I’m back out on the road doing what I love, loving the life. It has been a while since my last article as inspiration is an aloof character to me these days. However, I have been meaning to write and a very recent event struck a definite chord within me…so here goes.
The other night, we (Killswitch Engage) played a killer sold out show in Los Angeles! The atmosphere was incredible. We had a bunch of friends out to see us, and it was just an all-around great day and night!
After the show a crew of friends and the band went out for some food and a few beers. After an hour or so, my friend Darren (who works for Testament and Mastodon and is an all-around great guy) approached me and said, “Dude just got shot right outside the club and is dead! They shot him eight times!”
He is quite the jokester so at first, I laughed and then I could tell by the look on his face he was serious. Shortly thereafter, I made my way back to the bus with the intention of calling it a night to rest my voice. As I approached the club, I saw police and an ambulance — a block from the club as well as a block towards the club! The entire block was surrounded by emergency vehicles! It turns out a woman was beaten down on one block while the other was the area where the shooting happened!
So within one hour, two separate acts of violence occurred within a one-block radius! It blew my mind!
As I approached and passed the woman who was beaten up, she looked OK; paramedics were tending to her, and so I went on down the block towards my bus. I could see the police had blocked off a section of Sunset Boulevard and there were detectives on site, investigating.
I stood there and took it all in; a younger guy was sitting on the far side of the street, furiously smoking a cigarette, rocking back and forth, crying; police officers (some with numb facial expressions) kept onlookers at bay.
There were small traces of blood on the concrete and an overall feeling of unease saturated the air. Standing only 25 feet from where a life was taken just moments before I arrived, I started to feel sadness wash over me and my eyes, and in the same moment, I felt anger and disappointment for “We, as humans.”
What could have been the reason behind this murder? What was so bad that a life must be taken? Granted, I know we humans are capable of terrible and downright evil things but to me, in my mind, how does one get to that point were you justify and decide that you are willing to end the life of another?!?
I turned and started to walk away from the scene and retreat to the comforts of my home-away-from-home (the tour bus) to clear my head and sleep.
As I lay in my bunk, my mind raced with thoughts; all of the wars we as humans wage over power, money, greed, oil, land. How many other people in other parts of the world deal with this type of scenario on an almost daily basis?!?
I thought how blessed most of us are here in the United States to not have to deal with war-like violence daily. Then it hit me…even here, on our own soil, this type of thing DOES happen on the regular. In fact, in many inner-city ghettos and lower-income, high-crime areas. There are literal “war zones.”
Our media does a pretty good job of being selective with what “it” chooses to inform us — what makes the news or headlines and what does not. I was reminded of a couple of powerful documentaries I watched in the past few years:
A good portion of us are blissfully unaware of the many “wars” that are waged in our own backyard.
When I was a kid, I used to truly believe in the idea of “World Peace.” As I have gotten older and lived a fairly well-rounded life I realize that this is an impossibility. Don’t get me wrong, ladies and gents — I am an optimist and filled with PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) but let’s be real about this…an entire world without conflict? It’s just not going to happen.
That being said, I will continue to write songs about unity and compassion. I will continue to give humanity the benefit of the doubt. But in my older years, I am cautious with people.
Violence and hatred all starts at the roots of who were are, how we were raised, what type of environment we were raised in, etc. To some people, the notion of peace or compassion is viewed as weakness; to me, this was a very foreign way of thinking. In fact, I will go as far as saying that controlling your anger and violent tendencies is an act of extreme strength, but it is a learned behavior — one that takes practice (I know from experience as I have a pretty bad temper deep inside that comes out and is quenched through my music, thankfully).
That being said, we as humans are capable of amazing things when we put our minds to it. The simple acts of compassion and kindness sometimes are the most profound. It doesn’t take much to make a difference in this world. Granted, there are always going to be people who are the exception — the “criminally insane and disturbed types.” But on the whole, we as humans are effected greatly by acts of compassion!
We all have different ways of thinking and different ways of dealing (or not dealing, for that matter) with daily life. We are all effected one way or another by violence and hate. But how can you and I make a difference?
If you are reading this now, you have enough brain power to read and that was taught to you as a child (in most cases). We have to educate our youth; take time with your children to teach them about kindness and as they get older, make them aware of the wars we wage, the violence that exists. We can not go through life with the idea of “ignorance is bliss.” But we can’t constantly dwell on the “evils of this world,” either. We need balance!
As there is no darkness with out light, there is no hatred with out love. Hatred is taught, love is taught. Regardless of your scientific or spiritual beliefs of the human soul and it’s inherent or pre-destined traits, we have the ability to teach and acquire knowledge. Knowledge is our greatest weapon against hatred.
I urge you, as a fellow human, to be aware of the violence and hatred that surrounds us and arm yourself with the only ammunition that is more powerful than a bullet — Knowledge. Although we may never see “world peace,” there is much we can do to prevent the many wars that are waged in our daily life.
Knowledge is power.
As always, thanks for reading my “two cents” on the state of affairs; see you on the road!
Fist raised for Strength!
Jesse D. Leach
The following song helped inspire this column