It will come as no surprise to almost anyone that we as a teeny tiny traveling folk band are the bleeding heart liberal type. It comes with the territory, really. What kind of folk singers would we be if we weren't? Now, that not-so-shocking confession should be followed with this: we don't talk politics much. Sure, we make hilarious current event jokes from the stage. Yeah, you give us a glass or two of bourbon and we can certainly find a soap box somewhere. But in general, we aren't a political band. We do, however, have a tremendous affinity for people. And lately, our love of people is running us inevitably to talk of politics.
We aren't drawing any hard lines here. We haven't unfriended people because they support a candidate that we can't get behind. It doesn't keep us from sharing a meal or a house or even a toast to our poor bedraggled country with someone from "the other side." Because, truthfully, the further into this mess we are getting, the harder it is to understand what the sides look like. We aren't drawing hard lines, not because we are in the business of making no enemies, but because we are certain that under our supposed enemies, we are sure that they are friends.
Okay. So in no uncertain terms, we love you. Regardless of who you voted for.
You were waiting for that, weren't you? But.
But it doesn't take an aggressive, angry president-elect to see that we have made quite a bit of a mess of this little big country. Or rather, it took exactly that. And whether you think this is the best thing that could have happened or the worst, whether you blame the media or your next door neighbor or the public school system or the Senate, there are a wildfire of fingers being pointed in every direction, and no amount of yelling is putting them out.
We went to the woods. We felt scared, disappointed, sad, angry. Social media was ablaze. Some would say we shouldn't feel that way. All we knew was that we did. So we unplugged and went to the woods for five days. We left feeling a little less of all of the bad feelings. A little eager to write a protest song., and entirely unable to do it. After our isolation, we emerged to find that most of the Southeast was on fire. We opened our social media pages to find our friends praying for rain. Everything was in chaos. Everything was burning. We were still burning, too.
By the time we made it to our old home of Black Mountain, most of the fires had been extinguished. Our friends told us how they coughed and choked for days, how their asthma acted up, how our other friends were evacuated. We were amazed at this natural disaster. And then we found an old friend, the type who acts like it has only been days missed instead of years when you are reunited. And he told us everything they were finding out. These fires were no accident. Arson. Almost every one of them on purpose.
He told us that they were finding the culprits one by one, as an arsonist cannot resist the urge to return to the destruction-- he wants to see what he made. So the cops wait, too, to see who keeps coming back-- to see who is keeping tabs as the firefighters risk their lives to stop it.
We felt sick. People were losing their homes. People were taking their children to hospitals for the smoke in their lungs. All because someone made a game of fire.
"Some of them," our friend continued, "are taking old tires and dousing them with gasoline or lighter fluid, setting them on fire, and rolling them down the hillsides."
We played our shows as the ashes cooled in North Carolina, then headed back west to Nashville, making a pit stop in Gatlinburg to play one of our last shows of the year. Two days later, Gatlinburg burned. In the comfort of a few hours driving distance, we insulated ourselves from the tragedy, counting ourselves lucky to have it behind us so far away. But we would be kidding ourselves to say that we didn't feel the heat.
The thought lingered-- that someone caused this. That for some reason, someone started a fire that they don't have the capacity or the competency to stop. And that we don't have a choice but to watch the destruction. Some of us from the safety of our homes. Others are already burning alive. And the starters of the fire standing closest of all.
After the wildfires start, it's a matter of time and resources to stop them. We may not be able to count on the one who started it to have a change of heart, grab a bucket of water, and try to salvage what he can. But none of us can claim that we don't feel the heat. Some are already being smoked out from their homes.
You can't ignore a wildfire, regardless of who started it or who fanned the flames, because a wildfire knows no bounds. We are trying to pick up our bucket to put out the fire under our feet and the feet of our neighbors. We hope you will put out the ones you see, too. Here is our first step to rallying ourselves and the ones around us. Here is a song we wrote on our way from the physical fire and into the political one, and a video we made in collaboration with Ryan Camp (Northman Creative). For this Inauguration Week, we present Wildfire.