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Opinion: How Do We Move Forward After Las Vegas?

Billy Dukes is a senior writer for Taste of Country. He’s a friend to artists, a regular festival-goer and an open ear. These are his thoughts on the massacre that shook Las Vegas, country music and the world on Oct. 1. 

A reporter for a cable news network asked me how country music would move forward after the attacks in Las Vegas. I hope I said something that made sense and represented our community intelligently, but the truth is, I’m not so sure. Or at least I wasn’t then.

It sounds cliche, I said, but country music is a family. It’s a small community of artists, record labels, publicists, managers and songwriters, and we all live in Nashville. This is partially to blame for what some see as the homogeny of Music City, but it’s also the reason why we’re so well-suited to step up after tragedy strikes. There’s something horribly ironic about tickets sales for Country Rising hurricane benefit concert being delayed to allow time for fans to recover from another tragedy.

Writers for Taste of Country and writers for other country music news outlets know these artists well. We know their teams and have shared drinks and laughs with their publicists. We’re Facebook friends and neighbors, the people who donate to each other’s causes and celebrate a big win with a thumbs up or heartfelt word via email. So many of these people are hurting. How do we quickly turn to anything else but that hurt?

A gunman opened fire on our family. He struck down our fans and readers, sent our friends running for shelter and quieted a city that never sleeps. Right now, questions like “why?” and “how?” and “Did he get the guns illegally?” seem like the wrong ones to ask. In time we can debate gun control, festival security and whether anything could have been done better … whether this tragedy could have been prevented. Right now, we mourn and search for humanity amidst the pain and fear. You’ll find some in the stories and photos from Las Vegas.

Find Courage Amidst the Route 91 Chaos

Quiet leaders need to step forward, and a few have. Keith Urban and Vince Gill played a candlelight vigil on Monday night in Nashville, while Garth Brooks faced his fans on Facebook Live and spoke from the heart. His message? “The show must go on.”

Quietly, almost poetically he added that, “When things go bad, doctors go to work. When things go bad policeman go to work. When things go bad music and musicians go to work … they need ya.”

We need more quiet leaders. It didn’t take but a few hours for pundits on television to start screaming, or so it seemed, about gun rights or gun control, and the conversation overflows on social media. A few artists and at least one Country Music Hall of Famer waited exactly one day before doing the same. That’s not helpful. You won’t hear heavy metal in a surgeon’s operating room, and screaming politicians acting like country community leaders won’t help sew up hearts that were ripped wide open at Route 91.

Tim McGraw and Faith Hill shared a few sensitive thoughts on Instagram. Brad Paisley, a measured artist well-suited to lead country music through this, offered the right kind of response on social media. “I love country music, our fans and our industry,” he writes. “We are a family. And we are hurting together today. God be with the victims.”

It’s perfect. Please don’t quit.

We move forward by listening. You may not agree with your neighbor on every issue, but have you listened to him? Is he listening to you?

Garth is right. We need to get back to doing what we do, and eventually Taste of Country will return to daily coverage of news, insight, reviews, interviews and celebrity haircuts. We’ll have fun again, we’ll get loud again and we’ll probably offend you again. But for now, we listen and wait for more of country music’s quiet leaders to emerge and take us to a better place emotionally.

These Are the Faces and Stories of Those Killed in Las Vegas

Next: Jason Aldean Makes a Statement After the Tragedy

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