Inspired by three (real) albums of protest music released in 2018 -- "Retake the Middle Ground," "Unfollow," and "World Almost Over?" -- the novel follows the travails of three (fictional) songwriters as they deal with issues from writer's block to physical intimidation, from trolls to the seemingly endless social media feeds devoted to politics.


Chapter 6:
Born in America

"I see what you meant when you said that you were working on an epic poem," said Kim as she sat reading from Nathaniel's notebook while they were sitting at a table at the Starbucks on 4th, "It's gonna make like a 10 minute song."

She and Nathaniel had been the first to arrive for the Monday meeting and he had just shared with her a draft of his first real political poem, a rather long piece of poetry labeled "World Almost Over?" The text was quite long, with multiple crossings-out of words and a few of Nathaniel's 'doodles' in the margins as well.

"Is that bad?," he asked, "A 10-minute song. Is that bad?"

"No, no. Me personally I think it's great. There are some Cure songs that go on that long with only about a minute's worth of lyrics. So long songs don't bother me. I don't think it matters if it turns out to be a 10-minute song. In fact I would suggest that you add a final verse."

"What do you suggest?"

"Hope," said Kim, "I think that you should wrap it up with hope. You've got this song called 'World Almost Over?' and you're talking about how maybe this is the end of things, but you strike me as the kind of guy who would like to end on a hopeful note."

"You're right. You're right. So the last verse… it could actually be something as simple as 'I want to have hope.' Something simple like that."

"Or maybe not that you 'want' to have hope but that you 'need' to have hope."

"Or maybe both?" said Nathaniel as he bent back down to scribble in his notebook.

"Oh, and I liked how you worked in Jenny's thing about being judged by the future."

"Yeah, I thought the she was on to something there and it needed to be explored a little more, in my opinion."

"Giving her a chance?"

Nathaniel laughed, "It's a lot easier when she's not actually around."

Kim laughed along and said, "There's probably a song in that too." She looked around the Starbucks as she got out her backpack. "I hope we get a few more people."

"Me too. You know, last week I was really, really nervous about this whole thing. I almost didn't come. But today I'm really looking forward to it," he said, "I'm hopeful."

Jenny had yet to arrive, but Kim reached into her backpack and pulled out her homemade Political Music Club sign anyway. She looked at the sign for a moment and then placed it on the table. Almost immediately two young men approached the table.

"Hi," said Kim. And as she asked them, "Are you here for the Political Music Club?" she pretended not to notice that one of the young men was wearing a red baseball cap upon which was embroidered "Make America Great Again."

The red hat guy just stood there — a huge, smirking grin on his face — and said nothing. The other young man said, "I'm here for the club thing. My name is Mark," he said and held out his hand to Kim.

The other young man, still smirking, said in a mocking tone that one might use when talking to a small child, "My name is Mike."

Unfazed, Kim said, "Mark and Mike, huh? Did you two come together?"

Mark looked up at Mike's MAGA hat and said, "Um… no. Not together. I came because I've got a few… I guess you'd call them protest songs."

"Great," said Kim, "I look forward to hearing them." She then calmly turned to Mike. Locking her eyes on his she asked him, "And what about you Mike?"

Mike responded in the same mocking tone, "Well, I was intrigued by what you wrote on Craigslist." Then he looked down at his phone and read aloud in the same tone, "Musicians: do you have something to say about what's going on in our government today? Come join us at Starbucks on 4th at 7 pm Monday. Look for the sign that says 'Political Music Club.'"

Mike then looked at Kim's sign and with an exaggerated motion, pointed to it.

"That is the sign," said Kim in her calm therapist's voice. She hadn't for one moment unlocked her gaze from his. "And what is it that you would like to say about what's going on in our government today, Mike?"

Mike laughed. It was the laugh of a bully…at first. As he looked back at Kim and noticed her looking back at him with absolutely no reaction to his laugh — with a gaze that was 100% relaxed, calm and steady — his laughter faltered for just the briefest of moments. Then he went back to his smirking grin. And said nothing.

"What instrument do you play, Mike?"

"I play the kazoo."

"Great. We don't have any other kazooists in the club yet. Maybe you'll be our first. Do you sing?"

