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Protest Song of the Day: ‘Karma Debt’ by The Mynabirds

To recognize the power of protest music, acknowledge its role in keeping dissent alive and how musicians translate social issues and systemic problems into song, The Dissenter has launched a daily feature that highlights a protest song every weekday.

From the socially conscious album by The Mynabirds called GENERALS, here’s a song written by vocalist Laura Burhenn called “Karma Debt.” It is one of the songs on the album, which Under the Radar magazine describes as being “built out of songs that thread her disenchantment with the corrupt cross section of politics and capitalism through a sturdy self-empowered feminism.”

Burhenn says of “Karma Debt” that she knew listeners might not want to think about deep problems in American society, but she chose to write songs that meditate on some profound issues.

She sings:

We hold our homes like credit cards
And hope to pay the rent
But when the war is done
And we’ve finished all our songs
We’ll offset the colossal karma debt

There’s the image of lower class working people putting their homes up to pay for expenses and get by, though the comparison of homes to credit cards may be entirely metaphorical. Homes may not be the physical shelter that people inhabit but the space people create for themselves to move through life.

By “colossal karma debt,” Burhenn does not just mean literal debt. She does not just mean there are wars being perpetrated and there may be inevitable results that produce an impact. She means the problems Americans face are getting larger and larger each day and so long as people do not confront their role or responsibility in contributing to them there is a “karma debt.”

She sings, “I give it all. I give it all for a legacy of love.” It is a plea and expression of what she considers to be the highest form of revolution.

As she told Under the Radar, this song was as much about political issues of the day, as it was her asserting her right as a musician to talk about politics in her songs. She said, “You can go back to the Dixie Chicks, and everyone was like, ‘Shut up and sing. We don’t care what you think.’ It’s like just because someone is an entertainer, they don’t have a brain in their head or an opinion about what’s good for their children or for their community or country.”

The entire song of “Karma Debt was a “meditation” on all of this.


The Dissenter will be putting one of these up every weekday morning. If you have requests for songs that should be featured or if you have a protest song you recorded, which you would like to see featured, email

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."