Since the election, I’ve been more invested in music. I’d always loved it, just as a fact of life rather than an active passion. Harper Lee—white-savior-y though To Kill a Mockingbird is—put it well in the context of reading: “One does not love breathing.”
I escaped into happiness and fluff, or if not those, other people’s problems. Glossy, joyous love songs; songs about lost family and partying in spite of exes and loving someone so much you can’t find the words for it; absolutely anything with a beat. With my earbuds in, I was either happy or crying over a life I’d never lived, and I loved that.
And then last week I listened to Halsey’s “Control,” and everything went to shit.
The pre-chorus goes like this:
I’m bigger than my body
I’m colder than this home
I’m meaner than my demons
I’m bigger than these bones.
I love Halsey’s debut album, Badlands. It’s incredible, powerful, nuanced. It also came out in 2015, and I’d had it on repeat ad nauseam since, so I hadn’t really listened all the way through again since around mid-2016. But I was doing some intensive cleaning around the house that’d take about an hour, so I opened Spotify and played it on a whim and didn’t think much of the decision.
When “Control” came on, I was overwhelmed. There’s really no other way to describe it: I was overwhelmed, I was emotional, and I sang along with the chorus anyway.
And all the kids cried out, “Please stop, you’re scaring me”
I can’t help this awful energy
Goddamn right, you should be scared of me
Who is in control?
Goddamn right, you should be scared of me.
“Control” is a song from 2015 about Halsey’s bipolar disorder. It has nothing to do with the 2017 political climate or how people are feeling after the election, and least of all how I’m feeling. But that’s the thing about art: it takes two. The artist can write or draw or sing or paint or express anything, and there are miles between them and me, and sometimes when the art’s in transit it shifts and slides and bumps into things, and it takes on a new shape by time it gets to the person experiencing it.
I’ve been scared since the election. Not that I wasn’t terrified before—I’ve been scared since I was four and I realized I’d rather hold hands with boys, not girls. But the election instilled this new fear in me, one both more removed and more immediate. I have woken up afraid every day since November 9th, 2016.
And singing along as I was vacuuming the living room—saying “Goddamn right, you should be scared of me”—it was hard not to imagine singing this song, even just this line, to Trump. To his supporters.
What a necessary thing right now, to be not the scared one but the scary one.
I think of this now when I’m calling my reps. I’ll be thinking of it when I vote in the New Jersey gubernatorial primary in a week and a half. When I’m following the special election results across the country.
I’ll be thinking of it in 2018, and I’ll be thinking of it in 2020, and I’m thinking of it every day in between.
This man and his supporters who want me and people like and unlike me dead, or deported, or jailed, or outlawed or banned or erased or non-existent:
You’re right. You should be scared of us.