Protesting in the Era of Trump


by Roxanne Tellier

guthrie old man trump

A reaction to America’s president telling four Congresswoman of colour to “go back to where they came from?”

No, these are the words Woody Guthrie wrote in 1954, about the discriminatory rental policies of the POTUS’s dad, Fred. Fred did not want to rent to black people, and made sure that his rental agents were diligent in keeping people of colour from the cluster of sixteen residential buildings he owned in Gravesend, Brooklyn.

Guthrie had moved into an apartment at Beach Haven, near Coney Island, in 1950. It would be nearly twenty years later, in the 1970s, before Trump Elder was accused and charged with creating a “substantial impediment to the full enjoyment of equal opportunity” at Beach Haven, under the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department. (The case was eventually settled.)

woody guthrieSeveral handwritten drafts of the lyrics—sometimes titled “Beach Haven Race Hate,” “Beach Haven Ain’t My Home,” and “Old Man Trump”—are presently on display at the Woody Guthrie Center, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

In 2016, Beach Haven Apartments Associates, now owned by Fred’s son Donald, was hit with the largest fine that the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation has ever levied against an apartment building for the mishandling of human waste, in this case, two hundred thousand gallons of untreated sewage being dumped into Coney Island Creek each day.

Later that year, Trump would become President of the United States of America. There’s a symmetry there.

So it would seem that Trump comes by his racism and bigotry honestly… he learned it at his father’s knee. I wonder if that drives a lot of his cruelty; is he sad that his father cannot see how successful the son has been in turning the hands of the clock back to the days before the rights of women, and people of colour in America, were legally protected? Is that anger at the Environmental Conservation Department one of the reasons he is hell-bent on tearing away all protections from America’s lands and waters?

Lately I’ve heard idle talk about the lack of protest songs for this frightening era of government supported violence, xenophobia and racism. There ARE songs out there, but it’s not like the sixties, where the transistors and family radios kept songs like Buffalo Springfield’s For What It’s Worth, or Barry McGuire‘s Eve of Destruction front and center thru the long hot summer days and nights.

Where are the songs that not only skewer the wrong doings of the government, but become the ear worm of a time? Where’s the Ohio, that warned that the tin soldiers and Nixon were coming to kill your college kids? Where’s the Black Day in July, written by Gordon Lightfoot, that cautioned that race wars like those in Detroit could take down cities and governments?

Maybe the closest we’ve come to a real response to Trump’s overt racism occurred way back, in April 2016, when YG and Nipsey Hussle released ‘FDT (Fuck Donald Trump)’ a song so angry that YG says the Secret Service contacted Def Jam records to see what was in the rest of his album.

YG and Nipsey shout out to Trump’s “racist ass”, includes calling him a “cancer”, declaring “I like white people but I don’t like you”, and admitting, “He got me appreciating Obama way more.”

But these are interesting times, my friend. In the beginning of Trump’s campaign, and the early months of his presidency, most artists chose to mock his hands, or his words captured on the infamous Access Hollywood clip.

will.i.am ft Apl.de.ap and Liane V – GRAB’m by the PU$$Y

“When I’m president I won’t be like be Obama
If anyone talks sh** about me, I’ll bomb em
I’m grabbin’ that (hey) like there’s no tomorrow
And if we have problems with Russia I’ll bomb em”

Franz FerdinandDemagogue

“It feels so good to be dumb,” From the Wall/Straight to La Cuenta, those pussy-grabbing fingers won’t let go of me now.”

Rocky Mountain Mike‘s Hey Mr Tangerine Man is more silly than salient. But that’s okay. In a democracy, you’re allowed to make fun of the most powerful man in the world. Well  – it used to be okay. We may be moving closer to a time when it’s punishable by death.

Censorship

“Hey, Mr. Tangerine man, build a wall for me
I’m not that bright and don’t know that you’re not going to
Hey, Mr. Tangerine man, keep Muslims away from me
With my jingoistic world view, I’ll come following you

Fake me out with this, I’ll be your newest apprentice
My sister thinks you’re a trip All my friends say “Get a grip”
And my skull’s too numb to think
Waiting only for the bullshit you’ve been pedaling”

Gorillaz featuring Benjamin ClementineHallelujah Money

Band member Murdoc wrote on his Facebook page ‘In these dark times, we all need someone to look up to. Me, that’s why I’m giving you this new Gorillaz song, a lightning bolt of truth in the black night’. Gorillaz leader, Damon Albarn, is known for not backing away from a political fight, and this track, with it’s references to walls and the political narrative of politics in 2016/2017 takes aim squarely at Donald Trump.

Politically inclined musicians have always channeled their outrage into song. Once the Trump reign of errors had fully come into play, many stars, past and present, began to serve up a piece of their mind.

Billy Bragg completely nailed the racism arc to come in his rewrite of Bob Dylan‘s protest classic, “The Times They Are A-Changing.” In The Times They Are A-Changing Back, Bragg skewers Trump’s policies, and warns vulnerable Americans not to get too comfortable.

“Come Mexicans, Muslims, LGBT, and Jews
Keep your eyes wide open for what’s on the news.
For President Trump is expressing his views,
And I fear the mob he’s inciting
Will soon break your windows and burn down your schools
Cuz the times, they are a changin’… back.”

Not all of the protest songs come from conventional musicians. This clip, from Late Night with Seth Meyers, features Amber Ruffin and the Go Back to Your Country Girls, performing their song about people telling them to go back to their country.

So, where we at now? In June, Madonna dropped this political bomb on gun control, with the song, God Control, and an entreaty that we take her pleas seriously. “This is your wake up call. Gun violence disproportionately affects children, teenagers and the marginalized in our communities. Honor the victims and demand GUN CONTROL. NOW. Volunteer, stand up, donate, reach out. Wake up and insist on common-sense gun safety legislation. Innocent lives depend on it.”

For my money, the reluctance of the Democrats currently holding the House to move for Trump’s impeachment is a huge mistake. That’s something with which most of the protest songwriters out there would seem to agree to be the case.

Parody ProjectImpeachment?

The Parody Project, founded in August, 2017, has a slew of political song parodies online. It’s originator, film-maker/composer Don Caron, creates these parodies as a means of “surviving the current political and social mire by laughing and helping others to do the same.”

I always get a kick out of his videos. Took me ages before I realized that no matter how many ‘performers’ he had on a song, it was always just Don in a different Hawaiian shirt and a bad wig. Mr Caron is a one of a kind politically savvy, musical caricaturist for our times.

Randy RainbowJust Impeach Him

Randy Rainbow is the most commercial of the parodists and satirists out there, with a huge fan following both on Youtube, and on tour – I’m still bummed I missed his show last March at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. I’m waiting with baited breath for his next release, but it seems he’s on an endless tour of the United States these days. Lucky you if he’s coming to a theatre near you!

Meanwhile, Randy and I are on the same page about POTUS …. Just Impeach Him.

What I realized as I searched for new protest songs is that, in truth, there are songs out there. They are just not rising to the top of the social media consciousness.

I also think that many with a yen for current events are beginning to feel that nothing that can be said or sung can stop Trump’s rush to an abolishment of democracy, and a rush to convert America to White Sovereignty. It really does seem like Trump is able to grab every flaming arrow aimed at his corrupt government and turn it back on the person that sent it.

Despite daily revelations of his corruption, lack of morals or ethics, and even as he lights the fuse of a race war, no one can lay a finger on him.

No matter how we try, we never do get him. He wriggles away, aided and abetted by equally corrupt courtiers. He doubles and triples down on disgustingly un-American rhetoric, and despite credible accusations that would have had any other president impeached and imprisoned a dozen times over, he stands proudly on the White House lawn, spewing yet more lies and bile.

Elizabeth Warren, who Trump taunted with the name ‘Pocahontas’ for years, may be the poster child for Trump’s puzzling ability.. When she finally released the findings of a DNA test proving her native ancestry, her rebuttal was turned back on her and used as evidence that she is a flakey, insecure female, and likely unfit for public office. Still – she persisted, and is now a plausible candidate to replace the Moron in Chief.

How did that happen? It’s a kind of black magic that anyone who’s gone up against Trump has felt – the president feels no need to show empathy, openness to the opinions of others, or any sense of a presidential demeanour. He just wants to hit back harder and more viciously at those defending their own existence in his world. His appetite for revenge is voracious, and he never forgets a slur.

trump saluteHe is a bully with awesome presidential powers, and a taste for the abuse of those powers.

Only look to the cowed and cowardly Ted Cruz or Lindsey Graham, who rush to carry the president’s water, despite being the targets for some of his cruelest and crudest slurs.

Trump’s a world class bully, in a world where he holds all the instruments necessary for the carrying out of his own perverted justice.

As we edge toward the next election, and the possibility that it may only be the beginnings of a long reign comprising multiple terms in office, it becomes increasingly difficult to believe that we will ever be able to vote the narcissist in chief out of office – or that we’ll even be able to oust him from the White House, should he not be re-elected next November – no matter how well-written or relevant our protest songs may be.

 

and.. last minute.. new Randy Rainbow! 😉

An Immodest Proposal (with apologies to Jonathan Swift)


swift Modest proposalIn 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote “A Modest Proposal  (for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick.)” His answer to the “Irish’ problem was to advise the poor to sell their children as ‘food for rich gentlemen and ladies’, and came complete with techniques for slaughter and mouth-watering recipes.

His satirical essay was meant to mock society’s lack of empathy towards the unfortunate, and in particular, to make clear the contemptuous attitude the British aristocracy held of the Irish people.

As outrageous as Swift’s essay may seem, his point must be taken; when people are overwhelmingly seen as commodities – be they the poor, the disabled, the elderly, migrants or refugees – it’s only a small step to conceiving of humans as being little more than meat, which then, logically,  becomes only worth what the market will bear, per pound.

While the idea of cannibalizing the poor may seem shocking, in truth, we’re little different now, three centuries later. Our media is filled with assaults, deaths, and murders being committed every day, all around the globe, most of which rarely elicit more than a few seconds of our disapproval, before our thoughts move on to something less disturbing.

Hence, my proposal, which I hope will interest those questioning how society should deal with the physical assault or murder of its citizens.

