I remember Rush in the 1970s — I even have a couple of their albums (in vinyl, so no, I haven’t listened to them in probably 30 years), but they always annoyed me with that selfish Libertarian pseudo-intellectual crap.
In the Seventies, Peart rankled the rock press with an affinity for libertarian hero Ayn Rand — he cited her “genius” in liner notes, and critics promptly labeled Rush fascists. Rush’s breakthrough mini-rock opera, 1976’s 2112, is, in part, a riff on Rand’s sci-fi novel Anthem. There’s nothing wildly controversial about 2112’s pro-individuality message: It’s hard to imagine anyone siding with the bad guys who want to dictate “the words you read/The songs you sing/The pictures that give pleasure to your eyes.” But Rush’s earlier musical take on Rand, 1975’s unimaginatively titled “Anthem,” is more problematic, railing against the kind of generosity that Peart now routinely practices: “Begging hands and bleeding hearts will/Only cry out for more.” And “The Trees,” an allegorical power ballad about maples dooming a forest by agitating for “equal rights” with lofty oaks, was strident enough to convince a young Rand Paul that he had finally found a right-wing rock band.
Peart outgrew his Ayn Rand phase years ago, and now describes himself as a “bleeding-heart libertarian,” citing his trips to Africa as transformative. He claims to stand by the message of “The Trees,” but other than that, his bleeding-heart side seems dominant. Peart just became a U.S. citizen, and he is unlikely to vote for Rand Paul, or any Republican. Peart says that it’s “very obvious” that Paul “hates women and brown people” — and Rush sent a cease-and-desist order to get Paul to stop quoting “The Trees” in his speeches.
“For a person of my sensibility, you’re only left with the Democratic party,” says Peart, who also calls George W. Bush “an instrument of evil.” “If you’re a compassionate person at all. The whole health-care thing — denying mercy to suffering people? What? This is Christian?”
Peart himself is not a Christian, having doubted the existence of God since he was a small child: “I sang the hymns and I read the Bible stories, but I was always perplexed, like, ‘Really? Jesus wants you for a sunbeam? For a what?’ ” In explicitly atheistic songs like “Freewill,” he mocked those who “choose a ready guide in some celestial voice.” And 1991’s “Roll the Bones” posits a chillingly random cosmos, where unlucky children are “born only to suffer”: “We go out in the world and take our chances/Fate is just the weight of circumstances. . . . Why are we here?/Because we’re here/Roll the bones.”
OK, maybe I could listen to a Rush song or two now without suffering as much painful cognitive dissonance. They’re not high on my list of music I’d like to listen to, but I might be able to tolerate it for a bit.
Bonus! The libertarians at Reason are mildly distressed.