Soundtracking the Resistance - Fascists in America

Examining Trump's Response to the White Supremacist Rally and Violence in Charlottesville, Virginia

Aug 18, 2017 Bookmark and Share


With the President outdoing himself in a bid to appear like a terrible human being, there's only really one thing to talk about this week. Still, read on and you might find a few positive developments outside his Charlottesville debacle.

The Big Event

It's hard to know what to say really. Predicting the end of days is a favorite pastime of our species, and plenty have been reading too much into non-existent tea leaves since Donald Trump lurched into the presidency, but he somehow manages to defy expectations in the most astounding ways.

The decision to pin far-right violence in Charlottesville on, in his own words "both sides" should be surprising, but it isn't entirely. His description of "very fine people" amongst the white nationalist protestors should be surprising, but it really isn't. Condemning neo-Nazi groups is about as straight-forward as it gets. Failure to do so is appalling. And yet with Trump there's a feeling anything goes. He promised to be a different voice, and he is. Sadly, it's an ugly one, representing the worst of human nature.

 

Not that everyone is quite so ready to let him equivocate on the unequivocal. He's managed to unite a disparate coalition against him that numbers both former presidents by the name of Bush, a host of corporate bigwigs, and foreign leaders previously keen to bend over backward for him. Even the ineffectual British Prime Minster Theresa May had to speak up, although she didn't mention him by name.

But let's take a step back for a moment and look at what's actually happened. Far-right and openly racist groups gathered for a massive rally in Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. They were happy to march under white supremacist banners while dabbling with Nazi insignia and gestures. Protestors met them, refusing to let virulent hate go unchallenged. Violence broke out and Heather Heyer, standing up to the white nationalist agenda, was killed when someone, allegedly from the opposing side, decided to plow into them in his car. It was an act of domestic terrorism the President refuses to acknowledge as such.

Figures from across the political divide rushed to condemn the rally, and the views espoused by those marching. They made clear they want no place for these attitudes in Charlottesville, Virginia, or anywhere in the country. All Trump had to do is agree.

And yet he couldn't even manage that, initially playing up to the worst elements of his support by apportioning blame to both sides, as if racism and protesting racism are moral equivalents. Sure, the President had a brief attempt at edging towards decency when he made his condemnation more specific, but he quickly went back on that and has now devoted time to bashing everyone critical of his stance, including the CEOs fleeing his advisory panels like rats from a sinking ship.

Which leaves us in an extraordinary position where the President of the United States of America seems unable to take a moral stand on Nazi sympathizers, KKK supporters, and the myopic sludge of related far-right groups. The only answer Trump seems to have, when he bothers trying to present answers at all, is to shout the word JOBS, as if that cures all ills. Never mind the fact he's offered little to suggest he knows how more jobs could be created even if they were the magic pill that erases discrimination.

 

All we can do is organize and keep the condemnations coming; keep speaking up and keep protesting. There are many doing just that, although not enough right now when it comes to those surrounding the President. Too many politicians and businessfolk and too many career professionals have made a Faustian bargain for a little influence or glimpse of power.

If those around him need to wake up, others never dozed off in the first place. The very fact anti-racism counterprotestors were in town at all shows these attitudes won't go unchallenged by everyone. Music figures have also been quick to make their feelings clear on the matter. We'll close this section with a few examples, proof people are listening, and willing to speak up. And the reactions run the gamut from sadness to defiance and rage, because not everyone thinks it's okay to play games with racists.

Colin Meloy of The Decemberists:

John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats:

 

Regina Spektor:

 

Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds:

 

John Legend:

 

Lady Gaga:

 

What's Going On

Lying underneath a lot of the recent unrest is the ongoing battle over what to do with Confederate war statues. Many of the far-right protestors were protesting what they see as the removal of their history. Trump has been onboard with their concerns, decrying efforts to remove symbols of racism. Of course, removing statues glorifying a racist past is not the same as re-writing history, but it's a problem local leaders across the country are going to have to grapple with. The Mayor of Boston is already having to handle such a situation ahead of a planned protest from a group claiming to advocate free speech, and politicians in California are working out how to respond to a similar rally scheduled in San Francisco at the end of the month.

In better news, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was again thwarted in his attempts to introduce a "bathroom bill" in the state, restricting bathroom use to the gender listed on birth certificates. It's been an ongoing battle and appears to have died again. Which is not to say it won't come back, but at least not every civil right is so easily steamrollered.

Speak Up! 

Manchester Arena is due to open again after the horrendous bombing earlier in the year, and it will do so with a concert on 9 September. Manchester native Noel Gallagher will headline the show, supported by other local artists including The Courteeners and Rick Astley.

Texas band Mineral split up back in 1998 before reforming for shows in 2014. They've now announced they'll be raffling off rare test pressings from their two acclaimed emo albums with donations going to the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Wilco have released a brand new song, "All Lives, You Say?," to their Bandcamp page. The song's title references the "All Lives Matter" slogan some spout in response to "Black Lives Matter." The song is also inspired by Jeff Tweedy's late father (Robert L. Tweedy). As Tweedy explained in a statement: "My dad was named after a Civil War general, and he voted for Barack Obama twice. He used to say, 'If you know better, you can do better.' America-we know better. We can do better." Proceeds from the song will also go to the Southern Poverty Law Center in honor of Robert L. Tweedy.

<a href="http://wilcohq.bandcamp.com/track/all-lives-you-say" mce_href="http://wilcohq.bandcamp.com/track/all-lives-you-say">All Lives, You Say? by Wilco</a>

A new Wilco song called "All Lives, You Say?" is available for immediate download with a charitable contribution via @bandcamp [link in profile]. Proceeds will go to the Southern Poverty Law Center, in the memory of Jeff Tweedy's father, Robert L. Tweedy (1933-2017). "My dad was named after a Civil War general, and he voted for Barack Obama twice. He used to say 'If you know better, you can do better.' America - we know better. We can do better." - Jeff Tweedy

A post shared by wilco (@wilco) on Aug 14, 2017 at 4:15pm PDT

Song of the Week: Car Seat Headrest - "War is Coming (If You Want It)" 

Will Toldeo isn't always known for earnest pleas in his songs, but that seems to be exactly where he's at with this Car Seat Headrest track. Toledo has even described it as "a song about not murdering people." It shouldn't be a sentiment that needs repeating, but sadly it often is. So, we'll let him repeat it here in the hope a few more listen.

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