November 6th: Influence As Power, Power In Action

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Written by Jenna Dreisenstock

Today is November 6th. Today is the day that millions of Americans take to the voting booths to cast their votes for the Midterm Elections – and, unless one has been living under a rock; this is strikingly anxiety inducing. Not only for Americans, but the entire world is waiting with bated breath. I am not an American citizen, yet all that has been running through my mind is the absolute absurdity of the fact that I am feeling a genuine, terrifying anxiety regarding the actions of the American people today. We, as “progressives” – as those who believe in the intrinsic value of every individuals’ rights; the future of our planet: and that horrifying understanding that if Americans do not take to the polls: the USA, as a major superpower – depending on the actions of strangers, could deeply affect each and every one of us around the world, in the most horrific ways. As I write this, I am in pain. If one has been following the news in the USA, this is a dire situation and as foreign individuals there is nothing we can do except rely on the American people. We have no control.

Leading up to these elections, I would like to focus on the importance of exceptionally well-known and respected musicians who have continuously encouraged, vocally, over the past few weeks – months, even – American citizens to vote: with overwhelmingly progressive views, and that painful understanding of what could be if the votes swing overwhelmingly in the wrong direction: toward the Republican party, and the bigoted views in which they are aiming to enforce – these musicians have played an integral part in encouraging their fans to get up and take action. Right now, in this terrifying world we live in – it may seem hopeless to simply cast a ballot. I felt that way for a long time. However there is an obligation to act and there is no denying it. By not taking action, and despite the flaws of both Republicans and Democrats (unfortunately, these two options are not particularly ideal for anyone) and the flawed system that is supposed to represent democracy: we have reached a point in which, if US citizens to do not vote overwhelmingly liberal / democratic, the lives of many will be thrust into serious danger; and the normalization of such toxic views, and the subsequent consequences will affect the entire world. It may sound as though I am being hyperbolic, yet if one has been keeping up with the chilling spiral of horror emanating from the USA and how it is playing a huge part in affecting countries around the world; one will know how important this election is.

They say with great power comes great responsibility; because, of course it does. The type of power public figures such as musicians wield is evidently different to that of politicians; however, they play an integral part in influencing millions of people. As I have been, with a heart stinging bittersweet, watching as musicians – even those who are not US citizens – essentially spamming social media encouraging everyone to please, please, please, please get out there and vote in these Midterm Elections – I have regained a feeling of hope in humanity, as the majority of these public figures are “progressive” and know we need to act. For those who admire, respect – who hold these musicians so incredibly close to their hearts; and with the massive audience these musicians are able to reach – it has been essential for these musicians to speak out, as they are influencers. They make statements that people listen to. That people think about. Statements that go viral on the internet, that can encourage younger generations who are of age to vote and feeling apathetic and broken at this point in time (like myself, the pain of this world can be incredibly overwhelming.) is so important in the world we live in today. Public figures as influencers – influence as power, and power in action. I have spoken before about whether or not we should hold musicians to a standard in which they are required to be clear and vocal regarding injustice – and it has reached a point, I believe, that many musicians have realised this.

Pitchfork spoke to several musicians who understand the need for action and influence on their part, and why they have registered to vote. Below are quotes from the article that stood out to me particularly, which I would like to share with you all.

Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill, Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin) who is one of my personal inspirations stated:

…I am voting because the whole Republican/Trump strategy is, “I’m rubber, you’re glue,” aka let’s call the people who are being terrorized “terrorists.” And it is making me so pissed to see the healers and the true soul rebels of this world being cast as villains while the racists are cast as the victims. Trump and friends are actively supporting hate crimes, the erasure of transgender people, and the abolishment of women’s bodily autonomy. They are demonizing people of color to further their agendas and foment fear.

I understand being totally depressed right now and feeling like your vote won’t change anything, but that’s another part of Trump Incorporated’s strategy: training us to think we can’t make a difference. Please don’t let racism, sexism, and homophobia win. Things won’t change immediately, but the least we can do is vote.

Composer ANOHNI, another of my personal inspirations stated:

Noam Chomsky has referred to the Republican Party as “the most dangerous organization on Earth in human history,” due to its complete disregard for the future of the planet. Nothing is more important than the defeat of Republicans in as many races as possible on Tuesday…

A statement that stood out to me particularly from musician Jason Isbell stated as such:

A lot of people, especially young people, feel like their vote doesn’t matter, that things are going to go the way they’re going to go. For a long time we’ve been privileged enough to feel that way, and to not have to pay close attention to politics. But the more elections that pass without you voting, the more your right gets taken away from you. That’s how fascism creeps in. It tells people their votes don’t matter and eventually you don’t have a democracy anymore.

The last statement from the Pitchfork article I would like to include in this article is from Jake Shear (Scissor Sisters):

I’m voting because I believe our freedom as citizens depends on it. The current administration is trying to limit the legal definition of gender as the sex you were assigned to at birth. This particular issue is extremely important to me, as it would affect so many of my friends and family and endangers the lives and safety of our transgender and non-binary citizens. Revoking their personal freedoms is unacceptable to me.

I encourage readers of this article to read further into the statements made by many other musicians, and to truly see how influential their words have been and how important their voices are in encouraging their fans to take action for real political change – it’s incredible, it’s so crucial and we need more artists and musicians to follow suit. Those who have been vocal I am reassured, have encouraged many to take action and vote, and that is everything in this turbulent political climate. To end off this article I am going to include a statement that I have seen continuously, posted by many artists, musicians and citizens from all around the world:

If your vote didn’t matter, they wouldn’t be trying so hard to keep you from voting.

I want to believe in other people. I want to believe in the pure, true humanity of this world – which seems poisoned, sickened by bigotry and apathy: I want to believe the American citizens will do the right thing. Thank you to all the musicians who regularly speak out, and to all individuals who are taking action.

As I said before, the world is waiting with bated breath.