Burn It Down

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A blog is a great place to introduce a song that requires some explanation. For days leading up to the grand jury decision in the Michael Brown case, his family members and their representatives pleaded for peace. When the decision was announced, their emotions could no longer be contained. The stepfather turned to the crowd and yelled, “Burn this bitch down!” That was actually the milder end to his impassioned plea.

I viewed the scene and the fiery chaos that followed on my big screen TV from my leather sofa in my nice home, and you know what I did? I shook my head in disgust and scornful judgment for about 15 seconds. Then, BAM – a much deeper emotion swelled inside of me. Clear as the writing on this page, I heard a voice within myself – they are just like you, just like you. Oh… Yeah…

If you believe like I do that humans contain a piece of divinity because we were created to be in relationship with God – or even if you think humans have simply evolved to some higher place – one thing we can probably agree on is that humans have an instinctive desire for freedom and growth and creativity. If those things are boxed in and stifled for long enough, people are going to start burning stuff down.

I have a tendency to do this in my own life – box myself in and shut down out of fear and inability to deal with conflict. And guess what it eventually leads to?  Burning stuff – relationships, my own body, time, you name it. None of my personal chaos has made the evening news, thank goodness, but my behavior at its core was no different from theirs. Please hear me – I am not saying my reaction was right. It was awful! Burns are painful and leave nasty scars.

It is not right for people to light fire to patrol cars and businesses, but the chaos makes a lot of sense when you consider the most fundamental elements of human nature. I hear the argument that boys like Michael Brown are in those situations because of their own choices, and I fail to see the logic there.  They are, for the most part, living the life they were handed, just like we all are. Sure, we are often complicit in building our own prisons. But this particular box belongs to all of us. This box holds precious children that were born where they were born without prior consent, often into tough family situations, broken schools, and isolation from the Great American Dream. Does the WHY really matter at this point? They are there – in a desperate place, and these our our fellow citizens!

So, my song is not a call to burn down neighborhoods, but a call for us to join the conversation and hopefully the rescue of our fellow humans. How does my generation start to better care for the next generation stuck in this cycle? I don’t have the answers to that, but when I sing this song, my heart feels determined to be a part of the solution.

Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream and helped us make huge strides, but that dream is not yet fully realized. I hope that my generation can take what has been burned and help rebuild it into something we can all be proud of – that he would be proud of.

A note on the recording itself.  When I hear this song in my head, it is a piano song, BIG, with stringed instruments and a full chorus backup. I do not have the resources or the talent to convey all of that.  This 7 blog posts in 7 days challenge is supposed to be “out of our comfort zone”.  Well, this is way out there.  You get the bare-faced, un-photoshopped, me in my living room version.

Burn It Down

This is where we live but here we’re far from wanted
We wander our street but to you we only haunt it
And when we show our faces, you look right past them or away
No way out because you boarded all the exits

So burn it down, burn it down
Banish the pretenders
Burn it down, burn it down
Or they’ll never see
Burn it down, burn it down
Nothing to surrender
Burn it down and for a moment we are free

Screams of desperation; mark our words
Build it hot and build it bright so they can’t look away
Hear our cries for truth and justice; show our hidden might
Build it tall and light the match – we brand this night

No need to lock us up – this city is our cell
This city is our cell, and you lost the key
No need to lock us up – this city is our cell
These streets that burn were already abandoned

So burn it down, burn it down
Banish the pretenders
Burn it down, burn it down
Or they’ll never see
Burn it down, burn it down
Nothing to surrender
Burn it down; for a moment we are free
Burn it down, burn it down, so finally they’ll see

~Alyson Hinkie
11/29/2014

7 thoughts on “Burn It Down

  1. Beautiful, brazen, bravo! Love your voice! I had similar feelings about that incident. Appalled at first, followed by compassion after considering the bigger picture. I still don’t know the truth but my guess is that Michael Brown completely lost it, not necessarily from a lack of respect for authority but more because of a seemingly hopeless situation. Jesus is our common ground! He knew every prejudice but set the example by turning the cheek.

    Last thought: I think the piano is perfect for this…I can’t help but think of “Say Something”

    Like

    • Reading my mind, David! This story was incredibly tragic for everyone involved. My hope is that the church – the big one – can unite and show the grace, compassion, and mercy that has been supplied to us in unfathomable abundance.

      Like

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