"My singing sucks. But I'll sing if you want me to."

"So you're a punk rocker, with a kazoo?"

Mike had no answer, simply continued staring at her with a smirk on his face.

"Okay, fantastic," said Kim, "and what is it that you would like to say about what's going on in our government today, Mike?"

"I think it's great. I think it's about time that someone took a stand against the immigrants."

Kim didn't blink. "Okay, anything else you would like to to say about what's going on in our government today, Mike?"

"What, am I supposed to have a list?"

"No, I was just curious if there were any other things besides immigration that you would like to say about what's going on in our government today?"

"Not right now, no."

"Okay," said Kim, still making complete eye contact as Mike sat across from her and smirked back at her.

And then she said nothing more. Kim simply sat quietly holding her gaze on his. For a moment it looked as though Nathaniel was going to jump in and break the silence, but ultimately he refrained.

Eventually Mike was the loser of the staring contest as he looked momentarily at the floor and coughed. As his eyes came back to meet hers Kim immediately said, "And how do you intend to express what you would like to say about what's going on in our government today, Mike?"

"Express?"

"Yes, that's what we're here for. Expression. We're artists. We express. I'm just curious how you intend to express what you feel that you would like to say about what's going on in our government today. I assume in some sort of song?"

And for a moment Mike's smirk failed — gave way to a hint of hidden anger — then immediately snapped back to his smirking grin. "I'll tell you how I'd like to express myself. I'd like to own the libtards."

"Own the libtards?" asked Kim, "I'm sorry I don't understand. What do you mean 'own the libtards?'"

"What do you mean what do I mean? I want to own them."

"The libtards?"

"Yeah, the libtards."

"I'm sorry Mike, but can you elaborate a little, because I still don't understand what you mean by 'owning' them."

And here Mike's voice turned to a sharper tone as he said, "That's because you're a libtard."

Kim's expression did not change one iota. She said in the same calm therapist's voice, "I'm sorry Mike. I'm not getting what you mean when you say 'own' and I don't see how that answers my question of how you intend to express what you would like to say about what's going on in our government today."

Kim reached for her phone, "If you don't mind Mike, can I show you how I express what I would like to say about what's going on in our government today?"

"Go right ahead," he said mockingly.

Kim lifted her phone from the table and using her peripheral vision as her guide — her eyes remained locked on his — she scrolled through a song list and tapped the screen to play the song 'Born in America.'

Born in America


I was born in America
And I'm glad that I was
But I had no say in the matter
It's just the way that it was
I was born in America
Not everyone here was
Some get to come here sometimes
It's just the way that it goes

No control
No choice
Over race, gender, color
Or where we were born
No control
No choice
So what should it matter?
Why it should it matter?

I was born in America
Lived all over the land
From mountains to beaches
To Midwestern small towns
Seems like there's plenty of land
I was born in America
Now there's a line to get in
Some try their luck at the border
Some risk their lives to get in

No control
No choice
Over race, gender, color
Or where we were born
No control
No choice
So what should it matter?
Why it should it matter?

I was born in America
Now there's a line to get in
The line doesn't seem to get shorter
We were lucky that we were born in

No control
No choice
Over race, gender, color
Or where we were born
What does it mean to be American?
Is it race, gender, color
Or where we were born?

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A Quick Request...

Hi, it's the author, Neal, here. If you're enjoying reading Political Music Club, I would love for you to consider downloading the audiobook from Audible or through Amazon.

Not only would it help me out (I would, frankly, love to get on the audiobook charts!) but you get the full book read by its author, and within the read I perform acoustic versions of all of the songs which inspired the book. I think it makes for a fun listen and I hope you consider giving it a download.

Or if audiobooks aren't your thing, please consider grabbing one of my other books or musical projects...

3 Albums that inspired the book:

Casual Rebels' Political Trilogy

Retake the Middle Ground, Unfollow, World Almost Over?

The music that you can hear throughout the pages of Political Music Club is from three albums of protest music written and recorded by the band Casual Rebels in 2018.

You can download any or all of the albums Retake the Middle Ground, Unfollow, World Almost Over? from iTunes or either download or stream from Bandcamp.com. You can also take a listen on any of the major streaming services.

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