Category Archives: Society

Punks for Punks — Help for Punks Held in Aceh

Group of punks held after concert in Banda Aceh - Photo Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images

Christy C. Road posted a link on her Fan Facebook site the other day to a BBC News story regarding a group of 64 punk kids who attended a punk benefit show raising money for orphans and were subsequently rounded up for “re-education” in the Indonesia province of Aceh. You may remember this area for a number of reasons: a devastating tsunami flattened the landscape in 2004, which led in part to an easement of decades old hostilities between the Acehnese of the province and the ruling government in Indonesia’s capitol of Jakarta. Indonesia is a predominately moderate Muslim country, though the province lends itself to a stricter observance of Sharia law. Aceh province (whose capital is Banda Aceh) has a form of autonomous governing since peace was made, but the province is still part of the larger Indonesia. I only know a little about the societal and governmental functions and structures of Indonesia and it hasn’t popped up on my radar in a long while, probably since the tsunami, in any focused way.

The punk kids in question appear to be your normal concertgoers and street kids trying to get by, who listen to music, have mohawks, piercings and tattoos, take baths infrequently and are “punk.” The group rounded up is not just from Banda Aceh: one man interviewed traveled from Northern Sumatra (Aceh is also located on Sumatra) to attend the concert and was worried about losing his job since he’s being held in custody for at least ten days, though not being charged with a formal crime. Reading through several stories and links since seeing the original post on Facebook yesterday, a number of theories could be forwarded in regards to why they are being rounded up, forced to shave their hair, and undergo a ritual “bathing away the punk” dip in a local river including the result of Sharia law and a show of strength in “morality” or to deflect from a drug scandal currently involving the police of Aceh. Maybe the scandalized police will have their hair shaved off and suffer a ritual “bathing away the crooked” dip in the local river, too. (I have a feeling their punishment will be far worse.)

Whatever the reason, there’s a group of kids who went to a punk show and are now being detained by the police in their country for doing so.

Aborted Society Records posted a link to this 5-minute journal on Jakarta’s punk scene and the Indonesian band Marjinal:

“Punk in Indonesia” Report on GlobalPost.com by Maria Bukkalapulo and Ayumi Nakanishi

The kids detained are still undergoing “re-education” and will be held for at least ten days for those who live outside of the province and longer possibly for those who live in the province. The Facebook page “Punks for Punks: Demand the Release of Punks in Aceh” is calling for the Indonesian government to force the mayor and police of Banda Aceh to let the group go with no more of the re-education program in the ways of being more like everyone else around them. As an autonomous governing entity within Indonesia, this might be difficult for the government to do.

In the meantime, Aborted Society also started a “Mixtape for Aceh” campaign, wherein they are asking people to create cassette tapes of music to be sent to Aborted Society, who will then get the cassettes to kids in Indonesia. Cassettes are still widely used in the country, but according to the Mixtapes for Aceh site, CDRs in envelopes (not jewel cases) are also welcomed.

The most interesting report I’ve seen on this so far is from the December 13th Jakarta Post, “Aceh ‘Punks’ Arrested for ‘Re-education’,” which has a couple of articles linked to the post as well as some good comments regarding the punk scene in Indonesia. Reading comments led to articles recalling similar actions by the police in the non-Shariah-law city of Jakarta. Several commenters on this and other articles note that this story was deemed “newsworthy” by a wider, international audience only because Aceh is connected to a stricter and hardline interpretation of Muslim law, which makes for spicier headlines then “Dirty Punks Arrested in Jakarta.”

Here’s a primer from Human Rights Watch on “Policing Morality: Abuses in the Application of Sharia in Aceh, Indonesia” on what’s been happening in the province.

Dying Scene has noted that several bands are doing a compilation release called “Punk Aid: Jakarta Calling” and are looking for more bands to be on the hardcore compilation.

Here’s a link to photographs posted by the Guardian UK.

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Happy Anniversary American Idiot and Billie Joe Armstrong at AI Idiot University

First of all, Happy 6th Anniversary today, American Idiot! The album was released on 9/20-9/21/04 in the UK and US, so take some time to revisit the album and say, happy anniversary to it!

Billie Joe Armstrong, Michael Mayer, and some cast and crew of American Idiot on Broadway held a series of “talkbacks” last week at the St. James Theater, moderated by David Cote of Time Out New York, after the show happened from 9/14-9/19. I was lucky enough to attend three performances of the show (thank you Jenne and David! much love to you!) and all five talkbacks (two of which I…uh… just walked in on), and I have to say, it was a special and wonderful time to not only see Billie Joe talk about the show, but to hear great discussions regarding the creative processes of the show itself.

My blog was mentioned at the talkback! Woot! David Cote referred to my interview of Afghan war vet and hardcore Green Day fan, Dawn71, using it as a basis to relate how the show of American Idiot (see video below at 1:01-2:32) reflects real life in terms of war and the impact that it has on life. In the clip below when Green Day Mind is mentioned, Billie Joe kind of shrugs and laughs, saying that “He had never heard of the blog,” but it was pretty amazing for me to sit in the audience and have David refer to the blog in a very serious manner. My blog is kind of strange — a personal journey of sight, sound, performance and life — all from the viewpoint of this past year following Green Day. I’ve put a lot of work and love and rage and time into this crazy blogging project, and though it was a bit strange to have him chuckle at first, it was awesome to hear one of my more serious blog posts used to highlight one of the serious themes of American Idiot. Dawn71 was hella happy to know that her love for the band and a story of her life was mentioned as well. Watch the video below to see!

