For some reason, I’m not sure exactly why, progressive movements for social change in America seem to spark the writing and singing of songs. The union movement had “Solidarity Forever” which first was sung in 1915, the civil rights movement had, of course, “We Shall Overcome,” and the anti-war movement had Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind.”
Now it appears that another progressive movement, this one seeking to end gun violence has come up with its anthem, a song called “Nothing More,” which was recorded by a rock group out of Connecticut called the Alternate Routes and has been picked up by the folks who are bringing us this year’s national gun violence prevention (GVP) extravaganza, The Concert Across America (CAA.) The song was actually written by Alternate Routes to commemorate (what an inappropriate word) the tragedy at Sandy Hook, and if you go to their Facebook page, you’ll get a beautiful rendition of it by the Boston Children’s Chorus; there’s also a version on the CAA website given to us by Vy Higginson’s Harlem Choir.
Last year’s concert embraced more than 5,000 musical artists appearing in more than 350 sites around the country, and this year’s shindig promises to become even more widespread. There’s something going on in more than 40 states, so no matter where you live you can get involved by driving a few miles this way or that and these events will all go off sometime between September 21st and 24th.
When you go to the CAA website, take a minute and look at the sponsor’s list, or what they are calling the ‘partners’ who are supporting this effort. I’m counting more than 120 groups and organizations, and it’s not just the usual suspects that are associated with efforts to reduce the American sickness known as guns, there are all kinds of folks involved in this effort that I never heard of before, and if I haven’t heard about them, their presence and energies mean that something new and different in the GVP world may be taking place.
The problem with advocating for ending gun violence is that it’s a whole lot of separate organizations going up against one organization, the NRA. Which means by definition that the ‘gun rights’ group has the upper hand because the boys in Fairfax can develop and implement strategies from a single, focused source. The GVP community doesn’t enjoy the luxury of such single-purpose activity, but the Concert Across America has become a national expression of one, basic theme, namely, that gun violence must come to an end. Which is what, for example, turned hundreds of organizations and group into the anti-war movement in the 1970s, the emergence of a consensus that the war had to end. And considering the fact that every two years we lose as many people to gun violence as we lost in the nearly quarter-century that we were in Vietnam, it’s time for a national, organized anti-gun violence movement to emerge.
But this year’s concert represents something new and unique as well, because along with all the famous artists who are going to appear, every last one of us can also become a participant by making a video singing ‘Nothing More’ and then posting it on YouTube or Facebook with the hashtag #ConcertAcrossAmerica so that your performance can be counted, which is what a movement is really all about.
The problem with building a movement in the digital age is that personal participation usually goes no further than sitting in front of a computer or responding to a text that came in on your droid. I don’t care how many ‘likes’ someone gets on a Facebook page or how many tweets are received, there is no substitute for personal, physical energy and there is no movement which ever achieved any lasting impact unless and until people get directly involved. So here’s your chance to do something tangible about gun violence and by the way, I just bought a Concert Across America t-shirt, and so should you!