Inspiration for “TrumpNation”
by Per Haaland
As a young man in Norway in the 1970’s I developed an interest in politics and political activism, first as a writer and publisher of left-wing countercultural magazines, later participating in the “squatting” movement, where activists occupied vacant buildings to bring attention to housing shortages and affordability. I started writing songs around the time I immigrated to the US in 1979; “TrumpNation” is my first politically inspired song.
The melody and some of the lyrics for the first verse of “TrumpNation” came to me in a dream a few months before the 2016 presidential election. In my dream, a nonchalant, lazy, arrogant, malevolent cowboy/ con man character, was singing:
“I’ll be the sheriff who shoots first and asks the questions later in my Western there’ll be no reprieve for demonstrators….”
As the months went by and it appeared that Trump would have a plausible chance at winning the presidency, I started seriously to work on the song, to see if I could get it out in order to have an impact in preventing a Trump presidency. I dropped the project after Trump was seen bragging about grabbing women’s genitals on TV, convinced that now there was no chance he’d get elected. For several days following the election, I woke up with a combination of dread, terror and depression unlike anything I have ever experienced. It appeared that the unthinkable had happened, and that we were now facing the real possibility of seeing the grand American experiment come to an end, that we might lose our democracy and our republic. Myself an immigrant to the US, I suddenly felt an enormous appreciation for our country; for the fragile, hard won structures of democracy; for the rule of law, and for the philosophy that has guided the development of this country. That week I picked up the song project again. Jon Kennedy helped me complete the lyrics, arranged the song, and added keyboards to my guitar and voice. John Malkin played percussion and recorded the song. Chris Thompson filmed the recording session and my son Elijah Crowell sourced material and edited the music video.
“TrumpNation” has a strong component of righteous anger. It is a scolding of the 46 million American voters who empowered Trump and his far-right Republican Party, placing us all in a gravely dangerous situation. The video paints a bleak picture of the future that is already beginning to happen under Trump’s dangerous agenda. Without a unanimous, organized resistance, we will continue to see our standing in the world erode, civil rights trampled, the environment compromised, and corporate power continue to rise at the expense of the health, well-being and living standard of the average American worker. While serving as an eye-opening reminder of how far we have already fallen, the video also implores those who have been deceived by Donald Trump’s demagogic rhetoric to listen to reason and consider their own role in reversing what has become a national mistake. So, while the tone of “TrumpNation” is, at times, angry, harsh and jarring, hopefully it can serve as a rallying cry for action and unity, and as an invitation to “the other side” to join in our fight to re-build America; to join us in building bridges between all who cherish our republic and the values for which it stands.