Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

A Choice Between Yoga and the Presidential Debate

Posted October 10th, 2016 by Tom

I awoke leisurely this morning; thankful for another day, for my fortunate life and my healthy body, for my family and friends. When I checked Facebook one of the first items that came up was a video of musicians playing Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. I closed my eyes and listened… a lovely way to begin my day.

I checked a news site. My high spirits began slipping downward. Presidential and Senate candidates dominated the top of the page… he said… she said… I say… he’s this or that… he needs to withdraw from the campaign… she’s lying… what a debate this is going to be tonight

Like many people, I’m drawn in by the spectacle of the 2016 election; by the potential for dramatic, explosive events. Like an accident on the highway, we slow down to look. Is there blood? Is someone hurt real bad, or dead? I shake my head at others slowing down for such spectacle… and I turn my head to look just like the people ahead of me did. Read the rest of this entry »

Criss-crossing the country with Bruce Springsteen

Posted October 23rd, 2012 by Tom

Yer killin’ me here, Bruce!

As regular readers of my blog are well aware, I’m on the road with my writing partner Sharon Morgan. We’re touring America to spread the word of our new book, Gather at the Table. Crowds are good. Response has been great. Lots of folks going home with a signed copy of the book in their hands.

We have just two appearances remaining in the Northeast portion of our tour: Wednesday, October 24 at Trinity Church in Boston, Massachusetts, and Thursday, October 25 at the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut. We look forward with great anticipation to these two events.

At the same time…

Bruce and the E Street Band are also touring. I did catch a show in Detroit in April, just an 8-hour drive from where I spoke the previous day in Wisconsin – no big thang… but THIS week is killin’ me, Bruce! Read the rest of this entry »

Trayvon Martin: thoughts from a white parent

Posted March 23rd, 2012 by Tom

I cannot stop thinking about Trayvon Martin. I can’t stop looking into his eyes in this photo which has become ubiquitous online.

An unarmed, 17-year old boy in Florida walks to the store one night for some junk food. He’s shot to death because of the color of his skin. Oh, I know that some of my friends and others will take issue with that statement, because “damn, Tom, you’re always talking about race – it isn’t always about race.”

It’s pretty much only white people who would make such a statement. Of course this is about race; that Trayvon Martin was a young, black male wearing a “hoodie” – and George Zimmerman claimed that he felt threatened so he shot him in the chest. Now Trayvon is dead and his parents grieve over their child’s untimely and unjustified death. Read the rest of this entry »

Teardrops on the City

Posted June 24th, 2011 by Tom

White man with a guitar leans on black man playing a saxophone. Both are dressed in black and white clothes. White album cover. Everything about the Born to Run album cover is black and white. Very little about Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons was.

They didn’t make an issue over a black man playing in an otherwise all-white band in the early 1970’s when the wounds from Jim Crow and the recent Civil Rights movement were still fresh and raw. When they weren’t welcomed in certain towns or hotels, they just played their music elsewhere. They rocked. They danced. They engaged in soulful kisses. They laughed. They invited us to join them “when Scooter and the Big Man bust this city in half.” They chipped away at America’s racism by living its opposite.

From Eric Meola, the man who shot the iconic photo:

Is it, as so many writers have stated, a declaration of the friendship and camaraderie between the two men? Yes. Was it a deliberate, premeditated statement by Bruce about race relations? Probably not. Yet it became that, and by including Clarence from the beginning, Bruce chose not only the one remaining band member he most identified with, but the one who happened to be black. In an album of saxophone solos, from “Thunder Road” to “Jungleland,” it seems an obvious choice. And, a brilliant one which came to symbolize far more than any of us could have envisioned.

Those who know me well understand just how deeply I was impacted this past week by the passing of The Big Man, Clarence Clemons. I believe the last time I wept at the death of a “celebrity” was when Jimmy Stewart left us in 1997. The story of It’s a Wonderful Life (“no one is alone who has friends”) rests at the core of my philosophy of life. The music of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band provides the soul; the soundtrack for the life of my family since Lindi and I fell in love dancing to “Crush on You” twenty-six years ago at my old haunt, Pat & Mike’s Cinema & Restaurant.

Our three daughters used to create dances to perform to Bruce’s music (they shimmied and bopped a tremendous Hungry Heart). We drove to Tacoma in 1988 with our four kids and our dog Harley to wait in line for 33 hours outside the Tacoma Dome in a non-stop drizzle to buy tickets — long before internet sales — to see the band during the Tunnel of Love tour. Lindi and I have taken road trips during several tours to see Bruce and the E Streeters multiple times over the course of a week or so. Highlights include several concerts being perched in the very front row; our elbows resting on the stage. Lindi’s hands resting on Bruce’s knees during a guitar solo. Me furiously strumming Bruce’s guitar as he held it out to several of us during a Born to Run solo riff.

