“make america great again” – pussy riot (2016)

This Friday, January 20th, is Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th president of the United States of America.  In the weeks and months since winning the election, he has continued to prove himself to be unpredictable, irrational, and an overall danger to the freedom and safety of the country’s citizens.  Tapping into a seething white rage of nationalistic imperialism, Trump has managed break all traditional understanding of what it means to hold the office.  He hasn’t even taken office yet, but he has already made his mark

Since before and after the election, controversy has followed Donald Trump.  Prior to November 8th, Trump’s ever increasing list of offenses include inciting violence at his rallies, denigrating Mexican immigrants as rapists, threatening to document every known and practicing Muslim in a federal registry, numerous sexual assault allegation, broken promises to his supporters, and a lack of decorum on Twitter with.  Since November 8th, he has continued that rhetoric but with the authority of someone who will be the leader of the Free World.

Additional allegations and claims against Trump have continued to surface since his election victory.  These allegations include the Russian government tampering with the election through hacks and a highly-orchestrated campaign of spreading fake news to negatively impact Hillary Clinton’s campaign.  Most recently, leaked intelligence documents suggest that Trump was videotaped in a Russian hotel with prostitutes performing golden showers.  As this is a continuing story, details are being vetted and confirmed as we speak.  However, the overall problem in the situation is that the next president of the United States allowed himself to be put in a compromising position by a foreign leader and manipulated to do their bidding for fear of additional blackmail to leak.  In line with his personality of being unpredictable and brash, Trump held his first press conference in six months to deny the allegations and blame various new outlets for spreading unverified information.

So much can be said about the toxicity of Trump’s campaign that it can fill a book.  It has been his behavior over the campaign and during his transition to the Oval Office that have people worried about what will happen when the world “elect” is dropped from his title and he officially becomes “president.”  Critics have turned to social media to voice their concern and fear of what will happen to their friends, family, and themselves.  And they have every right to be worried.

I was in shock when Trump won the election on November 8th.  For about two weeks, I was devastated and struggled to pull back the tears.  I was worried about the women, transgender, gay, and non-white people in my life.  I had so much anger.  I went to the protests.  I argued with people.  I wanted to express my outrage in a way I had never done before.

I’m still angry, but I’ve managed that.  Now, as the months have passed, I’ve become less angry with the situation and angrier with the people around me.  In the days leading up to New Year’s Eve, I was reading social media posts full of woe that 2017 would be the worst year ever and that the end of the world would be January 20th.  Despite the melodrama that these people exhibited, I couldn’t deny that things wouldn’t be hard.  But I was becoming disappointed in this mentality that people were just going to lie down and let Trump dominate them.  I didn’t want to wallow in self-pity anymore.  I recognized that as hard as the fight was going to be, we still had to get up and fight.

Pussy Riot is an all-female protest punk rock group based out of Moscow that specialized in guerilla performances with themes including women’s right, LGBT discrimination, and opposition towards Russian president Vladimir Putin.  They made headlines worldwide in 2013 when they were arrested for staged a group performance inside the Cathedral of Christ the Savior. Citing their actions as sacrilegious and blasphemous, the government incarcerated three of the members for several months.  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina, and Yekaterina Samutsevich became the faces of a new brand of international feminism that was angry and justified.

The members were eventually released from prison, relocated from Russia, and have continued their own brand of feminist punk rock aimed at toppling an oppressive patriarchal government.  So, it is no wonder that Trump would be an obvious target for the group.  Not only does Trump represent a virulent philosophy to the group with his promises of oppressing women and minorities, but his alleged connections with Putin have rekindled a new flame in the girls of Pussy Riot.

A few months ago, they released the single “Make America Great Again.”  With the title referencing Trump’s campaign slogan, the band creates a peculiar protest song set against a stark and disturbing prophetic vision of Trump’s America.  The song itself is a little jazzy bossa nova number with some occasional hip hop drum patterns coming in during the chorus.  Though poppy, short, and sweet, the song packs a powerful and unconfused message.   The first line of the song asks the question “what do you want your world to look like?” with a chorus that declares to let other people across your borders, to listen to the women marginalized in your country, and to stop the senseless murder of unarmed black children.  Coopting Trump’s slogan, this is how Pussy Riot says you can make America great again.

However, it isn’t the lyrics that are the biggest takeaway from the song.  While the music poppy and the message of the lyrics reasonable, it is the video for the song that sends the real message of how dangerous Trump’s America can be.  The video opens as a special bulletin from the Trump News Network.  A news anchor is declaring that Trump’s victory will mean no more Mexicans or Muslims, no more fat pigs and small breasts, and more gays.  Footage from Trump rallies including speeches and raw footage of violent supporters play during these declarations of how American can be great again.

Nadya, who plays a Russian immigrant in the video, is taken into custody by police officers with Trump’s hair.  She is branded with a scolding hot iron labeling her as “OUTSIDER.”  She is then taken to a courtroom where she is branded as “PERVERT” by the judge.   Then, before being branded as a “FAT PIG”, her clothes are violently stripped away while her body is measured and analyzed compared to the American beauty standards of a big ass, thigh gap, and large breasts.  Nadya’s story come to an end when she is shot in the back by one of the Trump police officers after attacking a doctor for branding “SHE HAD AN ABORTION” on her inner thigh.

The video for “Make America Great Again” is shocking, disturbing, and violent.  However, it should be.  With the threats Trump poses to the rights of it’s citizens and to the safety of other nations, it must be expressed just how much the world hates and fears him.  Between the threats of violence, blackmail from foreign leaders, and the absence of any decorum, Trump has proven to be a big problem. Even though he isn’t in office yet, various investigations and public initiatives are likely to occur to will have a shameful impact on the office and this country for generations.  However, we can’t wait for that.  Government and bureaucracy moves slowly.  Until then, the solution is to get angry and share your voice.  The women of Pussy Riot have shared their stark vision and, while extreme and hyperbolic, has every possibility of becoming a reality.  Until Trump is impeached, assassinated, or successfully completes his first (and hopefully only) term, the solution it to fight and not normalize his brand of hate.  With a united voice focused on peace and justice, we can get through this.  It will be hard, but we can be harder.  If you want to truly make America great, then do it on your terms.  Terms that allow everyone justice, peace, and freedom.

Yes we can.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s