It’s been just over two weeks since the 2016 American presidential election, and things aren’t really looking up. There have been protests (rightfully so) and racially motivated hate attacks (despicably so). People are confused. They don’t understand how America got to this point. Black, brown and gay people totally understand why, but white America is left in the dark. They underestimated themselves, and their hate.
The night of the election I was hanging out at a sold out NOFX show in Edmonton at Union Hall. Before they took the stage, Fat Mike, El Hefe and Melvin had a big group hug, and Mike went over to hug Smelly already at his kit. I was trying to think back to whether they always did this, but I can’t recall. I think the hugs were special that night though – moral support on a night that determines the next four years of their lives.
Fat Mike looked pretty rough, which is kind of standard, but this time it was different.
“I just got off the phone with my daughter and she’s crying,” Mike told the crowd. His daughter – a little girl who wanted to see a very qualified woman become president just as badly as her daddy – was in tears over Trump in the lead. Mike was teary-eyed too. The remainder of the set he kept saying he couldn’t look anyone in the eye. He called for sunglasses, which eventually came, courtesy of Zach Quinn from PEARS, who were also on the bill.
NOFX has been warning against the exact kind of presidency Donald Trump represents – this exact threat to democracy Americans posed for themselves, for over twenty five years.
Their discography is peppered with social and political commentary, brash and unapologetic, condemnatory and sharp. Since War on Errorism, NOFX’s albums became increasingly more critical of the social and political state of America. In retrospect, there was probably no better place to be while awaiting the election results.
Fat Mike lamented the election for the majority of the set. A rendition of “Fuck the Kids” became “Fuck Republicans.” He apologized to every woman in the room for the sordid state affairs that enabled a highly qualified woman to have to consider a man like Donald Trump an opponent, before dedicating the song “Louise” to us. They played “Murder the Government,” of course, with some extra lyrics pertaining to Trump, and “Ronnie and Mags,” as well as “72 Hookers.” With almost every song preceded by a quip by Mike about the election, the the setlist truly reflected what was weighing on their mind. Before playing “The Idiots are Taking Over,” Mike exclaimed “It’s not the ‘Idiots’ are taking over, it’s the idiot!”
When it became clear Trump won, Mike announced it, and I am not really sure what he said after that, because I was reconciling my own disbelief. I felt like crying too. It’s not even my country, but there is just something inherently sad about the state of America, progress and democracy, that Trump won the presidency. Later “Reeko” made it into the setlist, with extra emphasis on the “it really is that bad.”
Over the past week as analyses from journalists, politicians and celebrities across the world of “what went wrong” rolls in, NOFX lyrics and that night’s setlist can’t help but continuously pop into my head.
Here are a few that truly resonated with me as I have been slowly digesting what Trump for president means for America.
“There’s no point for democracy if ignorance is celebrated”
The Idiots Are Taking Over
War on Errorism, 2003
As of 2013, approximately 14 million adults in the U.S. cannot read, with an additional 20-23% of adults unable to read beyond a grade five level. According to a PEW Research study, over half of Americans get their news from Facebook. Coupled with a recent Buzzfeed news analysis that “the top-performing fake election news stories on Facebook generated more engagement than the top stories from major news outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, NBC News, and others,” combined, should clearly lay out the point I am trying to make here. Americans are not interested in truth, nor thinking critically.
Based on these statistics, educational reform should probably be one of Trump’s top priorities, but I feel this is unlikely. On top of that, reading literature for pleasure is also on the decline in America. Literacy, especially media literacy, is integral in a digital age where false information is spread with the click of a button, a share or a like. Many researchers and social behaviourists attribute reading fiction to increased empathy in readers. By reading from someone else’s perspective, readers are able to empathize with the character, and apply that empathy to the world around them.
I don’t know where, or how, America put down the books, and picked up the trash instead. But this election has demonstrated that there really is no point in democracy if ignorance is celebrated. On point with that one NOFX.
The entire song “Leaving Jesusland”
Wolves in Wolves clothing, 2006
The lyrics accuse the “heartland” of not being very “smartland.” It calls out homophobia, obesity, and invites a mass migration of open minded people to the West Coast.
The entire West Coast voted for Hillary Clinton. The entire Bible Belt voted for Trump.
“No longer svelte, they gotta punch new holes in the Bible belt. They’ve blown out the fire under the melting pot, the red blood of America is starting to clot. No compromise, no sight thru others’ eyes, they’re just flies spreading pieces of shit. You gotta emigrate, stop living in hate, what makes this country great is dwelling on either side.”
Apparently only 36% of Americans own a valid passport. I mean, there is a lot to read in between the cracks here (immigration status and/or poverty can prevent one from owning a valid passport), but there is merit to that last line, “you gotta emigrate, stop living in hate.” I can’t make too many assumptions about this statistic, because the people who do have passports aren’t necessarily globetrotters, but I do think there is merit to travelling and gaining other perspectives. It also might ease and abate xenophobia to get out of your country and see what other places have to offer.
“Breath, ever so soft. We wouldn’t want to break the eggs as we walk
Leave it alone. Follow the grain. We couldn’t stop the irresistible force.”
Leave it Alone
Punk in Drublic, 1994
I am not sure what this song is actually about, but I can’t help but think in the context of the election, it fits perfectly to the response white America had to Trump winning.
According to exit polls, 53% of white women voted for Trump, and 63% of white men. White, educated and wealthy voters gave Trump the presidency. The lyrics “leave it alone, follow the grain,” and later in the song “leave it the same,” describes these voters perfectly. Trump made the status quo feel as if equality was a very threat to their existence, and these voters did not want to deviate from the norm. Trump convinced them his platform was a deviation from the norm – but he is merely an affirmation of the norm that is the racism, sexism and homophobia Americans experience every day in law, policy and in the streets.
So many people are throwing their hands up in the air saying “How did this happen?” – well the answer, and the irresistible force in this particular instance, is hatred. As Danielle Moodie-Mills so eloquently put it on CBC’s live election coverage “We underestimated, as Americans, how deep our hatred was of the other, how deep white uneducated Americans felt about the demographic shift. We underestimated that level of insidious, blind hatred.
And what you had was a man who went around, he stoked every fire, he lit every branch, every branch, and just opened the floodgates.”
Since her commentary came early in the night, she had no way of knowing it wasn’t just uneducated white Americans, but the ones with college degrees too, and that really speaks to the insidious, subtle nature of racism in America in 2016.