Tuesday, June 16, 2015

a writer in a police town

When I was younger and just starting to write songs (or at least poor versions thereof), I made a more or less conscious decision to avoid writing political songs. I did have pretty strong political convictions (which were, in hindsight, almost as immature as my early songs). I reasoned, however, that by the time I got a band together and played out, there was a good chance that my politics would be overtaken by events. So why try to be current?

Incidentally, as it took me several decades to actually play out, this ended up being a pretty sound decision even if for different reasons. As I write this, I'm much older (ancient, even) and  (debatably) wiser. I'm much more radical in my politics, and I get more extreme with each passing month.

I still don't do political songs, though...but now, it's not for lack of trying. The first draft of "Rise Above" (which, incidentally, will be on my new album) was very much a political rant against a specific person who has, as he's aged, started to embrace politics based seemingly on the strength of anti-intellectualism contained therein. But the structure didn't work; there was a spoken word/list portion at the end which was just too exhausting to pull off live. The first revision didn't work either, and eventually, I nuked the whole thing and made the song about (shock, shock) my depression.

It's hard, however, to avoid politics when the amount of stupidity seems to increase exponentially. With ever passing glance at the news, I become more pessimistic...and that pessimism demands an outlet.

The latest thing to hit me in the full rage triggers is the increasing police state in which we live. The idea that, in order to feel safe, we should give up all our rights is astounding to me. Couple this with authority figures arguing they should be exempt from any limits on their power, and I start to get angry.

A while back, the sleepy little midwest college town in which I live replaced all their closed circuit cameras with new hi-def ones. They also got their own SWAT unit. And their own bomb dogs. And I'm pretty sure they also have their own armored personnel carrier. And, I should be perfectly clear, we do not have a concentration of terrorists or anything around here. This stuff isn't to up the number of undergrads cited for public urination or anything . So why do we have it?

The simple answer is "because they can." What authority figure wouldn't want stronger, more potent symbols of their authority? Well, the obvious answer is "a sane one," but that's not how law enforcement has worked for some time.

This has been bothering me for some time. If I had faith in humanity, I would believe the police department's military hardware would only be used sparingly. But, as I said, I'm getting more and more radical as I age, and I can't help but ask, "if we give them all these hammers, how long before they see everyone as a nail?"

That is why I'm now sitting at my normal bar, contemplating finishing lyrics for the angriest, most political song I've ever written.

No comments: