Close your eyes and think of me And soon I will be there To brighten up even your darkest night
“You’ve Got A Friend” Written by Carole King Performed by James Taylor
On the morning of Friday May 18, 2018, a shooter entered Santa Fe High School in Texas, leaving many dead, several wounded, countless traumatized.
That evening, I attended a James Taylor concert.
The following day, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle exchanged wedding vows.
However you slice it, whatever your perspective, that was one helluva 36-hour stretch.
As the Sante Fe High School massacre hit the news, I followed reactions on the internet. I was deeply disturbed. A large number referred to school shootings — the dead, the wounded, the gutted families, the torn communities — as our “new normal.”
Several hours later, I watched James Taylor take the stage. James is a curiously compelling presence — curious because he radiates a quiet energy instead of the crackling voltage typical of the rock and roll era. He’s upfront about his struggles with addiction and mental illness, relating a story of being in such “a bad way” that his father rented a car and drove from a different state to find him. At another point in the concert, he described hanging out with The Beatles, admitting that he doesn’t remember the occasion “but I’m told I had a good time.” The audience laughed sympathetically, but James clearly wasn’t trying to recapture or glorify his younger days. He conveyed a message that we’ve all travelled a long and strange journey, that we’ve all survived pain and loss, that we’re all grateful to be here today. When he sang, his pain and his resiliency were palpable, standing shoulder to shoulder.
The Royal Wedding coverage was in full swing when I awoke on Saturday morning. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have established themselves as role models for surviving adversity, giving to others, bringing a fresh vitality to the monarchy. Both have overcome tremendous personal obstacles. They reached deep within to find a different path forward — first separately, now together. Like James Taylor, they radiate hope in a troubled world.
Through the concert and the royal wedding, I thought about Santa Fe High School. Too many lives in too many schools have been shattered. In the face of our president’s unchecked belligerence, our citizens are responding in kind, lashing against each other. It’s hard to keep a clear head in the face of one massacre after another. It’s hard to think rationally when our country’s administration insists on a relentless political bar fight. It’s disorienting when we’ve reached the point where a school shooting is considered any kind of normal, new or otherwise. My homeland has lost its way in a “darkest night.”
James Taylor, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are no strangers to darkness, so I’m following their example. I will look my country’s “darkest night” straight in the eye. I will never normalize a school shooting. I will not recalibrate “normal’ to accommodate an ongoing upheaval. When I feel overwhelmed or exhausted, I’ll replay James Taylor’s voice in my head and remember how much he has overcome. I’ll think of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle and the inspiration I felt as they clasped hands. I’ll step forward to meet the darkness, trusting that in time, with great effort, the United States will rediscover the source of its own brightness.
Amy Kaufman Burk is a therapist-turned-author. Her first novel, Hollywood High: Achieve The Honorable, was written in reaction to seeing gay students bullied in high school. The story follows Caroline Black through tenth grade, as her new high school opens her world. Tightwire, Amy’s second novel, continues to follow Caroline, this time as a rookie psych intern treating her first patient — a stormy, brilliant, troubled young man who ran away from the circus to find himself. Amy’s blog includes posts about gender equality, LGBTQ+ ally support, #NeverAgain, racial equality and parenting. Amy collaborates with educators who include her books and essays in their classrooms.
Amy’s Author Page — check out her novels and latest blog posts https://www.amazon.com/Amy-Kaufman-Burk/e/B00R0S66Y4