In the last several years we’ve seen Justice using a sliding scale for the punishment of apparent and actual wrongdoers. A young black child alone in a snowy playground, for instance, apparently poses an enormous threat to armed officers in police cars, and is therefore executed before their fears can be realized. On the other hand, a young, armed white man who opens fire in an Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church in South Carolina during a prayer meeting, can kill nine people, and still be arrested in an orderly fashion, and indeed, be treated to a Burger King meal by police officers as they chauffeur him from the church to the jail.

Or we can look to the case of the young, white male Stanford student, who, despite being caught in the act of assaulting an unconscious fellow student, received a six month sentence (now somehow dropped to three months) to be served in prison – not jail – rather than the six years the prosecutors had requested,  and despite white rape v black rapethe twelve pages of the victim’s statement, which outlined in searingly heartbreaking detail what she has gone through, during and since the rape.

Contrast that with the case histories of hundreds of young, black males serving much longer prison sentences for the same or similar offences, as in the case of Vanderbilt football player Cory Batey.

Murder and sexual assault is against the law regardless of social class, race, gender, sexuality, or other factors. Inserting prejudice and bias into the process of sentencing renders the law farcical.

Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, which gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, on the grounds that race is life or deathracism is no longer an issue, I am very aware that racism, sexism, and bigotry are enormous problems, and that pretending they do not exist is as foolish as denying gravity. This is our reality, and wishing it away demonstrates the naiveté of a child.

(And according to polls, the majority of Republicans in America believe that ‘reverse racism’ is a worse problem than racism.)

Therefore, I tender my proposal. People are citizens of their countries. Although they cannot be enslaved, they are nevertheless in many ways the ‘property’ of their country, in that they are expected, by birth or through acquired citizenship, to obey the laws, while receiving the rights and protection available. They are simultaneously a country’s asset AND liability.

bst051

So I propose that citizens of all countries be defined as what they really are – property of their governments.

There is a provision in most countries’ military agreements that outlines what constitutes abuse of government property. In the United States, that provision is Article  108 – Destruction of Government Property – which describes as criminal, “Any person subject to this chapter who, without proper authority (1) sells or otherwise disposes of; (2) wilfully or through neglect damages, destroys, or loses; or (3) willfully or through neglect suffers to be lost, damaged, destroyed, sold, or wrongfully disposed of, any military property of the United States, shall be punished as a courtarticle 108 US-martial may direct.”

And some overzealous NCOs have been known to threaten the rank and file for wilful personal damage, even going as far as issuing a letter of reprimand for the sin of getting a sunburn that prevents a soldier from going on a mission.

In Canada, Department of National Defence employees and Canadian Armed Forces members are “Crown servants.” They too are, in a sense, property of their country. Strictly speaking, any assault of a member of the armed forces is an assault of government property.

But if citizens of all countries are defined as the  property of their governments, then assault, rape, and murder can be immediately reclassified as physical damage or destruction of a country’s property. Rescind the gray areas subject to bias, and assign a punishment that fits the crime.

Strongly held beliefs of a physical or moral superiority of one race or sex over another cannot be eradicated in a generation. Indeed, the popularity of  those who consider Donald Trump merely ‘an honest guy that says what the rest of us are thinking ’ proves that there are millions in the United States alone that see themselves as superior beings , and that they see those that are not like themselves as inferior.

Rather than argue with stubborn mindsets, it seems far more sensible to deem citizens as property of their country. With this as a guideline, it then becomes a simple matter of assigning value. value of a human lifeWhat is a life worth? Should men, women, and children have separate values, or can we agree that the assault or murder of any person is grievous? Since  racism is supposedly a non-issue, do we then assign the same value to people of all colours? In a court of law, can we agree to an equality of all members of society, independent of their circumstances of birth?

Rather than the lip service of equality granted by charters and constitutions, lay out the terms of the perceived worth of citizens. What is the lifetime value of your citizen, after taking into account both the costs and benefits? If that is pro-rated over an estimated lifetime, should the potential of a child’s life, nipped in the bud, be a factor in higher penalties?  Where then does that leave legalized abortion?

If a mother can be forced to give birth, is she not then entitled to ongoing support for the child? And if we now hold that all citizens are of equal value, can we then withhold the necessities of life to those who are caught in cycles of poverty or addiction? Can we, in good conscience, subscribe to cuts to benefits to the hungry, the homeless, disabled or elderly? Property must be maintained!

What of the wounded veterans, who served their country in good faith, but have returned from combat, damaged physically or mentally? Should their rehabilitation – the cost of repairing damaged property –  not be considered a vital part of the calculation of the cost of continuing conflicts or new acts of aggression?

justice is conscienceIn order to purge real or perceived prejudices in the courts, each and every citizen must be first and foremost recognized as a unique and valuable entity in his or her own right. If the law, lawyers, and judges are unable to see people as such, perhaps the only solution is to tack a label upon the people, signifying ownership, with the attendant penalties enforced upon those who damage governmental property.

My immodest proposal only seeks to level the judicial playing field, and avoid judgments that strain our belief and fervent hope that “Justice is Blind. “