“Open letters” are a thing now, right? Every time I started this, it just turned into a rambling mess, because I’m so upset about this situation in the mayor’s office. Anywhoooo, here’s the most coherent thing I could edit it down to.
I grew up in Scarborough when it was just part of Metropolitan Toronto, before the days of the “Megacity”. I don’t live in Scarborough, (or anywhere in Toronto) anymore, but I’ll always consider it my hometown. Toronto’s public schools introduced me to my first friends, and provided me with just enough resources to start my life in music. My first trumpets were borrowed from my public schools. There was one music teacher who drove me to orchestra rehearsals because my overprotective parents were nervous about me taking public transit after sunset. There was a Wynton Marsalis CD I’d signed it out of the school library so many times, the library told me I couldn’t sign it out for a few months. So, since those overprotective parents of mine weren’t about to let me go downtown to visit the only record store that carried it, another music teacher just bought the CD for me. There was another music teacher who let me practice in one of the small offices at the back of the band room DURING his band class, even though the whole class could hear trumpet exercises through the door whenever they weren’t playing a piece. He know how important music and practicing was to me, and I guess he felt the inconvenience to his class wasn’t enough of a problem to get in the way of that.
This is the Toronto I remember. People helping each other. This is the Toronto I want to exist again. I don’t want to hear/read about my hometown in news outlets across the world because of its problems. I want a Toronto that inspires people across the world the way it inspired me. I want the Toronto that let me dream big as a kid to return so more generations of young Torontonians will grow up with dreams that will sustain them for the rest of their lives.
As cathartic as it might be at times to complain and joke about Rob Ford (and yes, I’m beyond guilty of both offences), I think it’s time for more productive action. I’m not a citizen of Toronto, so I can’t help vote him out. Even if I could, that’s opportunity won’t present itself for another year. He won’t resign, and any attempts to force him out through legal loopholes sets a horrible precedent for the future.
So, here’s what I’m going to do. Every time I’m in Toronto, I’m just going to try to be a little nicer. I’m going to hold more doors open for people. I’m going to pick up some litter on the subways or streets and discard it. If someone who’s homeless and living on the street asks for some change, I’m going to buy them a hot meal. This obviously won’t replace the mayor, but I’m thinking if by some miracle, this catches on, maybe people around the world will talk about how Torontonians started doing a lot of little things to clean up their city themselves because they were so fed up with mess of a mayor the mistakenly elect.
That’s all. No “revolution”, no protests. Sometimes, when we’re this overwhelmed with a such an epic problem, the best solutions start small.
Dream Bigger Toronto,
For me to write and then publicly post this is remarkably selfish. I’m completely aware of that, but I thought it would be helpful to begin by acknowledging it. I can’t pretend to fully understand the grief of any of the families in Connecticut, but I think I and most of the world share their feelings of being completely powerless right now. I heard about yesterday’s shooting on the radio on the way home from lunch. It wasn’t until I got home that I read about how most of the victims were children, and was another couple hours before I learned just how young they were.
I’ll admit, I felt indifferent after hearing that first radio report, because after events like those in Columbine years ago and the what happened this year in Colorado, mass shootings in America don’t really surprise me anymore. I’m not proud of my lack of sensitivity in the moment, I’m only being honest. My next reaction was anger, then sadness, and then as I started to process the full reality of what happened yesterday, I just went numb. These were young children. Too young to have learned hate, too young to be anything but beautiful possibilities for the future, and now they are gone.
There isn’t another species on the planet that can be so emotionally and physically affected by just being hearing or reading such horrible news. This empathy we can feel for complete strangers is unique to humanity. It is the foundation of our laws and morals. It is also where the concept of individual rights ultimately comes from. Today, so many of us are so enraged about what happened yesterday. Partly because of how powerless we feel. Some have prayed, some have spoken out, and some have been moved to action to try to improve laws to prevent future violence.