We met the Big Man one time at a hotel bar in Calgary. I walked up to him and pointed out Lindi and our friend Angel at a nearby table.

Angel’s from New Jersey, says I.

Is she now, replies the Big Man.

Her birthday is the same as yours.

Is that a fact.

I lean in close and whisper. She used to sneak into your club in Red Bank when she was underage.

Then she owes me money! he thunders. Get her over here!

And so we got our photo of Lindi and Angel with Clarence. Truly one of the highlights of our many encounters over the past quarter century with Bruce and the E Street Band.

My feelings are strong. The sense of loss is tremendous. Knowing I’ve heard Clarence play his saxophone for the last time is heartbreaking.

I’ve waited a week to write about Clarence’s passing because I couldn’t find the words. I still can’t. So I’ve shared a few moments with you. The best words I’ve found were written by Dave Marsh. I hope you will take the time to read MIGHTY MIGHTY, SPADE AND WHITEY: Clarence and Bruce, Friendship and Race. Marsh helped me unpack the myth and recognize the impact that Bruce and Clarence have had on America.

Bruce and Clarence acted out their drama, which is our drama, in the exact same spirit as Twain, and with the exact same ambiguous result. At the end of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain was stuck because he had no ending. The ending he used is preposterous, obviously. But not because it’s over-reliant on the hand of God. The real problem is that it’s predicated on a false idea: Freeing one slave. You cannot free one slave, and since the slave owner is in the same prison as the slave, just like any other jailer, you can’t free two either. It’s all of us or none of us.

And I’ve never read more clearly and succinctly where so much of the responsibility lies for undoing racism and privilege in the United States:

What I am saying is, America’s race problem has never been solved because white people refuse to recognize that it is only action on their part that can solve it.

These two quotes, of course, are seen here out of context. Read the Marsh article in full. Then play the Born to Run album in full. Then ask yourself once again about your role in righting the wrongs in our world.

Rest in Peace, Big Man.

(thanks to Backstreets for providing so many wonderful links to stories about Clarence, and for all you do for those of us who Ramrod down E Street on our way to the Land of Hope and Dreams)

Peacebuilding in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Posted April 30th, 2010 by Tom

It isn’t often that I become excited enough with a magazine that I want to tell all my friends about it. Today is one of those days. The latest issue of Peacebuilder (Spring/Summer 2010), from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University, focuses entirely on peacemaking efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I literally could not put it down. It is available online here.

I suspect that many of you get as frustrated as I do with traditional media outlets and their focus mostly on war and chaos. There is a lot to cover in that regard in this region of the world. The Taliban this! Al-Qaeda that! More suicide bombers over there!

The United States government continues to pour billions of dollars into military efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan and almost nothing into development. And what do we see reported on in the media? Follow the money.

What rarely gets covered are the actions of the blessed peacemakers. An exception to this is the success of Greg Mortenson‘s work as described in his wonderful book, Three Cups of Tea, and now Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books, Not Bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It was Mortenson and Khaled Hosseini who put a human face on the people of Central Asia for me. But does Mortenson hold sway with the policy-makers in DC as he tries to show how much more successful we would be if we build schools instead of dropping bombs? Hardly.

Almost fifty people based in Afghanistan and Pakistan have studied at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at EMU. Many of them contributed to this issue of Peacebuilder.

Learn about the history of Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the roles that outside forces have played. Read the Ten Steps Toward Ending the Chaos. Learn about the program Greg Mortenson considers one of his favorite charities: Help the Afghan Children (HTAC).

The groups that are behind terror in Afghanistan are more frightened about the thought of millions of Afghan children growing up educated than they are of the U.S. Military.–Suraya Sadeed, Director of HTAC.

The path we presently travel in Central Asia will lead to further chaos, death, and generations of harmed people. Only peace will bring order out of the chaos. I’m proud to be connected with a university dedicated to training peacemakers. I hope you’ll read about them today.

You can also follow the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding on Facebook.

Patriot, activist, and folksinger Pete Seeger penned these words about our soldiers back in 1965. Bruce Sprngsteen continues to sing these words:

If you love this land of the free

Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

Bring ’em back from overseas

Bring ’em home, bring ’em home

Mahatma Gandhi said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.


Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry