Because a member of Andrew Jackson Jihad is now claiming that he "just recently" learned about his fans being gropey sexist assholes at his encouragement, I would like to share with you in full the email I received from a member of AJJ in response to the incident and my complaint about the rape-apologist lyrical content of the song "People II: The Reckoning," almost exactly two whole years ago and not in fact "a few days ago." (trigger warning, content warning: misogyny, sexual assault, feminist men)
from: Preston Bryant <firstname.lastname@example.org> subject: What would Kathleen Hannah [sic] do? date: Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 3:40 AM
Hello, my name is Preston Bryant and I play guitar and keyboards in Andrew Jackson Jihad. I saw your Tumblr posts regarding the assault that you suffered at the hands of a fan of our band and I wanted to talk to you about it.
Before I get into secondaries about which there is no guarantee that we will see eye to eye, I want, above and beyond anything else, to express how deeply sorry I am that you were sexually assaulted. It touches a raw nerve… far, far too many of my loved ones, dear friends and family, have been victims of sexual assault and rape. I have shared in their pain and anger, and when I read about what happened to you I became angry and sick to my stomach all over again, which is what compelled me to write this letter. I flipped through your Tumblr and it seems obvious to that you’re a strong and spirited, and with that spirit I hope and trust that you will find healing and transcendence. And I hope that the piece of shit that violated you gets the absolute worst of what is coming to them.
I am tempted to stop right here, as what I just said is what I hope you take away from this email, rather than it being remembered as an internet back-and-forth about some lyrics. But c'est la vie…
Full disclosure, I did not not write the lyrics to the song. But I have known Sean for eight years, have been playing with him for six years, and we have had many conversations about ethics, morals, lyrics, feminism, human nature, etc. We share many similar views but, ultimately, I am speaking for myself. (I would address it with him personally but I am living on the East Coast and he is back in Phoenix so I can’t exactly sit down with him right now.)
To address the issue in my own words, I think that the lyric in question comes down to a question of human nature. Where does evil come from? Are rapists simply born that way? Non-rapists? Nazis? (I am generally against mentioning Nazism in a conversation like this but since the line of the song talks about “a rapist and a Nazi,” it seems appropriate.) There are certainly people born with no sense of conscience that are predisposed to acts of violence (ie antisocial personality disorder) but it doesn’t seem that such rare cases are responsible for the bulk of evil that we see in the world. It would be convenient if such a notion were, in actuality, the truth, but I cannot assume that the entire citizenry of Germany was born predisposed to committing the horrors of the Holocaust. That just seems crazy to me.
The old cliche talks about an angel and a devil on our shoulders, the broad spectrum of that which we, as people, are capable of… love, kindness, art, beauty, empathy and courage on one hand… and the most despicable, dehumanizing acts of evil on the other. Everything that I have read, and all of the conversations in which I have engaged have led me to the conclusion that this spectrum is represented within each and every human being. Furthermore, I have no doubt that our ancestors, yours and mine, have committed every act imaginable, good and bad. When Sean says “there’s a rapist and a Nazi living in our tiny hearts,” it is meant as a warning about that which we are in danger of becoming should we not strive for that which is good. Human beings are capable of the absolute best and worst. Born in a different time, in a different place, without awareness of our own capabilities, and without a striving to be the best person that we can be, each and every person could be a liar, a cop, a Nazi, a thief, a racist, a backstabber, a member of a firing squad, a rapist, or a slave owner. I stand by that conviction and, furthermore, I respect Sean for addressing this human dynamic in his song. Furthermore, I bet Kathleen Hannah would agree.
This brings us to the piece of shit that assaulted you… he is obviously a fool and a weakling in every sense if the word, a small minded worm that does not trouble himself to be a descent human being. He does not understand the obvious fucking fact that it is never okay to invade someone’s space without their explicit consent. That he twisted a warning about the dark side of human nature into an excuse to victimize you is nothing short of disgusting. Sadly, the history of punk is full of these vermin that exploit the punk community to live out their sick whims. Case in point, I remember seeing several interviews with John Doe in which he lamented X’s less intelligent, testosterone-fueled fans twisting the message of his anti-rape song “Johnny Hit and Run Paulene” into a sinister opposite.
Again, I don’t want this discussion about lyrics and philosophy to take away from the most important thing that I have to say, which is that I am truly sorry for what you have suffered. If there is anything that I can do, please let me know what it is. I would very much like to hear back from you, to hear out what you have to say. I will pass along what you say to the rest of the band, and please be assured this is is not something that we take lightly. This is serious, it’s a very real problem, and it sucks. And it’s frustrating because no matter how good our intentions, three out of the four of us (our drummer is Native American) are straight white dudes just like the plethora of racist, sexist, homophobic assholes in this country. We’re not perfect, but we are trying, and I’m sorry if you have been let down.