Politico interviews Tom Morello:
INFLUENCE ROCK - The labor movement has a friend in Tom Morello. Best known as the guitarist for Rage Against the Machine andAudioslave, the self-described working-class troubadour is out with a new CD, the proceeds from which will benefit the America Votes Labor Unity Fund. Inspired by this winter’s union protests in Wisconsin, the eight tracks on “Union Town” include three original songs. (Download the title track for free or watch the video here: http://bit.ly/l4rvDS.) POLITICO Influence chatted with the Harvard-educated political science major and former Capitol Hill denizen about how music can influence politics. Q & A edited for clarity and length:
How do you hope this CD influences the debate?
I’m less interested in how this CD influences the debate and more interested in how it helps us steel the backbone of an emerging labor movement with the kind of teeth that can really stand up to working class rights in this country. What we saw in Madison, what we’re seeing across the Midwest, I hope is a resurgence of a vital and vibrant working class movement that is not going to be beholden to either corporate or governmental interests.
How do you want to influence the labor movement?
My hope is to encourage the labor movement to not become diluted by politics as usual. This is a chance to not just stop some bad legislation but to really put some wind in the sails of progressive working class issues and to take back the populist narrative from the misappropriation by the tea party.
What’s your message to all folks working the other side of the issue, the corporate interests?
My message to them would be, ‘How do you sleep at night?’ But I do understand, capital has its demand and the servants of capital can do what they’re going to do. But we’re not going to sit back and take it. And if you want to be on the right side of history, you’re more than welcome to fill out your union card and to join us in the struggle.
The reason why I chose a career in music instead of politics, I’ll tell you a quick story that illuminates that. I was working for a senator and one day this woman called up and she had a complaint that there were Mexicans moving into her neighborhood. And I, thinking I was standing up for all the things that Sen. (Alan) Cranston stood for, I said, ‘Ma’am you’re a racist and you can go to hell.’ And the next two weeks I got yelled at by everybody up and down the political food chain. And it was crystal clear to me at that moment if I couldn’t tell a racist to go to hell, that I was in the wrong business.
I just got off the phone with my friend, the one with the brain tumor.
“I got you a present,” I said and we both started laughing, because the last present was so spectacular (a tiara to wear after her first round of chemo).
“Do you want to know what it is, or do you want to be surprised?”
“No, no surprises.”
“It’s a cheesy wig. I got it so you’d have something to hold the tiara up.” We both started laughing again.
The Land of Cancer: You take what jokes you can get!
There is ample reason to feel relief that Osama bin Laden is no longer a threat to the world, and I say that not just because I was among the many congressional staffers told to flee the U.S. Capitol on 9/11. I say that because he was clearly an evil person who celebrated violence against all who he deemed “enemies” — and the world needs less of such zealotry, not more.
However, somber relief was not the dominant emotion presented to America when bin Laden’s death was announced. Instead, the Washington press corps — helped by a wild-eyed throng outside the White House — insisted that unbridled euphoria is the appropriate response. And in this we see bin Laden’s more enduring victory — a victory that will unfortunately last far beyond his passing.
For decades, we have held in contempt those who actively celebrate death. When we’ve seen video footage of foreigners cheering terrorist attacks against America, we have ignored their insistence that they are celebrating merely because we have occupied their nations and killed their people. Instead, we have been rightly disgusted — not only because they are lauding the death of our innocents, but because, more fundamentally, they are celebrating death itself. That latter part had been anathema to a nation built on the presumption that life is an “unalienable right.”
But in the years since 9/11, we have begun vaguely mimicking those we say we despise, sometimes celebrating bloodshed against those we see as Bad Guys just as vigorously as our enemies celebrate bloodshed against innocent Americans they (wrongly) deem as Bad Guys. Indeed, an America that once carefully refrained from flaunting gruesome pictures of our victims for fear of engaging in ugly death euphoria now ogles pictures of Uday and Qusay’s corpses, rejoices over images of Saddam Hussein’s hanging and throws a party at news that bin Laden was shot in the head.
Osama bin Laden’s death doesn’t really solve anything, as far as I can see. I do understand the political and strategic implications. I just find it impossible to celebrate anyone’s death. (“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the Lord.”) And I don’t think it solves a thing.
It’s also hard to forget that bin Laden was a creature of the CIA, funded by us in Afghanistan, and that he represented many, many people who had at least some legitimate beefs against the U.S.
So how long until another bin Laden comes along?
Now I’m watching people on my teevee asking if we can “trust” Pakistan. Why, about as much as Pakistan can trust us, I’d say. We do have this habit of going into other countries, bombing them and taking them over, after all.
It’s not a football game, we’re not rooting for “our” team. The only team we’re on is humanity, and many, many of our corporate American global interests are on the opposing team.