Songs to Get Through a Pandemic, #7, Hope the High Road

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(Photo: Jason Isbell, Feb. 26, 2016, at Beacon Theater, New York City)

We’re a week in to Songs to Get You Through a Pandemic and I’m going to pull in this rocker from my favorite musical act of the past seven years, Jason Isbell. This song is a go-to, not just for the past year, but since it came out in 2017. And all you really need to know is encapsulated here:

Last year was a son of a bitch
For nearly everyone we know
But I ain’t fighting with you down in the ditch
I’ll meet you up here on the road

So what is the high road?

The short version is this: I am bone tired of political posturing and culture wars. I am exhausted with people looking for a fight. I wish to extend grace and have it extended not just to me, but to everyone. What would that look like? I don’t know, but it starts with people wanting to.

And after this murderous pandemic, all I want is solutions. The previous Administration fundamentally did not believe that government should solve problems. It endlessly politicked; it rarely governed. In a crisis, that cost tens and maybe hundreds of thousands of lives. Its economic and immigration priorities can be debated; its basic unseriousness about governing is simply fact.

Yesterday, the new Folks in Charge reported that a record 2.9 million covid vaccine doses were put in peoples’ arms, 20% more than the previous best day. It continued the hard legislative work of getting help to the most vulnerable people in our country. That’s all I want—vaccines in arms, money in vulnerable people’s pockets. If that process ends up spreading the dollars more generously than is needed, I could care less. Money is often thrown around in ways that avoids those who actually need it. For me, this is the high road—solutions that benefit people who need help, which, in the middle of a pandemic that has stretched on for nearly a year, is a whole hell of a lot of us. I am endlessly thankfully that I am not one of those people now, but I’m not that far from having been unemployed. If we can provide some stability in a hard time, let’s do it. Overdo it, even, for a while.

If you want to contribute to figuring out the solution, I’d love to meet you up here on the high road. If you want to thwart aid for fellow humans, argue for arguments’ sake or engage in a political calculus that frustrating substantive action is to your benefit, I don’t have the time for that.

That’s not to say that there can’t be legitimate disagreement over how to help or that government intervention is always best. We can try to optimize the allocation and find the best approaches. But help is needed, and has been too long delayed.

I want to thank Joe Biden for doing what the moment demands—work to end this pandemic and ignore those unserious actors who live in the funhouse of fake discourse. I remain convinced there are more of us—the solutions-minded—than those who want to prove that the Commons can accomplish nothing. But it’s closer than I would have thought, and there are people who are anxious and uncertain where to turn. The high road is calling.

The lyrics:

I used to think that this was my town
What a stupid thing to think
I hear you’re fighting off a breakdown
I myself am on the brink
I used to want to be a real man
I don’t know what that even means
Now I just want you in my arms again
And we can search each other’s dreams

I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
Uninspired
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again

I’ve heard enough of the white man’s blues
I’ve sang enough about myself
So if you’re looking for some bad news
You can find it somewhere else
Last year was a son of a bitch
For nearly everyone we know
But I ain’t fighting with you down in the ditch
I’ll meet you up here on the road

I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
Uninspired
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again
To a world you want to live in

We’ll ride the ship down
Dumping buckets overboard
There can’t be more of them than us
There can’t be more

I know you’re tired
And you ain’t sleeping well
Uninspired
And likely mad as hell
But wherever you are
I hope the high road leads you home again
To a world you want to live in
To a world you want to live in

The full playlist:

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