Tom delivers pro-voting message in FLEX YOUR VOTE! YouTube
(Image by Tom English) Permission Details DMCA
JB: You wrote an in-your-face song called Democrats are Stupid if They Don't Vote, Republicans are Stupid if They Do [YouTube version]. It's almost Election Day so it's timely to talk about it. What provoked you to write this song?
TE: All of the following things provoked me, to write this song, although I prefer "inspired":
I have a knack with lyrics and melodies and I love to sing, and life has taught me that I can get my objectives accomplished more effectively in my activist work when I am doing things I just love to do, so I wanted to do all I can do to get out the vote in this election on Tuesday. I am appalled at how less than 40% of registered voters vote, and I wanted to urge Democrats to vote in the most entertaining way I could think of. I know that Republicans are doing everything they can to keep people they fear are demographically likely to vote Democratic and Progressive from voting. We need, of course, to work against all of those moves by the right wing, and to go to those states where it's being done - those of us who can - and help people to get the IDs people need and otherwise thwart that Republicans tactic.
We need to remember, however, that there is also this vast pool of voters who are basically on the liberal side of the political spectrum who just don't vote. That's why I start out the song with the cynical memes that often keep people from voting, and then kick into the chorus to make it catchy. I work with Protect California Ballots. It's a group of us citizens who are doing all we can to keep electronic voting machines out of California. We already have ES&S counting our votes. We need to get rid of that too, of course. We have a bill here in California, signed, to his shame, by our Democratic Governor, Jerry Brown, that gives all the power of what our state voting system will be to one person, the Lt.Governor. All the electronic voting machine companies need to do is pressure or pay him or her off, and our votes are completely hackable. I touch on this issue in the song, but my objective is that people will hear the lyric and look into it more, and work to establish non-hackable vote-register devices and hand counted paper ballots.
I think Cantor's defeat in Virginia this Spring was just an exhillarating thing! We The People really do have a great amount of power we don't use as a rule. I want us to start using it.
JB: I was appalled by Gov. Brown's inexplicable acquiescence and, in general, by the grip that electronic voting has on all of us, across the country. The very recent Supreme Court decision reaffirming Texas Voter ID will effectively disenfranchise 600,000 legal voters in that state. Not to mention Republican efforts nationwide to suppress the vote; literally millions of voters nationwide could be affected. Maneuvers like that are enough to turn off the average citizen. Through your own long history of activism, you understand the various and onerous challenges our elections face. Yet you haven't given up on the system. Why not?
TE: For the same reason I don't give up on myself when I seem hopeless. The idea of America, the fact of it being the first country on Earth ever to be established with no "king". This alone makes me proud of what America's potential still holds. I mean, in Athens, they had a democracy but Pericles was still the king. I deliberately see past the fact of how we keep compulsively giving these uninspired men all this power. I try to keep the perspective that this "king" thing has a millennium of momentum behind it. We're clearly not as evolved as our founders imagined themselves to be, but the president does have legal limits upon him, and we can establish them if we have the political will.
It seems to me that my job as an artist is to do all I can to create that political will.The design of this government is a thing of wonder. Just think that the law is that the airwaves belong to We The People. The head of the FCC legally could simply order certain hours set aside for We The People to get a good look at the candidates the week or two before elections. America is capable of greatness.
Look at the Marshall Plan after World War II. America rebuilt Europe. America builds things. The Hoover Dam comes to mind. When Katrina hit, the America of my American Dream builds a system of dams and run offs to rival the pyramids. Protects New Orleans so she will never need to fear a hurricane again. Instead of a war, we could put people to work doing that. I believe in Government Works Projects. Really, that's all war is. Puts everybody to work. Government Works Projects just eliminate the death and terror.
I know America is in a very tender place right now. The literally non-human profit maximizing legal fictions called "corporations"," that literally have no skin in the game when it comes to war, are calling the shots. We've shipped all our other jobs away. All we manufacture now is war stuff - bombs, and missiles, and drones, and guns, and ammunition.
JB: Interesting point. I never thought about it but I believe you're right.
TE: When those shelves in those warehouses need to be cleared for new inventory, it's simple good business to start a new war, if profit is your only consideration. No human being want to worry about retaliation, but a non-human corporate entity with only profit as its motive...well, there's no downside! It's HUGE profits. This is a democracy, so majority rules. It may be that people decide as a nation to acquiesce, as they did under Bush number two, or maybe they will find the political will to take back their legal power. First thing we gotta do is kick the system into gear. I believe that what happened last Spring in Virginia was a magnificent, exhilarating triumph of the American voting system. Flex your VOTE! My motivation when I was creating this piece of art was to entertain and inspire. It's a Constructivist piece. It's a Public Service Announcement. My government is not doing it's job, so as a Citizen, I am taking it upon myself to do it.
JB: Good for you! Tell us a little about how you became an activist. Have you always been?
TE: In the draft lottery, the ping pong ball with my birthday written on it was picked out of the chicken wire drum second. so I had to either go to Canada for forever or go into the army. I always hated war. Those old movies on TV of all those guys crawling around in the rubble sticking their heads up just enough to fire on some other guy crawling around in the rubble were just so ugly and uninteresting to me. I knew the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a lie - I had Quaker friends in New York who were smart, informed pacifists. I went to rallies and "happenings" to stop the war. I told myself I could do the army anyway.