Nation Time (an inauguration playlist)
1. Nation Time by Joe McPhee (text by Amiri Baraka)
What Time Is It? NATION TIME!
This recording is an institution, a nation, an enunciation. It is an individual joining the cacophony of a crowd in protest. The repetitions remind us that there are other nations within this one, not only secessions but successions – we pick up an unfinished thread and live it out. It is nation time (again) as if it ever left. The future doesn’t have to follow the incoherent logic of the present.
We do not prophesy. We prefigure. We are nations, wherever two or more are gathered. We contain multitudes the other poet said, other Americas. There are other possible nations within us preferable to our present state. Which nation will we wake up in next week, next year?
I said, “What Time Is It?”
2. Endzone by Fatima Al Qadiri
3. Act 1, Scene 1: News Has a Kind of Mystery (Nixon in China) by John Adams
News has a kind of mystery
It is just a fragmented text like all the rest. Our distrust fell so far that the charlatan somehow seemed most poignant to the masses; the con the honest response to a swarm of uncertainty. We made history. The eyes and ears of history sigh and repeat. News. It’s prime time in the USA. News!
We live in an unsettled time.
Who are our enemies?
Who are our friends?
I know America is good
At heart. An old cold warrior
Piloting towards an unknown shore
A sound like mourning doves reaches my ears,
nobody is a friend of ours.
No news is good news
The nation’s heartland skips a beat
As our hands shield the spinning globe
From the flame-throwers of the mob.
We must press on. We know we want —
What — Oh yes —
Ahem. Mr. President.
4. The Stranger by Leonard Cohen
Well, he talks like this you don’t know what he’s after
When he speaks like this you don’t know what he’s after
An unpredictable outsider
We voted like poker players betting with borrowed money meant to pay down the debt. We made space in our house for the stranger. Though he doesn’t plan to stay here any longer, he has the keys and the cards not dealt yet no one’s quite counted.
And then sweeping up the jokers that he left behind
You find he did not leave you very much, not even laughter
Like any dealer he was watching for the card that is so high and wild
He’ll never need to deal another
After he takes everything you’ll offer, he will just say, “I told you when I came I was a stranger.”
5. Mr. November by The National
I’m the new blue blood
I’m the great white hope
I won’t fuck us over
I’m Mr. November
No matter who wrote the anthem that helped get Obama elected.
No matter that we are reduced to nostalgia for when Romney was the worst of it
It’s not 2012 or even 08 anymore, but we’re living in a Fake Empire and that’s the optimistic lyric
Not bombastic enough to match the unscripted orations
Of a reality tv fraud: the “I” to end them all, all id with international debt
The great white hope, white hats with white hoods or red hats with white writing
He might as well have had The Gaslight Anthem play the inauguration
6. I’ll Believe in Anything by Wolf Parade
All talk, talk, talk. We aren’t talking about post-truth added as dictionary entry, word of the year even, though here we are after the fact in disbelief. More like, I’ll believe in anything and you’ll believe in anything along the small archipelago we’re skipping on between here and apocalypse, it seems.
7. Power by Kanye West
We’re living in the 21st century, doing something mean to it. The system’s broken, the school is closed, the prison’s open. This is a pretty bad way to start a conversation, walking out of the elevator in Trump tower talking about multi-cultural issues. In this white man’s world, we’re the ones chosen. (21st century schizoid man).
Still singing through your teeth, yeezus, no joke anymore. A few years in, walking on to the telethon to tell us the president doesn’t care about black people, the scene repeated like a greatest hits collection, the words still correct.
8 – 9. Back to Back by Drake // Nuclear War by Sun Ra
The laughable form in which our language erupts into the public
as fired off Tweets leaving an intelligence briefing.
Trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers
until Twitter fingers turn to trigger fingers.
They talking about nuclear war. This motherfucker don’t you know?
10. Scared Song/I Don’t Know by Meredith Monk
Oh I’m scared, oh she’s scared, oh she’s scared
Scared, oh he’s scared, scared Oh, oh, oh, oh
So what, what do you know?
What, what do you know?
I don’t know, I don’t know
11. Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
12. Who Will Survive in America/Comment #2 by Kanye West (text by Gil Scott-Heron)
Us living as we do upside down
And the new word to have is revolution.
Democracy, liberty, and justice were code names
for their opposites. Like America itself
Language is an incomplete project
And we are left with these tattered texts
And told to swear by them
Or die by them
It’s nation time
But whose? Or which one?
The time is in the street you know
(a deleted intro)
The present resents us, said Heron
(The song sampled twice)
The sky filled with herons
(a predictive inauguration performance)
Who will survive in America?
Who will survive as America?
Who will survive America?
Will it be America that survives?
13. Nikes by Frank Ocean
We’ll let you guys prophesy. We gon’ see the future first
In ancient Rome, an augur was considered to be a divine soothsayer who could interpret the will of the gods by observing the flight patterns of birds. The noun inauguration was derived from the Latin verb inaugurare (to take omens from birds in flight).
As Marcus Cicero stated: “There are many forms of religious authority in the state, but the highest and supreme authority is that of official augury (prediction based on the flight pattern of birds). For what power, legally considered, is greater than the ability to dissolve assemblies and councils appointed by the highest authorities in possession of their full powers, or to rescind the decisions of those bodies? What authority carries more weight than the augur’s power to dismiss any undertaking, simply by saying “Postponed to another day”? What power is greater than deciding when consuls must resign from their office? What power is more sacred than that of granting or withholding the right of assembly to the people and the plebs? Indeed, without an augur’s authority, no act by a magistrate either at home or in the field has validity for anyone.”
We will let them prophesy. We will see the future first as the birds circling, swarming with a separate voice: without our authority no act by a president either at home or abroad has validity for anyone. What authority carries more weight than the augur’s power to dismiss any undertaking, to rescind the decisions for those bodies? What power is more sacred than that?
We will see the future first, waking up and walking into it ourselves. We will survive as augurs in America, our celebration indefinitely postponed.
The new word to have is revolution. This recording is an institution, a nation, an enunciation. The repetitions remind us that there are other nations within this one. We do not prophesy. We prefigure. There are other possible nations within us preferable to our present state. Which nation will we wake up in next week, next year?
I said, “What Time Is It?”
IT’S NATION TIME