The important thing I noticed yesterday with all my American friends who firmly believe gun ownership is a their “constitutional right”, even they reacted by acknowledging the tragedy and offering their sympathies for the victims. There were no immediate or aggressive defences of the 2nd amendment. Just prayers, words of sympathy, words of sadness, or respectful silence. They may have engaged in debate and discussion later in the day, but even then you could see them trying hard to be sensitive, even when they were met with hostility for their beliefs.
This is what gives me hope in spite of what happened yesterday. That human impulse for compassion is still present in even the most passionate defenders of the 2nd amendment. I would ask that every gun owner in America remember the many compromises we all make to live together as communities, nations, and societies. I would ask them to remember how we all give up some of ourselves to enjoy the many benefits of being a part of something greater than the sum of its individual parts.
Some may feel that owning a concealed or automatic weapon makes them safer (and it may), but the heightened likelihood of escalating violence in any situation involving that weapon makes the rest of us less safe. For those who may claim cars and kitchen knives can be also used as weapons, I would counter that although many tools can be used as weapons, only firearms were made to be weapons. We have wisely chosen to prohibit the manufacture and sale of many narcotics in the interest of public and personal safety, even though such legislation removes personal liberty from those who may wish to experiment with such substances. We wisely require testing and graduated licensing for driving motor vehicles in the same spirit of public safety.
I know there are many people who live outside cities and suburbs who see firearms as tools, and fully understand the responsibilities of owning and operating them. Many of these people are the farmers who help feed those of us who live in more densely populated areas. I know it is possible to hunt to feed one’s family and still respect life. I also know these farmers and hunters are grieving with the rest of us today.
I hope after more of the dark possibilities of such “efficient” instruments of violence were revealed yesterday, we can all come together and decide that more restrictions are needed to lessen the odds of something like this of ever happening again. Of course there are more factors involved with what happened yesterday, (like better assessment of mental illness, and better access to mental health care), but it seems obvious that eliminating access to concealed/automatic/semi-automatic weapons would make ultimately everyone in America safer.
If I’ve been long-winded, I apologize, but it seemed like the most respectful appeal to those still who place their “rights” ahead of what IS right. Beyond gun rights, this is about looking at the evidence (in America, and throughout the rest of the world), and moving towards solutions that protect the needs of most of us, instead of the desires of a few.
This morning I learned of Maurice André’s passing from a friend’s Facebook wall. For many people who aren’t directly familiar with André’s work, the easiest way to explain might be to tell the story of how the great Wynton Marsalis won his first concerto competition playing Haydn’s trumpet concerto after learning it by ear from a recording of Maurice André’s. If you’ve heard a classical trumpet player under 50 year perform, you’ve heard the influence Maurice André. If you’ve heard a classical trumpet player and loved their sound, you’ve heard the influence of Maurice André. If you’ve ever heard the sound of a trumpet and thought “that doesn’t even sound like a trumpet, it’s too beautiful”, you’ve heard the influence of Maurice André.
After he mastered the canon of classical trumpet repertoire, he went on to expand it with renditions of works written for other instruments that he made sound so natural, most of us grew up thinking they were originally written for trumpet. Monsieur André, you will be missed dearly.
Nothing personal, nothing musical. Just an exercise in rational thought:
Definition of racism from Oxford English Dictionary (via Mac OS X Dictionary app). A response to http://nicholaspayton.wordpress.com/2011/12/14/on-why-nicholas-payton-is-not-a-racist/
To be transported from stress and worry—if only for a brief moment—this song can surely do the trick. To paraphrase the great Billy Strayhorn, That Is You is a lovesome thing…read more at AllAboutJazz.com
Lost in New York is a 68-minute, nine-chapter novel of a boy and his trumpet, making his way to the city and experiencing many life lessons. The CD, with a lengthy booklet filled with beautiful graphic illustrations, is a finely composed suite, merging jazz and the classical in contemporary fashion…read more at Examiner.com.