Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

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Donna Smith

Donna Smith, American SiCKO, is executive director of the Health Care for All Colorado Foundation

May 14th, 2012 4:41 PM

In the “Loop” with Morello Standing Against ‘Grotesque Income Inequality’

As Tom Morello prepares to come to his hometown and mine, Chicago, in advance of the NATO meeting, he calls what has happened to me and so many millions of people “grotesque income inequality.”  He is so right.  It’s grotesque.  The rich get richer, and most of the poor get poorer, and the group in-between becomes smaller and smaller.

Many kids were taught to aspire to wealth and not to aspire to their own talents and dreams.  Instead of valuing a background rich with cultural heritage and values, many people clawed their way over their neighbors if they had to in order to make more money, own bigger houses and cars, and keep up the image of being Americans living the dream.  Morello never did that.  And he never forgot those who have not found a way to scrape out of the pain of economic uncertainty and suffering.

The protest rally Morello will play in Daley Plaza at noon on Friday, May 18, was planned some time ago by National Nurses United as they help organize a strong social movement around their message:  “Heal America, Tax Wall Street.”  NNU supports a Robin Hood Tax, a tiny tax on the sale of stocks, bonds, derivatives, and other speculative transactions that could raise hundreds of billions of dollars worldwide.  No talk of austerity measures.  A real common-sense solution offered by common-sense people.  That’s why Morello said he’d come.

Asked in a press conference today about why he thought the city of Chicago had raised permit concerns when they learned he was playing the rally on Daley Plaza, Morello clearly stated his view that he has never been a threat to the city of Chicago, a city he loves.  But he proudly remains a threat to the moneyed interests that help create and reinforce so much economic suffering around his beloved Chicago, the nation and the globe.

I cannot wait.  I listen to the lyrics of one of Tom’s songs every time I feel like the odds are too long and I’ll be crushed by those with more power, influence and money than I have (and that most people around me most of the time).  “I leaned against the hot and bothered wind beneath a hateful rain… Politics, apocalypse start to look the same… Save the hammer for the man, save the hammer for the man, You’re never too far down the wrong road to turn back and change your plan.”

Morello’s music gives voice to the inner anger and pain of trying so hard and failing no matter what you try.  His music helps me release some of the hurt and fear before it bubbles over into desperation.  Yet it also cleanses my mind of some of the counterproductive imaginings that make me filled with self-loathing instead of righteous anger and energy to fight for what is right in the world.

Whether it was in writing “Alone Without You,” for Michael Moore’s 2007 documentary “SICKO,” or playing for a small crowd on a rainy day in a Boston public square to raise a few dollars in the fight for healthcare justice, or now in our shared hometown of Chicago to help the fight for a Robin Hood Tax, Morello lends his enormous talent to make the world a better place.

I know he has made my life less painful and through his music, I have been able to rise for just one more fight, one more time -- that’s the power of speaking the truth to power even when it’s spoken on an acoustic guitar. Though I know now that many of us aren’t even remotely in the “loop” of power or allowed to be in control of our own lives, all of us can be in Chicago’s Loop on Friday to hear Morello, be part of the nurses’ rally, and be infused with a little energy and shared power for our work ahead.  Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.  Morello helps me be just a little more free in a world that is often cruel.  Join us.

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