MERILETTE

Songs That Make Me Feel Things 1 - The Dance, Garth Brooks

 

Hi there! Merilette here! Welcome to the first entry in my blog series, 'songs that make me feel things'. In this series I will be getting very personal with you all, detailing why certain songs mean so much to me and how I relate them to my life. 

Today, we will be taking a look at The Dance. A quick word of warning - this will get really serious really fast. 

The Dance, written by Tony Arata and made popular by Garth Brooks, is often considered one of the greatest songs ever written in country music history. I wholeheartedly agree.

Almost everyone that hears this song is able to relate it to their own life in one way or another. The main premise of The Dance is that all good things come to an end. On the surface, it sounds like a perfectly written song about a breakup, with Garth singing about how glad he is that he didn't know it would end in such an ugly, painful way - because if he had known, he probably wouldn't have entered into the relationship in the first place, and thus would miss all of the wonderful memories that he procured along the way.

I don't hear it that way.

 

Please read: The late Dolores O'Riordan’s protest song, Zombie, and Antwon Rose

 

Matt and I are in our beloved Volvo station wagon with our two pups, on the way to Indiana to see mama Gail and enjoy the lake. When we go on road trips, we always listen to loud music, as most people do. The first album I put on when we got on our way was The Cranberries’ greatest hits album. 

Zombie is the third song on the album, and although the lyrics were written about the IRA bombing in Warrington, Ireland, the lyrics hit me hard in regards to Antwon Rose. 

I wasn’t expecting it, and was startled by how much the lyrics sounded like they were written about the police brutality that plagues black communities, by how much the lyrics sounded like they were written today, days after Antwon Rose was murdered by Officer Michael Rosfeld. 

“Another mother’s breaking heart is taking over”

I can’t imagine how it feels to be Antwon’s mother right now. I can’t imagine what it’s like to receive a call that your baby boy was just shot in the back, MURDERED, by a police officer as he tried to run away from them in fear, unarmed.

“Another head hangs lowly, child is slowly taken... it’s the same old thing since 1916”

Antwon Rose’s life may have been taken from him permanently when those three bullets pierced his back, but the end of his life began long before that wretched day. 

This brutal murder was the result of systematic oppression and police brutality that black people have been experiencing for centuries - long before Antwon was even born. This oppression takes black children, slowly. It devalues them in society’s eyes and in their own eyes, slowly. It quietly does everything it can to ensure these children will grow up to be imprisoned. To overdose. To be murdered. To be in deep poverty. It is vicious, it is calculated, it is slow, but very sure of itself. 

Antwon was well on his way to escaping the worst of black oppression, with his stellar grades, charming personality, college plans, empathetic soul, incredible work ethic, and community service driven attitude.

But when you’re black, police brutality doesn’t care about any of that when they aim a gun at your back.

“But you see, it’s not me, it’s not my family”

There has been an incredible outpouring of support and the way our communities have come together in support of #justiceforantwon

But I can’t pretend that there isn’t also an outpouring of ignorant, hateful, disrespectful, and despicable comments. Comments so destitute of empathy, they make me wonder if they were really written by human beings. 

The reality is these comments ARE being written by real, breathing, flesh and blood human beings. 

Human beings that say, ‘if those protesters try to block a road I’m on, I will run them over’ as if making them stop and wait in their car for fifteen minutes is a terrible injustice worthy of murder. As if they’ve never experienced real hardship and injustice in their lives. 

Human beings that say ‘he’s clearly guilty if he ran’ as if they’ve never felt fear in their lives. As if none of their loved ones would ever run if they feared being hurt or killed. As if black kids that are suspected of a crime and run out of fear deserve to be immediately gunned down by police. As if they’re totally ok with cops suddenly deciding that THEY are judge, jury, and executioner. 

Human beings that are LITERALLY and PUBLICLY saying “black people are so stupid” as if they don’t know why racism is wrong. As if they aren’t a part of the problem. As if black oppression is black people’s faults. As if black oppression isn’t real. 

If it were their family, they wouldn’t be saying any of these things, and their hearts would be torn out of their chests and smashed into a million pieces by their own words.

Please, after reading this, listen to Zombie and think of Antwon. Pray to whatever God you pray to, and if you don’t pray to a god, send good vibes into the universe, asking not to let Antwon’s death be in vain. Empower yourself. Vote for politicians who are determined to end black oppression. VOTE, please vote. Go to any protest of this unjust murder that you can. Please. Call the Allegheny Police Department to demand that Officer Rosfeld be held accountable for murder. Please. Don’t stop talking about this after the shock wears off. Please, please, please. Don’t be the American version of the Zombies that Dolores O'Riordan wrote about in her tragic protest song. Don’t be the ones that find out that a child was gunned down in your community, sigh, and then forget about it. Do something. Please, for the love of God. 

#AntwonRose

(Photo taken by myself at the June 21st protest of Antwon Rose in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse)

 

Texas

 

I never in a million years thought that my home state would matter as much to my identity as it does now that I don't live there anymore. 

Maybe it's because when I was living in Texas, most EVERYBODY was from Texas, so it didn't feel very special or interesting or important. On top of that, I'd been there from birth. I didn't know anything else.

But as soon as I landed in Pittsburgh, I realized just how important Texas was to my life story and identity. Here are some things and situations that ALWAYS remind me of my roots:

1. Every time I hear Pittsburghers complaining that it's "SO HOT OUTSIDE", I just laugh to myself.

My whole life has been filled with 102°F, 98% humidity summers, so for me, Pittsburgh summers are incredibly mild.

2. Every time I hear Pittsburghers say, "It's not that cold!", I cringe and do everything in my power to stay home. 

By my 18th birthday, I had seen snow twice in my life. One of those times, the only place it collected was in a crevice on our roof (this was VERY exciting). The other time, it stuck, but it was only one inch of snow. And in the winter, the low temperature rarely dipped under 30°F, so I don't handle the cold well.

3. The first thing I wish I could say when someone pisses me off is "DO YOU KNOW WHERE I'M FROM?"

There's a reason they say "Don't mess with Texas". It's a warning just as much as it's a slogan. We are outspoken and friendly, until you're an asshole to us or our loved ones - then we're outspoken and angry. We are quick to call out those that are in the wrong, and we aren't quiet about it. So if you want to keep your pride intact, don't be an asshole around Texans. This leads me to the following...

4. When there's something wrong happening in public, and nobody cares or does anything but me, I wish I could click my heels and go back home.

Child abuse, littering, harassment, domestic violence... I see all sorts of bad things happen in public. In Texas, these kinds of things are usually quickly ended by good samaritans who band together despite being total strangers. But here up North, people usually just ignore it, and it is TERRIBLE and SOUL CRUSHING. 

The example that will forever be burned in my memory: I once was in downtown Pittsburgh and saw an older lady SCREAMING the most horrendous things to what I assume was her grandchild. He was probably 6. She was screaming things in his face that I wouldn't even whisper to my worst enemy. Screaming that he was a "worthless piece of shit", screaming that his parents hate him, screaming that he was ruining her life. HE. WAS. AROUND. 6. YEARS. OLD. I was standing on the corner next to the Smithfield bus stop when I witnessed this, and it was rush hour. There were at least 100 people within eyesight of this incident, most standing and waiting at the bus stop. I looked around, panicking, hoping to find somebody to help me confront this woman. Nobody cared. At all. Everyone was either looking down at their phones or staring straight ahead, ignoring it. I was viscerally horrified, and ended up calling the police and pointing them in the right direction, after begging them to do something when they told me they couldn't. This horrible abuse and the apathy I witnessed from all of those people made me cry myself to sleep for the next week.

When I first arrived here, I still had my Texas ways and would intervene any time I saw somebody do something wrong, even for littering. But now, I only intervene when absolutely necessary, because people don't back up other people here and it is terrifying to confront someone, knowing you won't have support from anyone else.

5. Thanks to my mom and my home state, I'm kind of a country music/cowboy boot/cowboy hat/Texas two step snob.

I cringe at newer pop/rap/country music, square-tipped boots, too-small and too-curly cowboy hats, and people that two step like a giraffe but think that they are good (seriously, please don't ask me to dance if you don't know how). There's lots of young "cowboys" up here that take part in all of this. I don't blame them - there's not much western culture here, so they don't really have anything to go off of. My understanding doesn't undo my cringe, though.

6. When I first moved here, I was appalled at the "Mexican" and "Tex Mex" restaurants here, to the point that I almost cried at the fourth Pittsburgh "Mexican" restaurant I tried. I'm STILL appalled at this.

This was something I didn't know would happen when I moved up here - a cuisine I ate multiple times a week would be torn out of my life with no warning. It might sound silly to you, but it was very emotionally distressing for me. I was 18, I had just moved away from my whole entire family to a town that I'd never been to, where I knew nobody, and I had nothing to do but think about all of this and try to get a job. Then you add on top of that that I inadvertently left a huge part of my culture on the other side of the country? It was horrible. There's a couple good traditional Mexican spots, but I'm not sure that a good Tex Mex place exists here. I quickly resigned to the fact that I just have to make my own Mexican food, but this is no replacement for traditional home-made Mexican food made by experienced hands, and it's DEFINITELY not a replacement for all of the Mexican restaurants I've been going to for almost two decades. 

7. I knew I loved country western dancing, but I didn't know I loved it THAT much until I didn't have anywhere to do it or anyone to do it with.

I started going to a particular country western bar and dancehall when I was 14 (the age to get in was 18 but my parents have been going there forever and after lots of string pulls, they finally got me in). That was where I learned how to dance, and more importantly, that's where my dad (who is technically my stepdad) and I bonded together. I'm not sure that we would be anywhere as close as we are without two stepping at that dancehall. I'm not sure I would so firmly consider him my father without all of the time we spent hand in hand, dancing to songs I knew since I was a child. 

Nowadays, I only get to dance when I'm visiting home, and I miss it immensely. There's a few "Country Western" bars here and clubs that do "Country Western Night", but I'm afraid to go because I'm pretty sure they'll be filled with obnoxious college kids that haven't a clue how to two-step and are hellbent on drunkenly hobbling around on the dance floor and getting in the way of people who really want to dance. There's a reason that I don't go to Cowboy's Dancehall when I'm in Texas. I don't want a bunch of annoying college kids on the dance floor stepping on my heels, running into me and not apologizing, and thinking they are so cool because they recklessly flip their partners when there is clearly not enough room. I can't deal with that shit in Texas, so I'm not going to deal with it here. If someone knows of a place here to two-step that ISN'T like what I described, let me know.

8. Since moving North, I get really fired up about people that proudly "hate" all country music.

There aren't many people in Texas that completely discredit ALL of country music as trash. Here? It's rampant. "I HATE country!" they proudly proclaim. Since moving here and being constantly confronted with this, I've learned that this very exclusionary opinion is actually rooted in classism. Obviously, this makes me more passionate about the subject. Do a google search on it, it's interesting stuff. 

9. I am very bothered by the stereotype that Texas is 95% far-right conservatives. 

This is just false. 43% of Texans voted blue in the 2016 presidential election, and the number of liberal democrats is growing. If there weren't tons of liberals in Texas, there's no way I'd be planning to move back there! Additionally, most of the conservative republican Texans I've met are supportive of some typically liberal things like gay marriage, environmental responsibility, clean energy, and the legalization of marijuana, just to name a few examples. They're not perfect, but they are far better than completely bigoted and illogical alt-right assholes, and their ears and minds are often open to new ideas.

10. Here in the Northern part of the country, there's lots of people that are cold to strangers and lots of people that sexually harass strangers. This was a big culture shock to me.

I remember when I flew North for the first time. I landed in Massachusetts, and while I was waiting for my bags at the baggage claim, I saw a woman wearing a bandana on her head in a way I'd never seen, and it was SO CUTE.

So, as always, I said that I liked it. It went like this:

"Oh my gosh, the way you're wearing your bandana is so cute!"

"...um... *dirty look*...thanks...?" 

I said to myself, "Well, I guess I'm not in Texas anymore."

Pittsburgh isn't as bad as other places up here can be with friendliness, but it definitely is not exempt. People mostly mind their own business while riding the buses, waiting in lines, eating at restaurants, shopping for clothes... but in Texas, you will see strangers becoming friends all the time in situations like these, and people will want to converse with you, too. 

On the other hand, something Pittsburgh is very bad about is catcalling. It is horrible here, and happens most times I go out alone. This is sexual harassment, plain and simple. Of course, catcalling happens in Texas, but it is, in my experience, rare. In my whole time living in Texas, I think I had been catcalled either once or twice. Living in Pittsburgh just for a few years, I've been catcalled so many times that I cannot keep track anymore. Definitely more than 50 times. I'm not sure what the reason for this difference is, but every time I'm catcalled, I get one step closer to throwing my hands up and immediately moving back to Texas with my husband, my dogs, my rats and my fish.

And that's it for now! I know I could make another list of things that remind me of my home state. Do you have any?