This column was written on May 30th, 2020.
When I joined Premium Heart, I hadn’t written a song in a really long time. It had been quite a few years since I really took a lyrical queue in my head and pushed a whole song through it. But while we were writing and demoing the record, I felt like the themes that were already there, most of which were written by Nick, were so clear and inspiring that I knew I had something to say, and few of my contributions ended up meaning as much to me as what I wrote for The Credit Reel.
At its face, the song is about climate change. But that was only the lens through which I tried to express a larger feeling that I’ve been having for years now. Moreso than just the fear of a world burned up and barren, this song’s about the overlying existential dread a lot of us have been feeling since Trump came down that escalator, announced his candidacy, and declared Mexicans were rapists and criminals. It’s about the uncertainty I’ve been feeling; just when are we going to bottom out and things are gonna stop getting… worse? And clearly, we’ve still found new lows to fall to. Luckily, Nick was there to write some of the more optimistic parts, about being in this hellhole together, but also keeping it on my level by adding some really scary biblical stuff. Part of a complete breakfast and all that.
I used to consider myself an optimist. That people would rally together and do the right thing when it really mattered. Clearly that was an idealism born of privilege and a naive view of just how broken our system and culture is. America’s power structure and “majorities” have done such a wonderful job at showing us just how little they care about anyone but themselves. “Yeah, that’s rough, but not for me and mine.” Education, health care, human rights, a cleaner and safer environment, diversity, and the list goes on, have all become part of a “liberal agenda” and have become polarizing to the point that in our system of electoral delegates, they don’t even warrant a vote in the Senate. We’ve been protesting that Black Lives Matter for almost 7 years, and Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Laquan McDonald, Jamar Clark, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Stephon Clark, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Amaud Arbery, and so many others are dead. And for what progress? Colin Kaepernick took a knee and was lambasted by the majority for it. What progress has this, primarily peaceful protest movement made in almost a decade? How long are people expected to just deal with a broken system when it not only doesn’t improve, but worsens? It doesn’t matter how much you point out the hypocrisy or try to make an example of someone clearly guilty of not doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Just last month, the sergeant from the Parkland shooting, who waited outside while children were murdered had been fired, sure, but the police department waited two days longer than the mandatory maximum waiting period for repercussions provided by their contract, so he’s back on the job. What a coincidence that that happened to line up so well for him, who’s now been reinstated! With similar contracts around the country, even when “bad apples” are made examples of, the repercussions are rarely permanent, even more rarely causing any systemic reform, and only serve to further rot the corrupt system we have. It isn’t until protests garner national attention does anything happen, and even then, it’s often marred by specific protections that prevent justice from being served.
I know this isn’t a new problem. I know that so many people deal with this every single day, in ways that are much deeper than I’ll ever experience. But this time feels even worse. Maybe it’s just the pandemic getting to me. Maybe it’s that we’re approaching the 4th anniversary of Trump’s god-forsaken escalator stunt. I don’t know. But the juxtaposition of three major events has really broken the final shreds of whatever optimism I had left.
First was the Breonna Taylor murder in Louisville, Kentucky after police kicked in the door to an apartment that the suspect they’d been looking for, who was already in custody, had never lived in just because she knew him two years prior. One of the officers was already in the middle of an ongoing lawsuit regarding abuse of power. She was shot eight times.
Then was the one-two of the Michigan reopen protests and the Minnesota protests. Seeing armed people, some carrying confederate flags (in Michigan?) and swastikas, storm a capital building, guns drawn, and scream in the face of police was really terrifying. But no tear gas, no dispersing of the crowd, nothing. “Very fine people” says the president, echoing the statement he made about the Nazi rally in Charlottesville that killed Heather Heyer.
Then in Minnesota, after the horrifying murder of George Floyd by a police officer who kept his knee on George’s throat for 9 minutes over a suspected counterfeit $20 bill… not quite the same reaction. Timelines are always hard to track from the outside in instances like this, but from what I can see, most of the severe escalation we’ve seen has been after tear gas was used to disperse crowds on the second night of protests. “THUGS,” says Trump, while repeating the catchphrase of Walter Headley, a segregationist police chief who tried to put down the civil rights movement, and later said by George Wallace, a segregationist presidential candidate of 1968.
Side note: I’m not going to weigh in on the role of outside agitators and white supremacist infiltrators, as that evidence is not clear right now while the Governor investigates. I don’t want to blindly adopt a lot of rhetoric that gets tossed around about the role of protests and violence in times of severe injustice.
I just can’t stomach seeing all of the exact same people who ripped apart Colin Kaepernick (who, by the way, is paying legal fees for protesters) and other types of peaceful protesters once again screaming that these people, who are so sick and tired of all of these injustices, should be more like those people, who just a few years ago were, to paraphrase the president, “sons of bitches who shouldn’t be in this country.” After almost a decade of these organized, focused protests at these injustices, it’s so clear that there’s nothing that people fed up with injustice are allowed to do except lay down and die at the hands of a system that keeps the majority of the country comfortable and safe.
Unless it’s about a pandemic and stay-at-home orders or asking people to wear a mask. Then it’s fascism? I don’t know, these fucking people don’t believe in anything except their entitlement to comfort. It’s a waste of time to argue or even think about their arguments. They’re nothing but selfish assholes and they’ll never be anything but.
Anyway, having said all that, I think it’s important to stay empathetic and compassionate to the actual victims of our system. I have no patience left for the perpetrators and supporters of injustice and the class hierarchy we have in America, but that doesn’t mean we can’t care deeply for the people who keep getting shoved under the knees and boots of the oppressors. We need to support them at every step of this. That’s why we’re releasing our first single, The Credit Reel, on Bandcamp, for pay-whatever-you-want and all of the money we get will be split between Black Table Arts* and the Louisville Community Bail Fund. As we saw, live on CNN, the Minnesota police are just indiscriminately arresting innocent people. And in Louisville, they’re shooting them with pepper balls or rubber bullets and not all of the people there are lucky enough to be reporters, live on TV, so they’re still sitting in cells they don’t belong in, victims of a de-funded and abandoned support system that prioritizes harsh punishment over ground-up community building. A system that silences the voices of those most affected.
I’m including the song here, but please, I implore you to give what you can to help the people who need it the most right now. The Boston Tea Party was a riot, the suffragettes rioted, Stonewall was a riot. Apparently, it’s the only way to ever get anything done.
A plethora of angels, no more snowmen left
Too old to wish for much, but summer break would never end
Cake’s run out of candles, be careful what you’re hoping for
Second coming’s much more often now
Seeing shadows never more
Let’s run out the clock together
Paper says wait till tomorrow
Credits atrophy and die
The whole world burns just like a dumpster
Yeah, that’s rough but not for me and mine
Class is cancelled due to apathy
Armed and tragic and willfully blind
Hope is a barren harlot
Why don’t we run out the clock together?
Let’s run out the clock together
Light from the snow reflects through our window
On we, for whom it’s reserved
The blackness, the darkness forever
Empty and without form
Let’s run out the clock together
*Note: We originally planned on giving to the Minneapolis Freedom Fund and then Reclaim The Block, but they both had enough to donations and requested that we donate to these organizations instead: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yLWGTQIe3967hdc9RSxBq5s6KKZHe-3_mWp5oemd7OA/preview?fbclid=IwAR3OQPOxFMC4yWlCtaC-muXB-DDa0iX_b7eDNYCYJ2qu1nwrFVUn3XEPPmw&pru=AAABcpAzWQ4*ThWEBw83-3Mo3ZoSfinHYw