May 29, 2018 at 11:40 am EDT | by Richard J. Rosendall
Amid a regime’s mayhem, a Hallelujah
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, gay news, Washington Blade

Cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason performs at the royal wedding. (Screen capture via BBC)

That great American legal mind, Rudolph Giuliani, explained last week why his client would be risking a “perjury trap” by talking to special counsel Robert Mueller: “Truth is relative. They may have a different version of the truth than we do.” I’m actually prepared to accept that after watching Rudy in recent weeks. The problem with this regime is not mere flights of fancy but attempts to palm off counterfeit reality on credulous voters.

This con artistry has worked better than anyone expected. Increasingly we see people who are not clear on their concepts: followers of Christ who oppose welcoming strangers; centrists who support authoritarian measures; legislators who obstruct justice in the name of oversight; and patriots who cannot tolerate a silent protest by black athletes during the national anthem.

Journalist Touré tweeted on May 25, “What if NFL players stand for the anthem with their arms crossed in the Wakanda salute? Is that ok or disrespectful? Or will rich, old, white men decide what’s disrespectful as we go along?”

The kneeling players are protesting racism and police brutality. In so doing they honor the values of justice and equality that our flag and anthem are supposed to represent. Anyone who refuses to respect them for what they are doing is no different from Christian supremacists who wave the Bible in the air but refuse to heed its wisdom on helping in Matthew 25. The America the team owners honor is neither great nor good but a petty, intolerant, hypocritical bully.

A government that separates immigrant parents from their children, and doesn’t know whether 1,475 missing migrant children have been taken off-grid by their families or are being trafficked, is not pro-life. An administration so obsessed with controlling women that it would decimate the Title X health care network is not committed to public health. An education secretary who attacks church-state separation is not true to her oath to defend the Constitution. A Department of Justice that rolls back protections for transgender prisoners is neither just nor humane. A president who woos a dictator one day and threatens nuclear war the next is no candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize, and no statesman when his foreign policy centers on lucrative business deals for himself.

Think of it: our own government is pulling small children away screaming from their mothers in order to categorize them as unaccompanied minors. John Kelly says this is not cruel, but a “tough deterrent.” Ask yourself, who are the animals here?

Resistance is not just about blocking noxious policies and registering voters. We must look past our struggles to see the world we want to build. Which brings me to Sheku Kanneh-Mason.

The teenage cellist from Nottingham moved millions on May 19 when he played three selections at the royal wedding at Windsor, including the Schubert “Ave Maria.” Like Episcopal Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon on love, the Kingdom Choir singing “Stand By Me,” guests who blended old world and new, and the bride’s mother Doria Ragland, the soulful performance by Kanneh-Mason conveyed grace and dignity with an undercurrent of rebellion to the heirs of a bloody if faded empire.

No amount of progressive symbolism can make a powerless prince’s nuptials a weighty matter. Still, the interracial wedding in St. George’s Chapel felt redemptive. Similarly, Kanneh-Mason’s 2017 recording of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a balm in sordid times. Like newlyweds’ love, it celebrates our ability to endure despite our losses.

The recent resurgence of racial poison alone is long and disturbing. Murders by police who continue to act like slave patrols. The suggestion by our president that American athletes who protest injustice should be deported. The blend of privilege and contempt that prompts a white woman to call police on black barbecuers in a public park. Yet these heartless, hateful acts will not conquer a people who journeyed from slaves building the White House to a first lady and her daughters residing in it.

The young black virtuoso, his very skin against a classical instrument signifying defiance and generations nurtured to keep their sights raised, says: for all the sorrow you have brought us, we are not defeated. Hallelujah.


Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist. He can be reached at

Copyright © 2018 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.

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