From the Quill - Turn Down the Noise and Bring up the Sound
“Oh, the noise! Oh, the Noise! Noise! Noise! Noise! That’s one thing he hated!” -
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss.
For the past year or so, and even longer than that, the United States has been drowning in noise. Not a soft and pleasant noise, but a noise born of hatred and anger. A noisy, rowdy, rollicking cacophony of xenophobia, racism, sexism and anti-Semitism. Much like the noise that builds in Whoville on Christmas morning, this noise started building when Donald Trump glided down his gold-plated elevator on Fifth Avenue and continued to grow and grow. It progressively grew louder and uglier after Charlottesville, and at every Trump rally where MAGA-hatted, full-throated, and increasingly angrier Republicans vented their spleens at the media, brown skinned foreigners, members of the Deep State, and even Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Dr. Anthony Fauci. The noise was noise for the sake of noise. Rooted in conspiracy and talk radio. Fueled by the internet, Alex Jones and like-minded talking heads on Fox, One America News and Newsmax. No matter the level of the noise, complicit Republicans in national and local office (except for a few such as Utah Senator Mitt Romney) listened to it or claimed to be hard of hearing when asked about the ugliest parts of the noise. And unlike the soothing, sound-absorbing background hum found in most commercial office buildings, this was a “white noise” based on race, complete with Confederate Flags, Nazi Symbols and ugly nationalism.
The white noise reached a crescendo on Wednesday, January 6, when an angry, mostly white mob nourished on a steady diet of lies and conspiracies of a stolen election, stormed the US Capitol looking to violently overturn one of the most sacred and time-tested traditions of our democracy: the peaceful transition of power from one President to another. The tradition was over 230 years old and survived Civil War, depressions, recessions, and elections decided by the Supreme Court. That all ended, along with the lives of five people, in a head banging, metal crunching explosion of noise and fury cheered on by the Arsonist-in-Chief, who slithered away feigning ignorance and innocence.
And while the noise has started to subside, the current Impeachment proceedings aside, thanks to the measured decency, decorum and experience of the current president, Joseph R. Biden, I long for the noise to end and the sound to return. Are they not the same, you may ask? No. Noise is unfiltered and unexplained; playing to our lesser angels. Sound, on the other hand, is unifying and collaborative. Sound comes with joy and exuberance. Sound comes wrapped in vaccine needles going into arms and signs of better days ahead.
I long for the return of sound. The sound of a sold-out Madison Square Garden in New York singing along with Bruce Springsteen or Pearl Jam. The sound of fans, standing as one, knowing their morning-after voices will be hoarse and thinned, as they cheer on their Red Sox or Seahawks or Lakers. The sound of families clinking glasses at jammed Thanksgiving dinner tables or joyfully hugging each other, teary eyed, as they watch a loved one get married. Sound needs to return to restaurants and bars, shopping malls and movie theaters. I want to squeeze into a bar and ask for a drink as the people around me laugh and talk and drown out the noise, and then have an unmasked and smiling waiter tell me the house special, trying to overcome the din of food being prepared and people ordering a second bottle of wine. Sound kills boarded up stores and For Sale Signs on what was once your favorite neighborhood coffee shop. When sound returns, we will once again hear and see the joy of crowded streets, and waiting in line to board your flight, just to stand in longer lines waiting to enter Disney World or the Louvre. And just imagine the joy of those breaks in sound. The silence that comes over a hushed Broadway theater crowd, anxiously awaiting the curtain to rise. And that moment of silence as fans watch a called third strike or a field goal splitting the uprights.
As a born and bred New Yorker, I love sound and all it means. I want it back more than ever, with all the joy and exuberance, teeming with life and excitement. Go ahead. Feel free to turn up the volume and get back to the sound; Grinch be damned.