It sure would be nice, in the wake of Justice Kennedy’s announcement that he will retire, cementing a conservative vote in the Supreme Court, to say that everything will be alright. I have the skill to bend language to do that work. And I know that there are people who are feeling very pessimistic about the current state of the nation and the prospects for this nation’s future, so there’s really no better time to cheer folks up.
But what comes to my mind this morning is one of Naughty by Nature’s best songs, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright (Ghetto Bastard).” (Link to the video is NSFW, here are the lyrics.) It’s my favorite song of theirs. The chorus repeats everything’s gonna be alright over a pleasant track, but the verses… The verses indicate the exact opposite. It’s not pessimism, it’s realism. It’s a song about how ugly life can be. It’s unflinching and unapologetic. It is the very spirit of what it feels like to know your situation is fucked up, and it’s a harsh rebuke to anyone who insists someone should only speak positively in the midst of a bad situation. “Say something positive? Well, positive ain’t where I live.” There’s a time and a place for optimism. But there’s also a healthy and necessary time and place to call a bad situation what it is.
Our country is in a bad situation. And I think that maybe we need to absorb the weight of this reality – just sit in that for a minute. And maybe conjure up some of the anger that Treach put into his delivery of the Ghetto Bastard lyrics. Throw in a healthy measure of the defiance and resilience you hear in that last verse. We’re all gonna need it, because it’s going to get worse before it gets better.