Culture

From Country Singer to Trans Antifa Militant

Anti-fascist counter-demonstrators cross the Burnside Bridge across the Willamette River from the west side of the city to the east side in search of the far-right group, the Proud Boys, in Portland, Ore., Saturday, Aug. 17, 2019. Self-described anti-fascists vowed to confront the rally while leaders from the far right urged their followers to turn out in large numbers to protest the arrests of multiple members of right-wing groups in the run-up to the event. Antifa members often cover their faces with masks, making it harder to identify them. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)

Investigative journalist Andy Ngo several days ago identified an Antifa member who has been sought by the Portland, Oregon, police since last August in a criminal investigation. The Portland police didn’t say what the investigation was about, but there are videos of this person appearing to commit assault and unmistakably engaging in indecent exposure (he bared his behind to show his somewhat less than magnificent contempt for the cops). That’s typical Antifa behavior, but decidedly untypical is what this fellow was up to before he got woke. “This is,” says Ngo, “Cary Cary Cary Canary (yes, that’s the new legal name), a former bluegrass singer who became a trans antifa militant in Portland. Canary (b. 1981), was formerly known as David Anthony Chaltraw and released music as ‘Davy Jay Sparrow.’”

“Davy Jay Sparrow” was actually not a bluegrass artist, but a singer and songwriter of Western swing, a cheerful, upbeat, danceable musical style that was popular decades ago and survives today only among musical historians, country music purists, and a small number of hipsters who like playing dress-up.

David Anthony Chaltraw was one of those purists, at least in part: A 2012 review of one of his albums (he released three) says that he was “not a neo-traditionalist, he’s an ultra-traditionalist. If you don’t like the ‘Olde Fashioned’ country sounds, then turn back now.” A review of his next album in 2013 cautioned that it was “not for everyone of course, you have to be an old soul with that old-school flavor for life to appreciate what Davy Jay is throwing your way. But man, what a fun time All Nite Long! is.”

Chaltraw seems for a time to have been one of those old souls himself; he threw himself totally into his Davy Jay Sparrow persona. When he got married in 2011, the wedding was a Western swing extravaganza, with the groom decked out in elaborately embroidered cowboy duds, just like the ones he wore on stage (in fact, he seems to have gotten married in one of his stage outfits).

However, his bride (who wore a more or less traditional wedding dress, albeit one that left her shoulders bare, showing off the tattoos on her left shoulder and right arm) gave a small hint that they were really just hipsters playing dress-up when she explained that the couple’s love for old-fashioned things did not extend to that old-time religion: “Having lives that in large part revolve around old-fashioned things in general, and old-fashioned honky-tonk in particular, it made sense for our wedding to be, well, old-fashioned! Sort of. It wasn’t old-fashioned in the sense that it was held in a church or that any rice was thrown at us, but rather it was old-fashioned in terms of entertainment and decor.”

Predictably, the Chaltraws weren’t traditionalist enough to stay married, either; they seem to have gotten divorced in 2016. And now it is clear that David Anthony Chaltraw wasn’t even traditionalist enough to keep his given name, or, ultimately, to remain male (at least in his mind). There is no available indication of how he ended up in Antifa, taunting cops with his bared bottom and behaving so outrageously as to provoke the Portland police, which has been notoriously cowed and supine in the face of Antifa aggression, into opening a criminal investigation on him. However, it all likely began as he exchanged one pose for another. Chaltraw looks to be not so much an old soul as a restless soul, rootless and lacking an identity and spiritual center, just like so many others in our materialistic and hedonistic society. Such people are unduly subject to the zeitgeist and the latest cultural fashions, and Antifa offers more than just an identity: it cloaks its thuggery in the supposed pursuit of justice. Western swing was fun, but Antifa is more than fun; it’s righteous. Nonetheless, Cary Cary Cary Canary is unlikely to turn out to be any more than just another persona like Davy Jay Sparrow.

The only problem is that this isn’t a game. Once he tires of pulling on his black minidress and raging at cops, Chaltraw will find that casting off his identity as a trans antifa militant will not be as easy as retiring Davy Jay Sparrow (whose website still exists, but hasn’t been updated in years and shows, of course, no upcoming gigs). The police are unlikely to accept the “I was just trying to find myself” defense.

Whatever ultimately happens to the winsome Ms. Cary Cary Cary Canary, his strange trajectory is an illustration of the dangers of our contemporary societal ennui. If he had had a minister at his honky-tonk wedding, would Davy Jay Sparrow still be wowing them with his peppy tunes? To assume that would be simplistic. But there is no doubt that his extremely odd life journey shows the need for spiritual renewal in our unhappy land.

Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.