First off, I’d like to start off by saying, this is the only song from NEEDTOBREATHE that I know. I’m not sure how I heard it, but it’s a knee slapping good time. It’s catchy, it’s fun. I dig it. It wasn’t until today that I found out they were Christian Rock. Hopefully, as a reader, you see this as an inclusive song, not a religious thing, as that is never my intention. But like I said, it’s knee slapping good and not preachy at all.
At a very early age I was exposed to the molotov cocktail that is politics, money, and power. Sometimes it explodes, sometimes it doesn’t, but it always leaves a mark. Every action is complex, complicated, and falls into a gray area of sorts, even if you are considered the “good” guy.
On December 20, 1989, the US military invaded Panama. My home country. The only home I’d ever known. My childhood. I’m not going to get into the politics of it, because, personally, I have a lot of mixed feelings about it, and I know I am unable to be objective. I am repeatedly trying to better understand my feelings on the situation. They’re layered, complicated, blocked from my memory for my own protection, and blurred by time. It’s a unique work in progress.
Even today, 28 years later. It makes me anxious. I don’t like talking about it. Christmas, 1989, I was 7. My brother was 4. My sister was 3 months. Santa was delayed and we didn’t celebrate until later. He left us a note. There were too many helicopters flying around our house so he couldn’t safely land. The reality was my parents had kept all the presents at their offices because we had just moved. It wasn’t safe to leave the house. So Santa was fashionably late. (Fashionably late as an adult – cool. As a child – if side eye had existed, he would have gotten it.)
There were other traumas that holiday season, and in the years leading up to that Christmas, but I like this story the best. It’s the happiest in a most unhappy time. My parents kept us all together, and were fiercely protective and creative about the situation. We all did the best we could (and I think we’re all better, and more complicated, people because of it). Of course with all the helicopters Santa couldn’t make it. His reindeer might get hurt! It was SO obvious!
When you experience something like this there’s a weird invisible thread that ties you, your family, and your community together. Even as you try to hide it away, it still lives within you. It is a shared experience that is difficult to explain and difficult to understand, especially as a child. Only the people who lived it, who experienced it, understand the part of you that lives safely tucked away.
But it wasn’t all war, and fear, and the sky lit up with mortars, and tanks rolling up and down your street. It was also freedom of speech and close families and rebuilding to be a better, safer place. It was genuine hope. It was 100% the worst of times, but it also had some really great times in there too.
I am not resentful or angry that I lived this. In all honesty, I’m a little proud. I’m amazed at the growth of my home in the last 28 years. There are still problems, like in all developing nations, but I’m constantly in awe of our progress (and our traffic).
Noriega was the man who taught me about real hate. It is why dictators round out my top three things I’m most terrified of. I created the mixtape for flow and sound, with no regard to the specific days. Maybe this was supposed to be the song for the 20th of December all along. The irony is not lost on me that it could be considered “Good” (in the Christian sense) versus evil.
‘Ain’t no gift like the present tense. Ain’t no love like an old romance. Gots’ta make hay when the sun is shining. Can’t waste time when it comes time to dance.’