Part of the exorcism of my own demons was me accepting that I’m nice. For thirty-five years I lashed out at the women who wouldnt date me because I was the nice guy. I danced around a bonfire of my soul in flames from people who took advantage of me because I was nice. Like the phoenix tattoo on my left arm, I rose from the ashes of divorce from one marriage, many friendships, and issues of being a good father by realizing that not only was a nice person, but I could find someone who would appreciate me for it and raise children with nice as the lynchpin of their personalities.
When I drop off my three daughters at their schools, or say goodbye to my wife, or go for a run, I say to each of them, “be nice”. If you were to ask my three girls and their mother what are two words I say more than any other besides “gotta write” they would respond “be nice”.
In the past five years I’ve rediscovered my love of punk and alternative music. I’ve also become more liberal, especially concerning social issues, in my politics. I’ve found that one thing that’s missing from the more liberal point of view is kindness. It seems that people who are principled and outspoken also lack tact and tolerance.
Example A is the current feud between Rage Against The Machione, Audislave, and Nightwatchman guitarist Tom Morello and soon to be Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan. Ryan, like myself, listens to Rage Against The Machine on his iPod while working out. He says he doesn;t liek their lyrics but loves their music. During Rage’s heyday – the 1990s, I was much more conservative. I felt the same as Paul Ryan. While now I’m more in line with Rage’s overall left-wing message, I used to cringe during Tom Morello’s heavy-handed radio and television interviews where he pretty much told people like me to go screw themselves. He only wanted true believers to be fans, not folks that appreciated the tunes.
My introduction to punk music, and more hardcore rock was through the 1970s bands like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, and my favorite, The Clash. Joey Ramone was the lead singer of The Ramones. He was this tall, goofy, sweet guy whose politics were completely to the left of everyone’s. Whether it was because of his various mental disorders, including anxiety, which I have, Joey was a shrinking violet in public. His views and his rage, came through on songs like The KKK Took My Baby Away. But he was nice. In fact, at the end of his life, he wrote a song for, and became friends with business reporter Maria Bartriromo. The Sex Pistols were famous for their anti-social behavior, led by the snarling frontman, Johnny Rotten aka John Lydon. To this day, Lydon is rude, obnoxious, condescending, and mean. The patron saint of all left leaning artists who made a difference was the late great Joe Strummer, the singer and guitarist for The Clash. Strummer’s father was an English Diplomat. Some of his dad’s habits and skills, bore out into the son. While Strummer could be cutting, unforgiving, and even subversive in his lyrics and stage presence. Off mike, he was reasonable, unique, and magnanimous. I contend Strummer was the greatest rock of his generation because of how he was away from the stage.
Tom Morello seems to be more John Lydon than Joey Ramone or Joe Strummer. I appreciate Morello commitment to his views and how he wants Rage Against The Machine’s messages separated from Paul Ryan’s. But through my blog, twitter, Facebook, and soon, my book, I’m sure there are some of you out there I don’t respect and wouldn’t want to have a beer with but I love that you read, lurk, and comment.
I wish Tom Morello felt the same. He should be nice.
Look inside the lyrics of one of Rage Against The Machine’s best songs, Testify. Morello could learn from his singer’s point of view. Also, play this so loud, your Republican buddies call the cops.