MONDAY, JANUARY 30, 2017 |
Posted by: Katie Pedernera
Punk rock has been about fighting the government since the genre was birthed. Bands were not shy to send their message loud and clear to leaders whose policies bordered the lines of fascism. But when an optimistic senator from Chicago came along, things got hazy.
All of the people punk rock taught me to protest were already dead or irrelevant by the time I heard songs about them. I was a young girl and 80's punk rock did not have the same influence on me as it did for the movement. But the music's main message still remained: The government is inherently evil and not to be trusted. You might know this ideology better by its street name: F*CK THE GOVERNMENT. That mentality, combined with a studded belt and back patch, was all you needed for your Punk 101 Starter Pack.
As I got older, it was easy to apply this hostile "murder the government" (credits to Fat Mike/NOFX) attitude during the George W. Bush years, which employed an administration that resembled a series of goons. For eight years, punks flew the "Not My President" flag and the spirit of the resistance lived on, with no shortage of things to oppose: two illegal wars, the institution of the Patriot Act, the use of torture, and the 2008 economic crisis. Green Day immortalized these issues on American Idiot, making record-breaking sales and its own critically acclaimed musical.
But then Barack Obama came into office and punk ideologies began to dim.
Obama was a step forward for America. Our former president was our young, biracial idealist who appealed to the basic tenants of social progress. In his campaign speeches he spoke of repealing the defense marriage act, upholding Roe vs. Wade, lifting bans on stem cell research, and expanding protections the LGBTQ+ community. All of this may seem basic and common sense but even as recently as 2008, this was revolutionary. Given the choice between him and another decrepit white man who popped a Viagra every time he thought about bombing brown people, punk made its choice.
Punk became complacent as the world recovered and the lowered risk of draft waited ahead. It felt problematic to oppose him.
Punk songs were less directed at the President but instead focused on more specific issues - women's rights, marriage equality, trans visibility, and police corruption. The method of targeting goals was probably a more productive use of energy rather than screaming "Fuck the President!"
Don't get me wrong, there have been some atrocities during the Obama administration - the drone killings of innocent civilizations overseas, NSA spying programs, and letting big banks off the hook for their role in the economic crisis. And unfortunately in many cases, Obama did continue, sometimes expanded, on the ugly policies of his predecessor.
So why did punk skip over Obama? I'll tell you exactly why: Barack is a good person. The punk community would have felt some guilt attacking a decent human being. It's pretty hard to dismantle someone who shattered a centuries-long lineage of white predecessors.
Here we are today. Donald Trump is president, a person who can't seem to go a day without embarrassing himself. It's fairly easy to romanticize Obama when Trump's new policies are revolting.
Trump is receiving the spirit of punk rock. Artists have not been shy when performing their new protest songs at marches and other important political events. Fiona Apple, Death Cab For Cutie, Arcade Fire, Cold War Kids, and Gorillaz are only a few artists who are inspiring and giving power to the people.
His new immigration ban is throwing gas into the fire. Big names like Grimes, Sia, and Rihanna have already called him out and expressed their opinions on this matter.
It might have been funny when my friends teased me for wearing my "punk's not dead" t-shirt because let's face it, it was. History seems to be repeating itself with the use of the #NotMyPresident hashtag all over the Internet. But it is important for this type of music to make a comeback because it raises awareness of the issues happening worldwide. It's okay, get angry - it's important to send messages about how your government is being run and treated. That is democracy, in whatever form it takes.