Election Song of the Week #3: Mark Mills, Colonial
In which I try to process my dread over the upcoming election into something useful. Three of five.
It’s super-easy (and fun!) for us non-Americans to criticize the United States. There’s so much to criticize! The police brutality, the racism, the corruption, the ignorance of world affairs, huge portions in restaurants, the extreme income inequality – the list is endless. And in talking endlessly about US elections and the like we get to pretend that we’re engaging in smart political talk. Of course, we’re not really: We don’t live there, so our opinions not only don’t matter, but there’s also a cheapness to what we say. It’s easy to talk about how horrible Donald Trump is when you don’t live there. Our opinions cost us nothing. But imagine you’re having Thanksgiving Dinner with your Republican uncles who’ve voted Trump (the most unqualified candidate in US history). What do you do then? Like most of us, you probably a) don’t say anything in the interests of family peace; and b) maybe even try to rationalize their vote because Uncle Joe isn’t all bad.
For non-Americans, following US politics is entertainment. But because the content is political, we – and this is especially true of Canadians – fool ourselves into thinking we’re discussing politics, not talking entertainment. Unfortunately, we often spend so much time talking about American politics we don’t focus enough on Canadian politics, because that would be super-uncomfortable around the dinner table.
This is a roundabout way of saying that I love this song. Mark Mills has an 80s disco pop thing going on that always feels like it’s going to go off the rails, and it’s in service of a scathing critique of white privilege. (And the video is delightfully low-tech. Very punk rock.) And I’m listening to it, thinking, this is exactly what’s driving Trump’s deplorables. And of course it is.
But then we get to the kicker:
We are out of line,
Cause the laws are racist,
the laws are genderized,
And we are far from fine,
Cause Canada is guilty of genocide!
Yup, the song’s about Canada’s genocide against the country’s Indigenous peoples and our own problems with race and gender! Whoops! So there’s the lesson: The United States has a shitload of its own baggage to deal with, and these days they’re doing a spectacularly bad job of dealing with it, but we’re not not much better. We’re just smaller. And we tend to pay less attention to what’s going on at home, because the final season of America is on the teevee, and who wants to miss that?