Testify

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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.

25 thoughts on “Testify

  1. Interesting! I haven’t noticed a trend toward liberal viewpionts expressed rudely. My perception may be biased, but I tend to notice conservative thought expressed with a condescending or less respectful tone. Either way, I find it frustrating: not-nice conservatives compound the fact that I already disagree with them, and not-nice liberals give others an easy way to poke holes in an argument.

    • I wasn’t making generalizations either way. What I was saying revolved around the word “magnanimous”. Morello could’ve just said “hey I dig him being a fan but I don;t like his politics.” and call it a day. The op-ed he wrote in Rolling Stone was way too harsh and much too mean-spirited. There’s a way to disagree.

  2. Very well said my friend. We won’t like everyone who likes us, but there’s a polite way to say thanks but no thanks. That applies to many things in life. (Also, my alarm clock plays from my ipod, and it’s set to play The Clash every morning.)

  3. I’m usually nice, but I have my moments, like anyone, I suppose. I’m never “mean” just for the thrill of it, though, and I always feel bad after getting snippy with someone, even if they deserved it.

  4. I was the girl boys thought was too nice also. Actually, I once found out a guy I was dating was also dating somebody else at the same time as I was. Her name was Mary. He accidently sent me an email starting with Dear Mary. In this email he went to talk about how much fun he’d had with her on the night he told me he had to cancel our date because of work. He also told her he was planning on ending it with me. I was too nice. I read it as too boring. Sigh.

    You know, its cool though because in the end, its the nice people that win. And that’s the part of life that counts more… Right?

    p.s. Strummer. Isn’t he the nice guy who plays Johnny Appleseed? The song they used for the intro to John from Cincinnati? (If you’ve never seen that TV show – it’s a must. HBO. Only 8 episodes ever. It was awesome)

  5. What does it say about me that the thing I say most often to my hubs, other than ‘love you,” is ‘don’t make anyone cry today.” I think I need to embrace my inner punk.

  6. This is why I steer clear of politics – there’s usually nothing you can say that won’t be taken of offense by someone on one side or the other. So, I totally agree with you. If arguements or words of disagreement were spoken in a respectful and courteous manner, I believe the two sides wouldn’t be so far apart. Kindness breeds kindness and all that.

  7. I agree that there’s definitely a nice way to disagree with someone, regardless of which soapbox you stand on, really. It is interesting to hear the different personalities of different famous-for-political-songs singers… makes me happy that Joe Strummer is on the nice side of things, since overall, i’ve got a huge crush on the man (whose music primarily happened before I was born, and yes, I do know he’s passed away) based solely on his music. It’s nice to find that people who have a voice heard by so many are decent people.

  8. I can understand when musicians don’t like it when their songs are used at political rallies and such without giving permission, whether they don’t agree with the politics or if they just don’t want their music politicized. However, some guy listening to your music while they lift barbells is not even close to the same thing. I agree, “it’s nice someone likes the music even if we don’t agree,” would have sufficed.

  9. W00t! It’s great to read and catch up on all your stuff after such a long time away! Yeah, I’m with you about being nice… and perhaps in the same vein or just the same thing in a different word, being respectful. I don’t always manage to live up to that, but I do try. I think respect has gone missing from so many aspects of our lives these days… political and otherwise. Respect for others is I hope one of the most important things I can hand down to G. I find myself rather intolerant (in that I avoid it most of the time) of the political processes because real respect for humanity, not just polite face-noises, left the building a la Elvis. Perhaps it’s always been that way and is nothing new, but it saddens me nonetheless.

    And I *can* certainly appreciate a good hook without having to agree with the politics/religion/creed of the performer. Though, I admit, I’m rather stuck on lyrics (being a singer myself) so it can be hard to enjoy listening to words that I strongly disagree with (say, blatant misogyny or racism). Of course, having said that, I really get down to Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy. Go fig. It always makes me feel guilty on some level, but there it is.

  10. I say, “be good.” :-)

    I used to be staunchly republican. Registered republican. I’ll admit it. There ya go. Never really too political. I just inherited my republicanism from my family. Fed by my husband’s job. It fit with my rabid sense of self-sufficiency. My overwhelming belief in darwinism as it relates to “social darwinism.” Yep. I thought that any government entity which dispenses social programs that help those would not otherwise be able to help themselves was disrupting our social natural selection whereby the strongest of our species would rise above the weak, the weak being those who are detrimental to our intellectual evolution. Yeah. I know. I’d never admit that outside of a comments section ;-)

    I would not consider myself a Democrat. Growing up in Alabama, with the family I had, even the word “democrat” sounds off-putting to me. It’s used as an insult. It’s synonymous with communism. My mother would probably disown me quicker if I told her I was democrat than if I told her I was gay. No shit.

    But I am also no longer a registered republican. I am not voting for Mitt Romney. I no longer hold the conservative beliefs I once did. And at this point, that is really all I know…..

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