One. The devil. I’m afraid of the devil. I grew up Catholic, and in Catholicism the devil’s like a dude with a pitchfork who is, you know, who you will meet and answer to. I do really remember having a literal discussion with high school classmates about what of yourself you would forfeit in order to achieve fame or excellence or something like that. As a young guitar player I thought, “Will I ever find myself having to sell my soul? I really want to play guitar great. I started when I was seventeen, I’m kind of late, but I don’t want to forfeit my soul.”
Two. Nooses. As a thirteen-year-old, there was a noose in my family’s garage. I was the only black kid in an all white town. While it was, in some ways, this bucolic community with good schools and lots of fields, occasionally there would be a noose in your garage. It was not the only noose. I saw three nooses growing up. It just made me feel that, you know, while I was sleeping last night, people crept up my driveway, quietly opened my garage door to send a message that they wanted to kill me or the members of my family.
Three. That my children will be unsafe around the police. I’ve been put in handcuffs coming back from the bar walking to my mom’s house of my hometown of Libertyville, for walking while black, and so I’ve had to have the discussion already with my kids that while they could probably pass, you know, when you are around a police officer, there’s no joking and you just sort of get through that situation so that you can live a long and healthy life to confront injustice in other places.
Four. That people will not be able to be who they were meant to be.
Five. That the wrong side will win.
Six. That empathy is dead. I grew up in Trump country where the factories have closed down, where the employment options are Walmart, or the army, or selling meth, where one out of every four houses on the street where my family grew up has gone back to nature, and they’re looking for something different. And so, when a demagogue steps forth and says, “I’ve got the answers. We’re all gonna be winners and the problems are brown-skinned people.” And they’re like, “Well that certainly is clear.”
Seven. That lights and sound will drown out the message.
Eight. That kids won’t grow up to play guitar.
Nine. That people will not speak up about depression and suicide. For me it’s sort of the immediate, personal, tragic loss of my friend Chris, has brought it into a much sharper focus for me and the need to say something about it.
Ten. The environmental destruction of the planet.
My name is Tom Morello and these are 10 things that scare me.
I worked for two years as the scheduling secretary for a United States senator, and so I saw what running for office is. And the sausage is made worse than you could possibly ever imagine.