The weight of words II

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The Weight of Words is an interactive performance piece that addresses President Trump’s use of divisive, hate-filled language. Embellished paper shredders are paired with stacks of paper containing sexist, racist, fascist, narcissistic, hateful, greedy Trump tweets and/or quotes. Viewers are asked to shred Trump’s words with the shredders, both as an act of catharsis and activism. The shredded paper will be used for the project The Weight of Words, and will be stuffed into handmade ankle weights that have individual metal placards containing Trump's words, symbolizing the collective weight his compassionless rhetoric has had on the world.

The phrases drawn onto each piece were inspired by folk music singer Woody Guthrie, who wrote thousands of songs throughout his life, often including political messages into his lyrics.  Guthrie often played with a guitar that was carved with the phrase "This Machine Kills Fascists."

The inaugural installation of this piece, which took place at The Comfort Station in Chicago, included a performance by The Paulina Hollers' Jim Becker and Lea Tshilds.  They played a full set of Woody Guthrie tunes during the show, and wrote music to go along with the lyrics of a recently discovered song Guthrie wrote in the 1950's about his landlord, Donald Trump Sr., condemning his racist ways:

"I suppose that Old Man Trump knows just how much racial hate
He stirred up in that bloodpot of human hearts
When he drawed that color line...
...Beach Haven ain't my home!
No, I just can't pay this rent!
My money's down the drain,
And my soul is badly bent!
Beach Haven is Trump’s Tower
Where no black folks come to roam,
No, no, Old Man Trump!
Old Beach Haven ain't my home!"

In the 1970's the justice department sued our current president and his father for discrimination against African Americans for violating the Fair Housing Act of 1968 in 39 of their buildings. This song is particularly relevant today after Trump's divisive statements following the violence that erupted during the white supremacist rally in Charleston.

The Paulina Hollers performed another Guthrie song that still resonates loud today following Trump's decision to end DACA,  "Plane Wreck at Los Gatos" (also known as "Deportee") is a tune Guthrie wrote about a plane crash in 1948 that killed 28 Mexican agriculture laborers being deported back to Mexico. The remains of the four crew members that died were returned to their families, but the 28 laborers were buried in a mass grave.

"Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,
Our work contract's out and we have to move on;
Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,
They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,
We died in your valleys and died on your plains.
We died 'neath your trees and we died in your bushes,
Both sides of the river, we died just the same."