Additional vocals on "If We Live" by Deepthi Welaratna, Henny Hendrix, and Valerie Evering
Additional guitar on "If We Live" by Dan Harpaz
Album artwork by Sumudu Welaratna
August 23 2017
I started writing this song back in December, and in between touring and production work, I have been working on it consistently until right now.
After everything that has happened since, it’s odd looking back at the end of 2016, how we talked about what was happening to us –and/or- what we were doing to ourselves.
The song emerged in the context of rising fascism here in the United States, but it is less a response to any one specific event or figure, and more a response to the systems and processes that have led us here.
There is a common myth in current discourse that what has happened is some sort of sudden takeover, that the rise of a boldly racist, fascist regime represents some violent disruption of “normal”. This is false – what we are seeing now is a direct manifestation of what we have been calling normal all this time.
There are a lot of good reasons to point fingers these days, and it is easy to comfort oneself with narratives of a righteous and just resistance against a rising force of pure and obvious evil. But for many of us it’s a dishonest story, because many of us are complicit in creating what we now claim to be fighting against. By telling ourselves that story in such reductive terms, without self-reflection, without really listening to each other, we help ensure that the processes of oppression continue.
For example: the fascists have made it clear that one of their targets, as usual, is Jewish people, and in particular what they call “the Jewish media” whom they accuse of orchestrating a plot to destroy America via open borders and multiculturalism. I was raised in a mostly secular Jewish American household and I’ve spent a fair amount of my professional life working for media companies. I do indeed support open borders – globally, not just in the US – and I do see multiculturalism as good. Neither of those beliefs has anything to do with any plot to destroy the country, but that’s not really the point. The point is, as a Jewish American, there is a great temptation right now to create a narrative that focuses only on our potential victimhood, without examining the enormous privilege we often benefit from here in America, or the nationalistic oppression we are responsible for overseas. The point of this is not to beat oneself up or to feel guilt but to focus on working constantly against the destructive, ego driven, fear based thought patterns that lead to othering, to oppression, and to nationalism.
We have slipped into a time of transition. Many of the categories into which we divide people, or which we use to understand reality itself, once firm divisions, now seem permeable, fragile, broken. It’s a process that is frightening to many people, and threatening to those who most benefitted from those divisions. This, too, leads to the reactionary attitudes we see today. But it also leads to opportunities to examine and dismantle ideas like borders, like nations, like gender, and so many more which have been confining and limiting our potential as humans. As we struggle with “what is happening to us –and/or- what we are doing to ourselves” we need to learn new ways of living with fluidity and self possession and question our most basic assumptions and thought patterns, to focus not just on survival or victory but on creating a more equitable world in which we avoid the destructive cycles of history.