Columns » Autumn Tolbert

Unifying

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After months of constant headshaking and wondering how bad things will get, I'll take a gleam of hope anywhere I can find it. On Sunday it came from a group of pop stars at the One Love Manchester concert in Manchester, England. The show, hosted by Ariana Grande, a child actress turned pop singer partial to ponytails and stiletto heels, was a fundraiser and response to the bombing at Grande's May concert in Manchester that killed 22 adults and children and injured over 100 more. Despite another terror attack on Saturday night that killed seven in London, 50,000 people showed up to hear Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Coldplay, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Take That and Liam Gallagher, among others. I turned it on because half of Twitter seemed to be watching, and I had a rare Sunday afternoon home alone with no children or husband.

The theme of the concert — of not giving in to fear — is one we need to hear right now. Social media is full of folks who refuse to acknowledge that terrorists who identify as radicalized Muslims do not represent the rest of the Muslims just as the radicalized Christian terrorists do not represent all of those who practice the Christian faith. The voices that seem to be amplified the most are those of hate. We have elected officials calling for an end to due process for those Muslims suspected of terrorist acts. I've seen multiple "Christians" argue we should torture the friends and family members of suspected Islamic terrorists. I'm so disgusted I don't even know what to say sometimes.

The grace and compassion showed by this group of pop stars was in sharp contrast with the petty, politicized statements from President Trump on Twitter in which he criticized the mayor of London, doubled down on his talk of a travel ban, and showed he either is completely uninformed about England's gun laws or is deliberately ignoring them in an attempt to win points with the NRA crowd. We find ourselves in a situation in which, as one of my good friends pointed out, the bar is so low right now that any act of decency or effort to unite instead of divide seems heroic.

For me, at least, there is another layer to all of this. Since last year, just being a woman can feel like a political act. In the past week, a planned all-female showing of the "Wonder Woman" movie in Texas seemed to draw more outrage than the all-male panel of senators deciding the fate of our health care; journalist Megyn Kelley was accused of needing a "pill" after she questioned Vladimir Putin about a Trump/Russia connection; and I was told I needed to "simmer down" by a male attorney while discussing a court case. Sigh. Right now, as women fight for more positions of power and leadership, we are faced with the reality that we dare not be too strong or too compassionate. Seeing a group of female singers taking compassion and strength to the extreme was exactly what I needed.

I imagine some will find those like me so moved by all of this to be naive or silly or overly sentimental. I don't care. This concert was a way to show the rest of the world that there are those who want to come together without fear and without hate. Since we no longer have a president willing or able to try to be a unifying force in the world, it just might take a rainy Sunday afternoon watching a group of pop stars on a stage halfway across the world to make us feel better.

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