I didn’t start out thinking “Sister” was my favorite song of the year because of any political reasons. I had a multitude of thematic, musical, and emotional reasons for loving that song – reasons that, previous to my current (apparently liberal) worldview, would have been appropriate given my position as a music journalist.
On election night, I reconsidered all of those reasons.
This sounds like the beginning of some kind of epic story but it’s not. First, I should recap my election night, right? That only seems apropos given the craziness of the 2016 election. As I write this sentence, a car screeches away due to what I can only assume was either a hate crime perpetuated street race or an election fueled getaway. I’m saying this at 11:26 at night. In California.
I know I’m writing to a minority. I don’t have a global audience and, thus, I’m writing to an audience that is more interested in conformity than confrontation. These are, by and large, my friends. These are people that politically leaned to the left, perhaps more than I did, but they nonetheless leaned towards Hillary Clinton.
I have friends that rooted for Donald Trump. They didn’t just root for him, they voted for him. I love them and I know that, in spite of political views, they love me as well. I try and keep my political views at bay given that most people who have posted the 2016 Election on social media annoy me, and I appreciate that they (generally) have done the same. This hasn’t been an easy election to restraint that.
I watched tonight’s election unfold. And I voted for Hillary Clinton. Most of the people I know did. But like a small subset of Americans, I heard fireworks go off just before midnight Pacific Standard Time celebrating a Trump candidacy. And it was perplexing.
As I sat outside on my lawn, drunk on the frustration of a fading democracy, I listened to music – It was the only thing I knew how to do. My favorite song of the year, “Sister” by Angel Olsen, came on, and I was engaged in a way I hadn’t been before; It wasn’t out of anger, but out of concern, that I contemplated the lyrics.
For most of Trump’s campaign, his words have bothered me. Growing up in Arizona, I knew many Mexicans, and none of them were rapists. Throughout my life, I’ve known many Muslims, and none of them were terrorists. And, I myself, have misguidedly (or unintentionally) referred to close female friends (for which I have had many [A Trumpism, I know]) as a “harem.” I was never explicitly implying that they were, nor would I ever imply, that they were intimately involved with me. I was more so (jokingly, circa 2009) perpetuating an idea in which female friendship was something that was specifically contributing to my sense of masculinity. This, ironically, was something to boast about in the early 2000’s; a “harem” wasn’t derogatory – it was simply a message of feminism, an odd equivalent to the age-old expression “I have black friends.”
I’m a straight white male, and I just heard a siren in Orange County (past midnight). My masculinity, regardless of whether my whiteness or heterosexuality is kept in check, is safe. My rights in this country are also kept in check. I can only assume this to be a known fact in this newly established Trump presidency.
But I sat outside and listened to my favorite song of the year, while CNN played inside my house, heralding dread I had previously thought impossible. I voted for Clinton, remember?
Saw it in her eyes
Oh, it wasn’t what she said
She came together like a dream
That I didn’t know I had
I was in awe. How had an artist so immediately, and unbeknownst to me, captured the feminist epitome of what the new President-elect of the United States was shitting on. And then the song continued…
From the sleeping life I lead
All the colors I have seen
I can’t help but recognize
The brighter one in front of me
The subjective nature of her lyrics are easy to poke holes through, I know. But Jesus, to have gone through six months of political hell and heard, in the midst of an unexpected revolution, lyrics like that, I was struck down in a way I can’t now put into words. I’ve loved Angel Olsen for a few years, but now her words were applicable in a way I had not considered before.
All the truth I thought I learned
And then it finally came along
Turned around and then it’s there
All the love I thought was gone.
And that was the bullet to the head. The nail in the proverbial coffin. “All the love I thought was gone.” These lyrics struck me down, echoing my realization that bigotry and misogyny and sexism had won. Throughout the election, I thought we had compassion. People that I believed similarly shared views on feminism and equality, and supported Muslims and the LGBTQ community, suddenly seemed hollow among their right leaning shells. They had suddenly voted otherwise. Both my friends, and the country, seemed at odds with my social sensibilities and honor. They had suddenly voted otherwise. Both my friends, and the country, seemed at odds with my social sensibilities and honorability in a way I was drunkenly sad about.
And suddenly I began to consider Olsen’s final chorus, the avalanching “All my life I thought I’d change,” a chant that’s repetitiveness destroys me in a way I don’t know how to put into words.
How can one consider change? Maybe we can’t. I love almost everyone I know that voted, regardless of if they voted for or against the outcome of a Trump presidency. But I can’t help but be decidedly angry about the victory; We’ve fought generations to erase the outcome of what a Trump presidency would mean and all the bigotry/misogyny/xenophobia that he stands for.
“All my life I thought I’d change” took on a different meaning tonight, as did most of Angel Olsen’s “Sister”. I have friends that voted for Trump and I love them. I would love nothing more than to prove them wrong, but I know that saying, “See, I told you so?” would lead to me admitting that their political beliefs lead to an outcome that perpetuates positivism. Worse, I say “Okay, you were right,” implying that everything Trump stood for, and the offenses he endorsed on the way to the highest authority in the land, meant forward progress. Remember when he said “Grab them by the pussy?” because I do. I don’t want my friend Mohammed to live in fear. I don’t want my girlfriend, or any any of my female friends I once referred to as being in my ‘harem’ (some of whom voted for Trump) to live in fear, and I personally don’t want to live in terror regardless of being a straight white male, which is why when Angel Olsen sings: