You wouldn’t believe how many Deadheads I know on Facebook who are pro Trump and everything he stands for. I’m talking about anti-immigrant sentiments, a reverence for the patriarchy, a lot of that nasty racist stuff and “all lives matter” crap.
And it’s not just Baby Boomers — most of whom, you’d be wise to remember, were not at Woodstock. A lot of the people that I used to go to Grateful Dead shows with in the 1980s and ’90s are Trumpers. And I am personally goddam offended by it.
Let me tell you why.
I have been to perhaps 20 Grateful Dead shows in the years between 1986 and ’94. Nassau Coliseum. Saratoga. Pittsburgh. Philly. UNO. Sold imports in the parking lot, ate grilled cheeses and bought hideous T-shirts. It was fun and it was wild and I enjoyed every minute of it, even when things got weird. Especially when things got weird.
Outsiders might think it strange that a lot of my values — beauty and compassion, mercy and love — are informed by the Dead, its music and the people who gathered around them. But it’s true. Deadheads were a gentle people, by and large, determinedly non-judgmental and respectful, sometimes even reverent, of their fellow humans.
Reach out your hand if your cup be empty, amirite?
Sure, the Grateful Dead was one of the most successful money-making enterprises of the last quarter of the 20th Century — they were an American band, after all — but aside from that, their philosophy is entirely incongruous with today’s right-wing politics.
Kindness. Generosity. Tolerance. Tie a retread to your feet and pray for better weather. What I want to know, is are you kind?
Obviously, they’re not listening to the words.
Also: The members of the band were outlaw drug users with criminal records who had no place for organized religion in their secular spirituality. In their lives as in their music they railed against bankers, corporations, the politicians throwing stones and everything else the hippies lumped together as “the establishment.”
And the sentiments of peace, love and justice are punchlines to today’s GOP. So I say either they stop listening to the Dead’s music altogether, or they listen to nothing but the Dead, until the message seeps in.
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