By Trent Rentsch
The punk rock band rages beneath me. The entire house trembles in time with the frantic rhythm, windows quivering, one primal scream from shattering. The dog shakes at my feet on the throbbing floor, his eyes pained and imploring, “I will never sniff another dog’s butt again if you only make it stop!”
It was our turn again. My stepson’s band rotates rehearsals at several of his band mate’s homes, but as he’s the drummer, this is the most convenient place… for him. During these sonic intrusions, my wife, other stepson and I manage to find many reasons to leave the house. Often as we flee, the neighbors give us sympathetic smiles. “Leaving the concert again?” They laugh. “You’re going to miss out. We just invited the police over. Ha! Ha! No really, we did.”
At some point, without knowing it, I jumped the gap between youth and wishing they’d turn that damned music down. 20 years ago, I would’ve been strumming and screaming right along with them. While faster, louder, and better musicians, they really aren’t so different from my college band. Granted, we were more geek-wannabe-Talking Heads than punk-wannabe-anti-anything popular, but the desire for musical creative expression was the same. The freedom to create music, no matter how bad and/or loud, is something we took for granted, as does my stepson’s band. Looking at it now, it’s an important freedom. Sometimes it’s the only way to express teen angst or anything else that’s messing with your head. “Anything else” seems to be the issue lately.
We walked around the house in stunned silence for a long time. For my part, I was so confused as to what I felt. Perhaps I was feeling nothing at all: a cold, hollow husk. I can’t say for certain where my bride’s feelings took her, but I saw in her eyes the fear, dismay, and uncertainty that devoured us all on September 11th. The television was rarely off the first few days, for the latest grim developments… and perhaps a glimmer of hope. And hope was there; we saw the selfless acts of bravery from the rescue workers in New York, the over-flowing blood donations across the country, the unity of purpose and patriotism the events ignited. I think it was her own desire to express hope that prompted my wife to create a wonderful montage set to the song, “United We Stand.” She wove pieces of the President’s first speech after the attack through the song, and the result was inspiring, a call to regroup, unite and move forward.
I’m proud of her, and all the other Creatives who found the strength to express the emotions of the nation in their own way. It’s important and significant. Historically, the icons we unite under came from Creatives during times of struggle. The Continental Congress turned to Betsy Ross in May of 1776 because the new nation needed its own flag to symbolize freedom, and she created the star-spangled banner that flew proudly over Independence Hall on July 4th, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was adopted. Thomas Jefferson spent 15 short days slaving over the words of the Declaration, creating one of the greatest documents of all time, but even that seems a snail’s pace compared to Francis Scott Key’s creation of the Star-Spangled Banner during the war of 1812. Trapped on a boat anchored downstream from Baltimore, Key watched as British guns showered seeming defeat on Fort McHenry. Yet come the morning light of September 14th, 1814, the Stars & Stripes still flew over the battered fort, and the creatively inspired Key immediately wrote the words that were to become our National Anthem. It plays out, over and over in our Nation’s history. Creatives finding the words, sounds and pictures that capture our most trying moments, helping us discover our combined strength to overcome any obstacle as a nation.
Now, September 11th left us angry, sad, numb, and afraid. Again, countless Creatives found our countries heart, soul and strength, and created sounds and images that called out for unity and determination in the struggle for recovery and the pursuit of justice. These are important, healing things. As the battle against terrorism continues to unfold, we will all need to dig a littler deeper, find that extra something inside ourselves to stay strong and united. It will be at those times, when we think we have nothing left to give, that the power of Creatives to inspire, to keep the fire burning, is most important.
There is a new sense of purpose for the Creative Spirit. We are waging a battle for our freedom to create, to express ourselves as individuals. While the freedom of speech is important to everyone in this nation, it’s a special badge of honor for Creatives. As day to day life slowly seems to return to normal, we cannot forget the threat to our freedom, or let anyone else forget.
Radio isn’t “just radio.” Commercials happen, promos happen, the routine has returned, but we need to make some effort everyday to create montages and words and music that will keep hope and patriotism alive. If we’ve learned anything through all of this, it’s that freedom isn’t automatic, we have to work and sometimes fight for it. We need to hold up our end of the good fight.
The rumble dies beneath me. The band stops for a Subway run. I pray that their lives continue to be that simple. I hope that they’ll be back, pounding out their young frustrations, expressing the anger at events they cannot bring themselves to merely talk about. I hope the cops realize that the noise coming from our living room is the sound of freedom ringing throughout the neighborhood.