Song two: Yes, America is dying

In early September, I read an article on Medium entitled We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying. The article was written by Umair Haque and describes how he and a number of people he knows are children of parents who fled authoritarian regimes. He has a dire warning:

This is how authoritarianism happens…and it’s happening here.

I read the article, and despite some of its hyperbolic tendencies, I happened to agree with much of it. As a CIA military analyst for many years, I studied dictatorships and autocratic regimes, and I saw many similar trends happening here in America. We have seem armed young men willing to take violence to the streets on behalf of their leader (think Kyle Rittenhouse). Trump used federal agents, many (but not all) of whom were unidentified, under the control of an acting DHS secretary, whom OPM said is illegally serving in that role.

The list goes on…

Then something in the article resonated with me:

This is not a joke. This is not a drill.

It was something I had been preaching for some time…the pillars of American democracy seemed to be crumbling in what could be our biggest test of the structure of our country since the Civil War.

So I started to write lyrics based off of inspiration from the article:

No names. No rank. No common sense.

Just throw them in the van and then remind them it’s just happenstance.

No crime. No charge. No writ of proof.

Just roll up in the unmarked van and realize they’re coming for you.

Of course, I am referencing the federal agents, many of whom are unnamed who were snatching up people off the streets in Portland, putting them into unmarked vans and detaining them without any evidence or investigation. Part of the lyrics come from first-hand accounts of people who were detained by these agents in Portland that I watched in a Washington Post video.

Then I kept writing more lyrics that fit the same style:

No face. No place. No history.

Just line up there in Lafayette and watch him in his tyranny.

No love. No care. No empathy.

Just standing there to break their bones, with sticks and shields to make them bleed.

This, of course, is another reference to the incident in Lafayette Square when the president ordered peaceful protesters to be violently cleared by federal officers. Video evidence shows there was no warning, just shield and batons used to hit the demonstrators as they were forced backward. All for a photo op…

When I was conceptualizing the chorus, I went back to the original article I read:

This is not a joke. This is not a drill.

White and armed, they march the streets to kill.

This is not a joke. This is not a drill.

The pillars of democracy are crumbling at his will.

America is dying.

And I meant it, I really did (and do) think our country is dying. The pillars of democracy, a free press, the freedom to organize and demonstrate…these ideals were being attacked relentlessly.

I feared the future.

The song ends up being the longest I’ve ever written, thanks to a repetition of the chorus three times and an outro that is fast and hard-hitting. There is also a solo in the middle of the song, after the second chorus, something I rarely do.

But I’m not great at solos, so I brought in some help: Adil Qureshi, the lead guitarist from a Megadeth tribute band called Dethstrike. I met Adil through my band Spirit in Black, as we had played a show together in 2019, and all of us from the three bands (including NFT an Anthrax tribute band) were on the same group chat.

Adil wrote an incredible solo and I’m glad to have him participate in the song.

Ben Schwartz, the engineer for the album, told me he liked this song the best out of all the songs on the new album. “You should make this a single,” he said.

Maybe he was right, but now that’s for you to decide.

Let me know what you think. Click the picture below to listen to the song.

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