Two unexpected things happened for me in the last week. I finished Phil Collins’ biography Not Dead Yet, and discovered that my flame for him was also not dead yet, though it has not been seen for quite a long time.
And then Donald Trump was elected President. The flame of social justice seems to struggle and sputter in the wind.
I watched Trump mock a disabled reporter on national tv. I wouldn’t let my five-year-old do this to another person. I don’t think I know any parent who would allow it. Yet the American people reward his disgusting behavior by giving him our highest office.
I don’t understand.
But I know about a few things, and I know there are some truths that aren’t dead.
Kindness, compassion, acceptance. The love for one another that compels us to search deep inside each person we meet and see the connection between us all.
These things aren’t dead.
Though at times, it may appear as though they are hidden. Or vanished. A whisper from a by-gone day.
Such a whisper was my love for Phil Collins before I picked up his book last week. I was once crazily obsessed with him. I had all his albums, I recorded every tv appearance or radio interview. I knew all his songs and listened to his tapes in order by copyright date. That must have been the emerging librarian in me.
When the song “Both Sides of the Story” was released just a few days before my 15th birthday, I sat on my bed and wept like a small child.
And once, the 13-yr-old me even phone-stalked a woman who won a local contest to meet him. Directory assistance gave me her number. If you are out there, Linda or Lisa-something, I am so sorry to have done this to you. And I hope your meeting with him was all you dreamed it would be.
The person with that obsession flamed out almost two decades ago to become someone else. Someone who discovered the music of Peter Gabriel and Robert Plant and Sting. Journey, The Cars, The Doors, moving back through time to the Beatles. Then jazz, ethnic, and minimalist. An entire world of music opened up before my eyes. Along the way, I found love with real-life men. Some of them evil and exploitative. Others, true-blue, gentle and kind.
I have relaxed into a person who just casually loves the music of PC. I know all the words still, and I love to sing along. I rock out to “Home by the Sea,” like I did when I was 8. But, I don’t have the same passion for him anymore.
Reading the memoir, Not Dead Yet, I was able to not just learn about the real life of a man I desperately insanely loved when I was a young teen. I was also able to get a look at that girl’s passion from a bird’s-eye view. That girl had known an inordinate number of weird and traumatic things before the age of 12. And then in comes this man crooning “I wish it would rain down,” dressed like Clark Gable in that dashing black hat.
In his voice, there is my sadness and pain. When he sings “Find a Way to my Heart,” I know his words are true. He will always be with me.
And now that I have shook with nerves over his first interview with Genesis, heard the litany of amazing and talented musicians he has worked with, learned of the deep personal pain behind “In the Air Tonight,” and discovered how a settled, stable, blissful family-life eluded him for most of his life, I can’t help it.
I love him even more.
But, I’ve got to say something to Phil. No one is so obsessed with seeing your live shows that they would want you to endure blistered and bleeding hands, or repeated steroid shots to help save your voice. I want to think that even the mad-obsessed teen I was would have understood. But then that could just be my adult compassionate self talking.
You see my passion for PC has now been morphed into an enduring grown-up love. A compassion.
And, in the end, my obsession with Phil Collins was not actually a fruitless waste of misdirected energy. Phil taught me how to have passion in the first place.
It was that same kind of passion that saw me supporting Bernie Sanders in the primaries this election year. How badly I wanted to have a good, honest, decent human being in the White House.
I bring that passion to work with me everyday. I love my job and my world surrounded by books and people who are passionate about reading them. Libraries have shown me what amazing things people can accomplish if they work together.
But now I see we have collectively accomplished electing a man-infant as president. I was passionate about not wanting him as our leader, but not passionate enough to love Hillary.
I am worried about our country, and our world. How will we protect the rights of Americans who Trump wants to marginalize?
How will we explain this someday to our grandchildren?
I don’t know. But I know some things that aren’t dead. Love is forever, and old flames flicker out to be rekindled into new ones. I believe that most people are decent and good and do not want to hurt each other. I believe that light will drive out darkness. The flame of social justice smolders and burns.
But someday, we all will die. Each of us humans whose choices have led us to this day. The machinations of our flawed society are but a blip on an omnipotent timeline.
To Phil, I know you are out there, thanks for being a blip on my timeline. I think you should hug your kids and tell them they are safe and loved, just as every parent in America should do today.
And for God’s sake, just stay retired.