A Letter to Trump Voters

You won, and everybody in America wants to know what happens next

It always feels good when your side wins, and you won big. You now control the White House, both houses of Congress, your guy will appoint potentially several Supreme Court justices, and you’ve got a big lead in state governors and legislatures. You’re in charge.

But a lot of Americans are really, really worried, and they have a right to be. The president-elect said a lot of really divisive things on the campaign trail to get where he is right now. And I heard a lot of you on television and radio saying, “I don’t agree with *everything* he says.” Maybe you voted for him because of economic issues, or because you wanted to throw a brick through the windshield of status-quo electoral politics. If that’s the case, I don’t understand personally why you sent so many incumbents back to Washington, but it’s your ballot.

Now that you are in power, I ask you to use that power wisely.

One reason why so many people are so scared right now is because maybe you don’t agree with “everything” the president-elect said on the campaign trail, but folks don’t know which parts you like and which you don’t. When people listen to 59 million Americans saying “Make America great again, like it was in the 1950s,” they don’t hear “…when there was a strong middle class,” they hear instead, “…when we had Jim Crow laws and African Americans had to use separate facilities.” A time when minorities needed a Green Book to know how to simply stay safe on family vacations. For millions of survivors of sexual assault, having a president who says of women that “You have to treat ’em like shit” feels like an existential threat. For people who simply believe in America, the idea of throwing our political opponents in jail conjures Franco in Spain, Mussolini in Italy, and Hitler in Germany. And these people are not wrong in hearing those things in the president-elect’s words. Those are, in fact, the same things those dictators said, and people who lionize those dictators supported the president-elect and voted for him, just like you did.

Paul Ryan himself described some of the president-elect’s comments as “the textbook definition of racism,” and in less than 48 hours since the election results were announced, the country has seen swastikas spray painted on schools, students lining up to threaten their fellow, Hispanic students with deportation, and strangers verbally attacking minorities in public. So people have legitimate, founded-in-reality reasons to be worried.

If you don’t agree with that kind of behavior, you have to stand up and be a voice against it, too. You must, and right now. Today. If your kids are chanting “Build That Wall” at their classmates or telling Black students to go back to picking cotton, you need to sit your kids down right now and get some things straight with them. Because your silence is an endorsement, and it’s terrifying to the people who believe America is better than that, and whose lives are now under open threat.

There are a lot of eyes on you now. Like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.” You must be vigilant. You must make sure that those incumbents you sent back to DC stand up for what is right, and speak up against disenfranchisement, and bigotry, and hate speech, and you must raise your voice to guarantee that is never again enshrined in the laws of this country. You need to prove the fears of millions of Americans wrong. Please. You must do this.

Because I also heard a lot of you say about the president-elect that, “he tells it like it is.” He empirically does not tell it like it is. This is a fact. It is not how I feel, or how Hillary supporters feel, it is a fact. No matter how much you dislike the man, President Obama was not born in Kenya and is not a Muslim. Those are simply untruths, and it’s up to you to hold this man who has said all of these things to a higher standard now that you have elected him to the Presidency. You must hold your Senators and Representatives to that standard, as well. You must seek out the truth, and not settle for hearing reinforced what you only believe to be true. We all have to do this.

And if your elected leaders don’t live up, you’ve got to get them out, regardless of party. Remember that when Republicans got carte blanche in Kansas, it didn’t go very well. Like Stephen Colbert said, for too long we’ve been “worrying about winning and not what the consequence of winning is.”  Nobody can wave a wand to bring jobs back, and reality is fluid. You can’t step in the same river twice, and the time for some things, some jobs, certainly, has passed by and will not return. We all have to figure out the future and adapt together.

All eyes are on you. You are in the lead, and you must now lead by an example that doesn’t push people to the margins. If you feel marginalized, you know better than most how awful it is, and vulnerable people across the country are worried you now seek to visit that same hardship on their heads.

Don’t do it. Empathy will bring us together. Not payback. And silence in the face of injustice is complicity.


– A folk singer and videographer from Texas, living in California.

The Couch Abides

A few weeks ago, Couch by Couchwest, the online music festival for everybody who couldn’t or didn’t want to go to South by Southwest, called it a day. They started in 2011, and they were recommended to me just before we released The Ghost of John Henry in 2012, so Sci-Fi Romance participated in every year but the festival’s first.

As a tip of the cap and a thank you to the festival organizers, who all had their own lives, jobs, blogs, cats, taco recipes, dogs, and beer can pyramids to attend to, I decided to make one more video, and keep the spirit of Couch by Couchwest alive for 2016. So I give you “The Masque of the Red Death, 1964” from our October EP, recorded in my garage two nights ago.

If you weren’t hip to CXCW, it presented a staggering — staggering! — amount of great music recorded in fields, back yards, front porches, living rooms, bathrooms, and kitchens all over the world. Do yourself a favor if you haven’t and spend some time going through the archives on their site. You can catch up on all the Sci-Fi Romance performances here, for instance. But if you only have time for one video, I will leave you with what is probably my favorite: Rosanne Cash and her band playing “A Feather’s Not a Bird.”


Trumptation Blues

“South Carolina is too small for a republic and too large for an insane asylum.” – James L. Petigru, former South Carolina Attorney General, 1860

As the 2016 presidential campaigns got going and professional loudmouth Donald Trump achieved “frontrunner status” among the field of GOP candidates, I had visions of the “anyone but Romney” jockeying that went down in 2012 quickly unseating Trump from the top of the field.

Oh, would that I’d been right.  Donald Trump has won the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries walking away, after suggesting all Mexicans are rapists, Muslims should be shot with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood, and that the pope doesn’t know shit about being a Christian.

I thought at first that, well, this is what the GOP gets. They’ve spent the last eight years preying on fear, passing racist voter ID laws and stooping to the lowest possible rhetorical level to make Obama seem like an America-hating villain, all while making it easier for rich, white men to take everything of value this country has to offer.  Trump is the Frankenstein’s monster the GOP created by convincing gullible Americans that the black guy running the country was every kind of evil there was, and we needed the exact opposite sitting in the Oval Office starting in January of 2017.

But then I realized, it’s a two-headed monster the GOP created, and the Bernie Sanders candidacy is the other head. I like Bernie the independent senator. He was one of the first five people I ever followed on Twitter. I don’t know if he would make a great president, but he represents, essentially, all of the things that the GOP accused Obama of being (except, of course, a Kenyan). Where they accused Obama of being an un-Christian socialist, Bernie really is one. And an unapologetic one. The comparisons go beyond that, but the point is that the hard right has built a bunker behind the anti-Obama, and the hard left has built one behind the ultra-Obama.

Look, all I know is that Trump’s ascendancy doesn’t say bad things about Donald Trump. He’s a cartoon. But it says terrible things about Americans. That almost 35% of South Carolinians think this dickhead represents what America needs is a slap in the face to every single person who has ever taken even the smallest action in favor of living up to the promise of America as set forth in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…”

I get it. We’ve done a bad job from the start at living that truth. But we’ve made progress. And Donald Trump represents regression away from that ideal in every possible sense.

On election night in 2012, by an accident of the calendar, I was playing a solo set in Hollywood. I’ve never shared this video before, but on that night I closed my set with “This Land is Your Land.” Incidentally, Woody Guthrie hated Donald Trump’s father. I’ll leave that here…