"Roman Candle" turns 20: Secrets of Elliott Smith's accidental masterpiece (slideshow)
Elliott and the friends with whom he recorded in middle school in Texas (photo courtesy of Dan Pickering)
As Election Day fast approaches, two of the most controversial GOP candidates this year have chosen to double down on their most incendiary stances on sexual violence and women’s reproductive freedom — by using women themselves to shill for them.
First, there’s Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin. You remember Akin, the guy who really got the right-wingers-saying-insane-things-about-rape ball rolling back in August. That’s when he explained his stance on rape exceptions for abortion by authoratively declaring, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.” Akin, who is now trailing his opponent Claire McCaskill – though not by as much as one might expect for a hulking ignoramus – has now unleashed a new ad featuring voters like Kelly, a single mother who says she’s both had an abortion and “been raped in my past.” Kelly goes on to say she’s voting for Akin because he “defends the unborn.”
I’ve got to say, I wouldn’t have imagined the Rape Survivors for Akin constituency would exist at all, so the ad is illuminating, to say the least. It also features Zoya, an immigrant who says she knows that the government’s job is “to protect life, not control life like they did in Russia … I don’t want the same thing to happen to America as what happened to Russia.” Who knew that Claire McCaskill was running on the “Rocky IV” ticket?
Akin’s Web page now also features a “Missouri Women Standing With Todd Akin” area and an eight-minute video of females who, among other things, reminisce about the first time they met Akin. Included among them is Kelly, who says, “Todd is advocating for women so that in the future women don’t have to do what I had to do.” In fact, he’s doing everything in his power to make sure they can’t. Thanks, Todd!
Then there’s Richard Mourdock, the Indiana Republican who just last week helpfully told women that “Life is that gift from God. And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”
Now, the One Nation Under God Foundation has released a nearly six-minute video of women conceived in rape who support the candidate. One woman, for example, explains that “My life was protected in 1972 … I want to thank Richard Mourdock for standing up for me and my life and reminding us all that God has a plan for all of us.” Another woman conceived by rape says, “I knew that God the father was the author of my life … I am not a mistake. I embrace Richard Mourdock’s stand for life.” And in perhaps the segment’s most harrowing tale, a woman whose mother was abducted and raped at knife-point — and tried twice to obtain a then-illegal abortion — says, “I was legally protected. I owe my life to the law being there for me because of pro-life legislators who recognized that mine was a life worth saving even in the cases of rape.” Every single woman interviewed speaks of God, and God’s plan, which is just fine if you subscribe to the logic that your idea of God should control the bodies and choices of every woman who gets raped.
There’s little point, at this stage, in even arguing about the horribleness of presuming that an individual’s experience should apply to all, or how truly shudder-worthy it is to make a case for your campaign based on the testimony of women whose mothers didn’t have a choice about their attacks — or their pregnancies. But as their opponents Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly build their pre–Election Day leads, there’s not much to say but, in the words of Barack Obama, please proceed. At first you were outrageously offensive. But now, by all means, keep talking. You’re the best argument the Democrats could wish for. And don’t let the door hit you too hard on Nov. 6.
Heatmiser publicity shot (L-R: Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson, Neil Gust, Elliott Smith) (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott and JJ Gonson (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
"Stray" 7-inch, Cavity Search Records (photo courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott's Hampshire College ID photo, 1987
Elliott with "Le Domino," the guitar he used on "Roman Candle" (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Full "Roman Candle" record cover (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Elliott goofing off in Portland (courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
Heatmiser (L-R: Elliott Smith, Neil Gust, Tony Lash, Brandt Peterson)(courtesy of JJ Gonson photography)
The Greenhouse Sleeve -- Cassette sleeve from Murder of Crows release, 1988, with first appearance of Condor Avenue (photo courtesy of Glynnis Fawkes)