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Patti Smith, Another Take

 

I just saw Patti Smith’s two nights in San Francisco last week and perhaps
what Patti said at those concerts was more creatively and clearly stated
than your experience at the Seattle concert:

On Thursday toward the end of “Gandhi” she repeatedly said to register to
vote. Between songs she mentioned that their commitment as a band was
getting people to register to vote.

On Friday, she told everyone we need to get rid of the Bush regime. She
told everyone they had to register to vote. She encouraged everyone to
follow their individual inspiration and individual passions to find their
way of changing the political scene. She said it won’t happen unless you
vote and vote Democrat.

Of course, that made me a little disappointed. But then after the song,
she said, “and for those of you who for whatever reason, feel shut out of
the system and don’t vote or don’t register may I suggest an alternative:
register and vote for Ralph Nader. I worked on Ralph’s campaign in 2000
and I am proud of that. There are those who say that Nader cost the
Democrats the election in 2000. I am not one of them. First, the
Republicans stole the fucking election. Second, Bush ‘won’ because
millions and millions and millions and millions and millions of Democrats
didn’t vote for their candidate. You need to find your inspiration and
follow that to change the system. Go to our website, pattismith.net and
there’s a link that will take you to a registration form.”

After the next song, at a moment when the audience was quiet, someone
shouted out “Patti, tell Nader not to run.” Patti immediately pointed her
finger to the place where the voice came from, paused and then said “Fuck
you. Abraham Lincoln was an independent candidate. Ralph is a great
man. If you want your candidate to win then you need to register and you
need to go out and register people and you need to find your inspiration.”

She also said “When we were in Europe on tour we tried to view as much as
we could of the Democratic Convention. And we saw many people praise
Kerry for his Vietnam service. Whatever you think of his service in
Vietnam, he came back and spoke out against the war but that wasn’t
mentioned at the convention. We need for people to be proud about that and speak about that, too. We’re all Americans and we can speak for peace.”

Someone asked her to play Radio Baghdad and she said “We’re all Radio
Baghdad. We bombed their schools, destroyed their water supply, we
destroyed the oldest copy of the Koran, we killed their children and we
remember.”

At the end, after the last encore, she had everyone quiet down and said
“One other thing I was thinking of: they’re spending a hundred million
dollars on negative TV ads. What would happen if every time we saw a
negative ad we just turned the TV off? What would happen?”

Outside of Counterpunch it’s hard to be a Nader follower because the
Democrats have instilled as much fear and loathing at Bush–you know how
hard it is to discuss one-on-one just with a friend. Patti Smith has to
talk to a divergent group of people in public–many, many of whom are full
of the fear-factor. That she speaks out so often and so strongly is
incredible. She is clearly better informed than almost everyone. If at
one concert or another the words don’t come out exactly the “most perfect
way”, well, let it go. Yes, if I had been at your concert I would have
been dismayed. But, luckily, I was able to hear the above. Let’s stand
with and have faith in one of our country’s great souls: Patti Smith.

RODNEY THOMAS can be reached at: rodneythomas@earthlink.net