Tim Thompson is a Savannah, Georgia based musician who just released a solo EP called The Crash.
Music For All: What has your experience been having a loved one in Germany during the past two years?
Tim Thompson: Having my girlfriend in Germany over this period of the pandemic there's been an upside, which is that in a way the distance hasn't mattered as much as it otherwise might.
Both of us have mostly been surrounded by people who have either been brainwashed or browbeaten into compliance with masking, social distancing, lockdowns, quarantines and vaccine mandates. Having had someone to talk to every day, who has remained strong in their commitment to seeking the truth and living by it and telling it as often as possible, has meant everything.
We've gotten to know a lot about each other. I'm so proud of her. It's been extremely tough for her by comparison to how it's been here in Georgia. I've been to see her several times since the end of 2020. The first couple times they were in almost total lockdown: no restaurants or clubs, no social gatherings, no shopping. Pretty much just supermarkets, bakeries and nature walks around the lake were all we could do.
We walked the deserted streets of Düsseldorf and Köln, and I think it was the most tragic thing I've ever experienced. I've traveled to Germany for work before, and seeing it like that... It was like, this is how ISIS wants The West to live: curfews, covered faces, no partying, no rock and roll, no drinking, no church. A real dystopia. Eventually they went to a system whereby you could go to restaurants or shops, but you had to show a vaccine passport or a negative test. That became extremely difficult to navigate.
The saddest (and most angering) part was watching her be ostracized by her colleagues and friends. Most of them were sympathetic, but none ever spoke out on her behalf, or offered to look the other way or bend the rules. Because she was unvaccinated, for example, she was allowed (with a negative test) to participate in rugby practice with her club, but not to enter the clubhouse with the rest of the team. There are many examples of that sort of thing I could go into.
At any rate, ultimately it just all became too depressing, and she decided to have the jab. She took J&J because it was only one shot. Unfortunately (and predictably), as of about the middle of January, she is now again considered unvaccinated; and all establishments, with the exception of supermarkets and "essential" businesses have gone to a "2G+" system (you must show proof of vaccine and booster, or proof of recent recovery from Covid AND a negative test). As a result of this, she's given her notice at work and will be leaving Germany soon.
As I said, I couldn't be more proud of her. She's handled it with a grace that I definitely do not have. Watching what she's been through has been especially eye-opening. It is alarming how abusive policy from the state can turn good people into tools for the oppression of their friends and neighbors. It's not enough to be good or "well meaning." We have to be convicted and courageous and strong. If we allow one person in our society to be unreasonably oppressed, then we are all guilty. We shouldn't be quiet about it. We are in control... if we would only realize it.
Do you have any advice for musicians wanting to play live without mandates or restrictions? What has your experience been in Georgia?
I've had a few opportunities to play out over the past two years, although it has not been a priority for me until very recently. For the most part, Savannah, where I live, has been all but normal since the end of 2020. The city kept a "mask mandate" in place until quite recently, but it was largely ignored. I stopped even carrying a mask with me at the beginning of 2021, and I've only been asked to put one on once.
Recently, there was an event at the Civic Center downtown that required a vaccine pass or negative test and almost no one showed up. Yesterday it was announced that events at the brand new arena that just opened will NOT require a vaccine pass or negative test. You see? That is how it's done! Do not comply!
As far as advice to musicians, I honestly don't know what to say for people who live in places where there are these mandates. Go somewhere else if you can. If you're capable of touring, do it in Georgia, Florida, Texas, Tennessee... anywhere free. Boycott, as much as possible, cities and venues that are requiring vaccine passes, negative tests, and even masks. It's all bullshit.
Venues have to start standing up for themselves as well. Get creative. Feign compliance if you must, but refuse to oppress your patrons. I'm not saying break the law, but what are you, an expert at what all vaccine passports look like? Have a look at whatever they show you and then let them in. We're all adults (check their ID's for real though to make sure). We can make our own choices about what is or isn't safe for us. This is rock and roll after all, isn't it?!
What has your experience being outspoken online about mandates and restrictions? What do you think the best approach would be to help fellow musicians realize how important it is to stand up for personal choice and autonomy?
It took me a while (I'm not as young as I look, ha ha) to learn how to be comfortable being myself. I grew up in a commune by a lake in the forest of north western Ontario, Canada. It was a beautiful but very sheltered upbringing, so I have always had a bit of awkwardness when relating to my peers: particularly peers in the music scene.
Ultimately, however, I've realized what a blessing that is. There's no worse sin on earth than being boring. My point is, I learned to be comfortable being myself and having a different worldview to most people around me. That prepared me well for this pandemic era. My biggest struggle has been learning to leaven my zeal with kindness and gentleness. In that, my gracious and long-suffering girlfriend has been an enormous help. I have good friends and only a very very small "following," so I've been luckier than many others. I haven't lost any friends. I'm sure there are people who've "unfollowed" me on social media, and that's ok.
I'm definitely not for everyone. I've had some discussions and arguments, but I haven't received significant blowback for stating my opinions, either online or in real life (again, one of the advantages of total obscurity). Lately, in light of the whole Neil Young thing, I have been thinking a lot about this question. I'm a huge fan of Neil Young. His album Le Noise is one of my favorites, and its influence on my most recent release really cannot be overstated. I've read his autobiography, "A Hippie Dream." He grew up largely in Ontario, just like me. I've always found him to be, and still find him to be, a fascinating guy.
My thought is this: it's an artist's job to express themselves fearlessly and honestly. It's not our job to be right all the time. I've written songs five years ago that I wouldn't write today, because I'm not the same person today that I was five years ago. I think Neil Young is terribly wrong in his current stance, which is ultimately anti free speech and totally misguided; but I think he's allowed to be wrong. And I think it's important to remember that all of your friends, family and peers in your scene are also allowed to be wrong.
Be kind to each other. Keep the dialogue open. Don't cut people off because they're wrong... hell, maybe you're wrong. Maybe I'm wrong. We're all human beings.
Kindness is not weakness. Stand your ground. Do not comply. Do it kindly. Do it with love.
This interview is part of a series discussing mandates, restrictions and censorship with musicians and music fans —read more of these interviews here.
Thank you for reading!
Listen to Tim's EP The Crash on Bandcamp: