What the heck is going on with Michelle Shocked?

I have loved Michelle Shocked’s music since the first time I heard “Anchorage” 25 years ago. Since that time she has created an incredible body of work- music that was liberating, expressive, challenging, and often rooted in the tradition of free-minded folks like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, and Bruce Springsteen. More than once, I was moved by her music, by her vision.

That is why it was so upsetting to read of her apparent meltdown on stage in San Francisco this past week. I avoided commenting simply because I couldn’t imagine her saying what was being reported. Now that the audio of that event has been posted, I better understand the situation.

Her reality isn’t my reality. Hey, she believes what she is saying. As misguided as her beliefs are, as hateful as much of her verbage was, she believes it was important to communicate it. At least, at the time.

I’m disappointed that someone I have admired so much, for so long, now apparently holds opinions and beliefs that are so hurtful. The joy of freedom is that we don’t have to agree with everything people say. Sometimes, folks cross lines- either to be provocative and push an issue, whether we like it or not, or to encourage dialogue. And sometimes, just to be hateful.

I don’t know what Michelle was attempting Sunday. It makes no sense to me. I am not going to suggest that she ‘needs’ help, that she is in the middle of a breakdown. Her statement released following the appearance in San Francisco confuses things even more. As does this interview.

This is what I know. Tonight, when I put Short, Sharp, Shocked into the CD player, I will enjoy it. And I will hope that Michelle Shocked rebounds from this very strange, very ill-conceived slice of ‘reality’. I will think good thoughts about her, and hope that she truly doesn’t mean the things she implied on stage last weekend. I will hope that she is attempting to engage in a critical and challenging dialogue.

Because, if she isn’t and actually does believe some of the things she said, or at least suggested, I need to reconsider a lot of my own thinking.

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