Friends and comrades,
A lot's been happening this month. I feel compelled to share a few thoughts on that, musically annotated. Mainly links to relevant songs. All the links below are to places where you can listen to a song (for free), unless otherwise noted. Some of the songs are embedded on the page as well as linked.
I wrote a poem after the Paris attacks.
Steel birds streak through the sky above the Syrian Levant
The pilot flew the plane all the way from Nantes
Explosions rock the cities in this proxy civil war
So many innocents killed, everyone has lost the score
Jean-Pierre fired a missile and was heard to say
He wished he could be home in France at his favorite cafe
Not fighting in a conflict that shows no sign of ever ending
As the Eagles of Death were descending
The bars were filled with people on a balmy Friday night
Out enjoying the weather, having a drink or a bite
Watching football in a stadium, hearing a live band
Washing dishes in a restaurant or shopping for the latest brand
The luckiest ones stayed home, catching a TV show
Not knowing how glad they'd be that they didn't go
Out that evening to join a war they had just last week been protesting
When the Eagles of Death were descending
The Right is overjoyed, prepared to do their best to try
To use these acts of terror to continue to deny
Asylum for the refugees, who are largely fleeing the same men
Who took over their towns and cities at the very same time when
They escaped the carnage to attempt to cross the sea
To be refused safe haven in the land of fraternity
Where this war that has come home keeps rivening and rending
As the Eagles of Death were descending
But oftentimes anecdotes from history speak more powerfully to the present than the present itself, and I think the story of the Muslims of the Ottoman Empire saving the lives of hundreds of thousands of European refugees in 1492 after the Ottoman defeat in Granada says more than anything we could say about the horrors of last Friday.
My latest album, The Other Side (that's the Bandcamp link -- you can also buy in physical form via my new online store), includes “Before the War Came Home,” which is a song I wrote last January after the last massacre in Paris.
When events like this happen in the Muslim world, of course, they often barely make the news. This is primarily due to endemic European-American racism. Also because if something happens more often somewhere, it's less newsworthy. (For example, there have been over 1,000 mass shootings in the US since Sandy Hook, but only a handful of them made the headlines. Such as the ones this year in South Carolina and North Carolina that are memorialized on my latest album.)
Last Thursday there was a multiple-suicide-bombing attack in Beirut. A few days before that in Baghdad. Last month in Ankara. Last summer's suicide bombing in the town of Suruc, Turkey, just across the border from Kobane, Syria is the one among those many horrible attacks that I commemorated in song.
The police killed another Black man in Minneapolis the other day. Still awfully hard to breath if you're Black in America. CeCe McDonald is a trans African-American woman from Minneapolis who almost became another victim of a similar racist attack in that city, except that she managed to successfully defend herself – and then was imprisoned for doing that. (And then there were Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant – endemic institutional racism represented especially well by the Portland Police Department.)
In the news in Oregon and around the US this month is the fact that there is a housing crisis, and the average rent in Portland has doubled over the past few years. The town is gentrifying rapidly, along with many others. There is no rent control – it's banned in Oregon on a statewide basis, along with 47 other US states. We need to overthrow the landlord class. There will be many more children spending Christmas in a tent this winter in the USA.
Relations with Cuba have not been normalized yet, but they keep talking about it. The moronic governor of New Jersey insisted earlier this month that the Port Authority of New York not allow flights from New York to Havana until the Cuban government turns over the FBI's #1 Most Wanted Terrorist, Assata Shakur, who has been living in Havana since she escaped from prison in New Jersey over three decades ago, having been convicted of a crime she never committed. Meanwhile it is the corrupt governor of New Jersey who belongs in prison, not Assata.
Today, November 19th is the 100th anniversary of the execution by firing squad of IWW songwriter, cartoonist and organizer, Joe Hill.
A lot of the shows I've done this year in Europe and North America have had a Joe Hill theme, such as every show on the west coast tour I've just done here in the US. The one two nights ago in LA included an all-star cast, and was very memorable, singing along with Tom Morello, Joan Baez, Boots Riley, Ziggy Marley, Tim Anderson, Jill Sobule and other great musicians.
The show with me, Chris Chandler, George Mann and others in Reno, Nevada last week was recorded nicely and put up on YouTube in two parts, in case you didn't catch one of those shows live – Set One and Set Two. There's also a video of Chris Chandler and I doing a spoken word and song collaboration on Joe Hill.
Do you know why there's never been a coup in the US? Because we don't have a US embassy. But unfortunately, the rest of the world does. US foreign policy is the primary reason why much of the Middle East is currently in a state of chaos and war. But 27 bigoted US governors don't want to take any of the tiny number of Syrian refugees Kerry has said we'll accept. They're afraid that these people who are fleeing terrorists are going to be infiltrated by terrorists.
After Anders Breivik massacred scores of Norwegians in a very similar mass killing several years ago, no one called for keeping Norwegians from settling anywhere. This double-standard is called racism. These 27 governors are all racist scum. Maybe they should arrange to give the Statue of Liberty back to France, since we're not using it, and never really have.
Bombs will never stop terrorism. It is US policies in Afghanistan and Iraq and Syria that are the cause of the terrorism. Extrajudicial executions of people like Osama bin Laden set a terrifying example. Imprisoning people like Moazzam Begg in Guantanamo without trial for years sets a terrifying example. Systematically torturing prisoners sets a terrifying example. The active support of Israeli state terrorism and Israeli apartheid sets a terrifying example, as does US support for dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
The example set by the draconian punishment of heroic whistleblowers like Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden sets a chilling example when it comes to the US “leadership of the free world” that the thugs in Congress like to drivel on about.
They interviewed Senator John McCain on NPR yesterday morning. He said we could “fight IS here or we can fight IS there [in the Middle East]. I'd rather fight them there.” John McCain is a fool. The very reason why they're over here is because we're over there. And as long as we stay over there, the next attack is coming soon.
P.S. The Other Side 2016 World Tour is coming together well. That'll be late January through late March. But there are still plenty of dates left to fill! So especially if you live in any of the following regions, I'd love to hear from you about any gig ideas you may have: Texas, Florida, New York, New England, Quebec, Ontario, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, Wales, Scotland!
P.P.S. Baby is due on May 1st, so I'm sticking around the Pacific Northwest in April and May. In other words, I'd love to do gigs that are within a few hours' drive of Portland in April and May if anybody wants to put something together!
P.P.P.S. Please support the arts and join my CSA if you're able to do such a thing.