. It will contain a mosque, but the Pentagon contains a non-denominational Chapel where muslims can go pray. Is that not a mosque? Or does it get a pass cuz Jews and Christians can go there too? No one seems to kick up dirt about that. Frank Rich recently wrote an op ed about it, yes in the liberal NY Times, highlighting much more eloquently than I ever could, what is going on and how we are simply just not getting the truth. Read it.
He also points out that the same week everyone was throwing a fit about this, General Petraeus was on a publicity tour to discuss the clusterfuck of a war that he has inherited. But no one wants to talk about that. You know, the thing that is actually killing people on a daily basis. No no, what is more important is this building that is not built yet, but will be built for religious zealots to kill Americans. I call bullshit on that. Seriously, read the Frank Rich piece. Deceit is the new real. Fiction is the new truth. Lies are the new honest.
I mean the bottom line is that this is gonna happen. On the liberal side we can argue that NYC is a melting pot and has always represented what is best about out country, to which I believe. And the more conservative answer is that there is simply too much fucking money at stake. Period. Do I feel it is a disservice to 9/11 families? I don’t know. I was not impacted directly by that day so it is hard for me to say with complete conviction. Personally, I am choosing to believe that we as human beings can see the truth in the events of that day and that the horrendous crime was perpetrated by a fanatical and fringe element of Islam, not the entire religion itself and I want to believe that surviving family members see that. In my heart I do not believe the building of this center to be a disservice.
I have to wonder if there would be this much outcry from the certain media outlets if there was to be a Catholic Church built that was to include a day care center to be run by priests. I’m just saying. What is the truth here? What is real? Where is the honesty? It’s an election year, Islam is a hot button issue. So this is what people will latch on to and form misguided opinions about. The Islamic religion is not looking to come into every New Yorkers home and finger bang your pet, they are looking to build an educational center. Scientology has one. I am sure most religions have some sort of information center in NYC. Aside maybe from the Culture Clubs “Church of the Poisoned Mind”. Is it odd that it should be built so close to an act perpetrated by whacko fanatics? Maybe, but until we know the whole picture (and we never will) I feel we need to take a deep breath and let it out and say “We’re human beings first. Let’s choose to believe they are building something here for the good of their religion and all religions and all people.” Wouldn’t that be a much easier truth to believe. Is it real? I dunno. Is it honest? Again, I dunno. But it can be the truth if we want it to be. Jesus, I sound like a fucking hippie.
Each one of us has a little meter in us that let’s us know when something is true, honest and real. It’s what we do with that knowledge that matters most. We can watch a documentary on a Canadian progressive rock band that was always marginalized, but somehow still sold tens of millions of records and see it’s truth. We can watch a watered down documentary about one of the most notorious rock and roll bands and still be amazed that they are alive, let alone functioning and see it as honest. We can whine and complain about a religious information center being built close to the site of the worst act of terrorism committed on American soil. But we have to realize that the reality will always be in flux. The truth will always be subjective. And the honesty, well, that is always going to be a leap of faith. You have to choose to believe in the honesty. Or not. Everything will always be distorted to serve an agenda. But one thing that never should be distorted is your internal bullshit meter. You can choose to believe in humanity. Or not. All are choices you can make.
And what became of Kevin Carter after he took this photograph of the starving young boy being followed by the vulture and winning a Pulitzer Prize? He committed suicide about 15 months later.
The truth lies within yourself. Just watch Howard Beale.
I feel the sense of possibilities
I feel the wrench of hard realities
The focus is sharp in the city
-Rush “The Camera Eye”