The Upside Down

One of the most popular TV shows in the country over the last few months has been the Netflix sci-fi/mystery/retro (early 1980s!!)/buddy series called Stranger Things.  The show follows the adventures of a group of young teens as they try to save a friend who has been captured by a monster and taken to a parallel universe (sounds simple, right?).  Called the Upside Down, this strange place is eerily like our own world, but everything there is dark and twisted.  A clean pool of clear water is murky and filled with weeds in the Upside Down.  The beautiful forest of our world is filled with rotted trees entangled in lichen there.  Horrible monsters lurk behind every corner, and danger crouches at every doorstep.  It is our world, with everything gone wrong.

So perhaps it is no coincidence that so many Americans were watching Stranger Things during the last grinding and depressing months and weeks of election 2016.  The show seems like a fitting prelude to where we’ve arrived.  A real estate mogul turned reality TV celebrity with no previous governing experience and a bad Twitter habit is poised to enter the Oval Office.  He has installed a far right wing conspiracy theorist conjurer as his chief advisor.  The soon to be vice president’s mantra is “I am a Christian first!”  And reports surfaced just today that Rudy Giuliani, the erstwhile mayor of NYC and current channeler of hyperbole is actually being considered for the position of Secretary of State.  Of the United States of America, that is.  Have we somehow, without even knowing it, fallen into our own version of the Upside Down?  As crazy as that sounds, aren’t the other sentences in this paragraph even crazier?  And they are all true.

I can’t help but think of the moment when the Frankenstein monster rises from the table, violently infused with life by the power of lighting, an angry and lashing energy that appears seemingly from nowhere, destroying everything else it touches.  And surely more than anything else it was anger that brought this new administration to power, the disdain and hurt and boiling fury of millions of Americans who had simply had it with Washington and political gamesmanship.  How destructive that unharnessed energy and anger will ultimately be we won’t know for at least a little while.  But we are going to find out, and there is no going back.

In Bob Weir’s first public appearance since the election, sitting in with the Joe Russo led band JRAD, he passionately sang ‘A Hard Rain’s A Gonna Fall.’  I am guessing Weir chose the song particularly, as a musical response to the events of last week.  Penned by Bob Dylan and one of his early masterpieces, the lyrics of the song paint the picture of a dystopian world where everything has gone wrong.  The dark and disturbing imagery contrasts sharply with the song’s chorus, warning us all in a prophetic proclamation that there are consequences to these historical moments, and that they can be far reaching.  But the last stanza suggests that we cannot turn away, that in fact we have to walk into the darkness, enter the Upside Down, in order to have a chance to emerge whole.  Stranger Things indeed.  Here are the lyrics:

Oh, where have you been, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?
I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains
I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways
I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests
I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans
I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what did you see, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?
I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it
I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it
I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’
I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’
I saw a white ladder all covered with water
I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken
I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And what did you hear, my blue-eyed son?
And what did you hear, my darling young one?
I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’
Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world
Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’
Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’
Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’
Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter
Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley
And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, who did you meet, my blue-eyed son?
Who did you meet, my darling young one?
I met a young child beside a dead pony
I met a white man who walked a black dog
I met a young woman whose body was burning
I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow
I met one man who was wounded in love
I met another man who was wounded with hatred
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Oh, what’ll you do now, my blue-eyed son?
Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?
I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’
I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest
Where the people are many and their hands are all empty
Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters
Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden
Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten
Where black is the color, where none is the number
And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it
And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it
Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’
But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’
And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard
It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

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3 Comments

Filed under America, civil rights, clergy, community, gay rights, LGBT, music, politics, rock and roll, Uncategorized

3 responses to “The Upside Down

  1. Three Thoughts:
    One of my favorite folk songs has a line that says something like, “you don’t know how far is far enough until you go too far and then back up.” While a few of us have a better long distance vision than most folks, a healthy majority actually can’t see what is going to happen until at least it has started to bloom and other not until it bears fruit. THis might be the “too far” that some people need.

    As long as there is comfort, little action will occur. The temperature has to be hot enough and change suddenly enough that the frog jumps out of the soon to be boiling water. This is could be the beginning of that jolt. Maybe that’s the same as the first point, though.

    And maybe we have to look closely at the things “the Left” has put on the top of it priority list. Sure, there is a plank in the platform for better jobs and better infrastructure, but all the passion goes toward gay marriage (which I’m a big proponent of), but as soon as that battle was won, without much breathing room for the folks who honestly feel like it is a sin against God to begin to acclimate, it shifted without missing a step to the rights of transexuals. Suddenly we were having national conversations about letting male bodies people into female labeled bathrooms. While I don’t doubt the discomfort of feeling like you skin literally doesn’t fit, I wonder if that’s the issue we need to have rallies about when so many people are dying from despair (and methamphetamines) of not being able to make a living within 100 miles of where they grew up and their families are rooted.

    You can’t stop the rain, said John Fogerty, but you can help sow seeds that will bloom in the spring, if you stop to learn something from the rain.

    • Thank You !! We need to all have faith and give them a chance. Sonya

    • hi Lou – thanks for the insightful comments – it has been amazing to watch the ‘soul searching’ – in Hebrew חשבון הנפש – literally an accounting of the soul – coming from the pundits, analysts, demographers, columnists, etc, and the DNC in terms of how they so radically mis-read the zeitgeist of almost a full half of the voting public. Folks who voted the Trump ticket, whether from conviction, anger, despair, or some combination of factors, are real, with real concerns, real issues, and real pain. Both parties lost track of that, and the window it opened enabled Trump to win the primary and the election.
      I am hoping that the pres elect will be able to retain his independence and not feel the need to walk to the beat of a particular idealogical drummer. Some of the early appointment possibilities have me worried about that, but time will tell the tale –
      hope you are well!

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