I was recently introduced to Tegan and Sara’s song “I Was Married” — and, in turn, their album The Con — via a discussion on the gay rights movement. Of the album, the sisters said they felt it had more depth than their previous release. I wonder if this has to do with The Con’s message — an important one regarding civil rights. Listening to the album, I was put in mind of the music of the 60s and early 70s, much of which was so fearlessly anti-war and pro-peace. Bob Dylan, John Lennon, Simon & Garfunkel, Neil Young…they all shared powerful messages, gave voice to a movement.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLmCCGYx6fs

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7PVhuighFo

I also recently read Aleksandr Voinov’s Incursion, a science fiction novella about shape-shifting near-humans that was, in part, a response to “a discussion on what constitutes a ‘real man.’

This all got me to thinking about how powerful art is as a medium for raising voice in deeply important, and often controversial, matters. Some (much?) of the most striking, most beautiful, most enduring pieces of art — be they written, painted, or performed — are a response to issues surrounding human rights and violence.

Art as voice. Art as argument. What makes it so powerful? Perhaps because art reaches into us and taps into our emotions. We can debate with each other, reason with each other, explain our perspective, yell and curse, type and type — all until our voices are raw and our fingers, bloody. But art draws into us like breath; it punches us; it inspires emotion.

Instead of reasoning with the person you are trying to persuade…you make her feel.

Addendum: How could I forget! Richard Blanco’s poem for the presidential inauguration, “One Today,” is a poignant, stirring reminder that we are all one people. A beautiful example of art as voice — talk about message! His words still ring through me today.