David Cote mentions “Green Day Mind” at American Idiot Talkback (1:01-2:32)- American Idiot on Broadway — 9/15/10 — sundaymorning6am

The talkbacks themselves, minus the impromptu audience questions, were pretty awesome. I heard some things about the creative process of the show, particularly from the designers, that I had never heard before, and it was pretty great to have the mix of actors come into the talks to discuss the show from their viewpoint. It was all about Billie Joe, though, who was at the center of the maelstrom, and as the week of talkbacks wore on, questions from the audience stopped being serious ones asked about the show, but devolved more into, “can you sing ‘happy birthday’ to my daughter, ‘can I have a hug,’ and ‘can I give you something, Billie Joe?'” It was cool, though. Most folks never get the chance to meet Billie Joe in person, and hey, if you have the opportunity, you have to go for it!

Though American Idiot itself is more of a personal journey and not necessarily a political one (I’ve always looked at it politically moreso than personally, but the album itself is as much personal as anything else), I have to say, that the album literally dragged me through the latter years of the Bush Administration. I truly don’t know what I would have done without it. Thank you, Green Day, for being one of the few bands of the day that dared to speak out against what Billie Joe referred to at one point as the “regime of the Bush administration.” Billie Joe refers to the time of the album being written and the political and social happenings of those dark days after 9/11, below:

Billie Joe, John Gallagher, Jr. Talks About the Depiction of War in American Idiot on Broadway and the Response of War at the Release of the album, American Idiot– bwaddel996

All in all, it was a great time spent with Billie Joe and the people involved in the musical. I was very happy that I had the opportunity to witness the talks. I also went to see John Gallagher, Jr. perform at Rockwood Music Hall on 9/19, and he’s such a nice guy that he talked with a bunch of us crazy fans after the show. He really is a sweet kid! My friend Michelle, of Lucky17 Photography, took a bunch of great pictures at both the final talkback and at John’s show, and when she posts them on her blog, I’ll let you know. Meanwhile, I have a few blurry photographs that I took, but a couple of them I just absolutely adore.

Billie Joe with PBR Cans for Autographs - Photo by Green Day Mind

I have never asked the band to sign anything — I sorta hate getting autographs — and the only two pictures I have of me with members of the band were taken by other people (Billie Joe and Mike Dirnt, which was actually taken by Dirnt himself without me asking, good times!), but I just felt that I had to get at least one thing signed, so I did… a new variation of “AWESOME AS FUCK” that Abbey (who Billie Joe tweeted at that he loved, lol, good for Abbey!) came up with, “IDIOT AS FUCK.” Thanks, Billie Joe! UPDATE: Abbey asked Billie Joe and Michael Mayer a pretty long and intense question at the talkback, and I loved the answers given by both men regarding the show. See the video below:

Idiot as Fuck Signed by BJA

Abbey Fox (aka abbie) Asks Billie Joe and Michael Mayer a Question — Whiting1ful

All in all, these talkbacks, combined with Billie Joe and Michael Mayer interviewed by Jordan Roth of the Jujamcyn Theaters at the 92StY on 9/19, were… how shall I say… awesome as fuck, and at times, Idiot as fuck as well. Thank you, American Idiot for the good times! Billie Joe left New York on Monday, to head back to the Bay. Have a great vacay before you head off to South America, and say hello to Mike and Tre for us! I missed them.


Green Day is a Gateway Drug to the History of Punk

Future 8-Year Old Punk (in gray hood) Listening to 21 Guns by Green Day on a NYC Bus

I was talking with a fellow Green Day fan the other day about the countless nonsensical arguments people have over whether Green Day is “punk,” is “punk enough,” is “power punk,” is “pop punk,” or just “punk sellouts.” It boggles my mind, these conversations spread over the Internet and in person, the constant arguments people have over what defines punk and who is eligible to be called punk or even listen to it or attend shows, apparently. I continued by saying that I just don’t understand why people diss Green Day so much in regards to their “punkdom.” While I intellectually understand the arguments, I said, “these guys are punk to their soul, and because of them and their stardom, many fans of Green Day, if they so choose, are exposed to the world of punk. They are like a gateway drug to the history of punk, and even if people don’t enjoy their music, punks especially should be proud that they keep punk alive for new generations to be exposed to.” She liked the phrase, “gateway drug to the history of punk.”

Proof in point that GD is a gateway drug is Billie Joe Armstrong’s induction speech of Iggy Pop and the Stooges at last week’s Hall of Fame induction. He never gives “good” speeches because it’s not really his thing and he gets really shy and nervous for the most part when he has to pull out a piece of paper and read it (see as an example the speech he gave in 2006 when Green Day received the “Spirit of Liberty” Award from People for the American Way), but one of the great highlights of the speech is that you could tell how much he loved and how damned happy and excited he was to be inducting Iggy and the Stooges into the Hall of Fame. He then rattled off a list of about 70 bands that considered Iggy and the Stooges their inspiration. Eldon from the Green Day Community was kind enough to compile a list of the bands that he mentioned.

View PostEldoon, on 16 March 2010 – 05:57 AM, said:

List of bands Billie namechecked in his speech! (in order):

The Adverts
Adolescents
The Ex (I’m iffyest on whether he said this, but I’m pretty damn sure)
The Avengers
Bad Brains
Bad Religion
Generation X
Blondie
The Boys
The Briefs
Blatz
The Buzzcocks
Circle Jerks
The Clash
D Generaton
The Damned
The Dead Boys
Dead Kennedys
Descendents
Devo
Die Toten Hosen
Eater
The Exploding Hearts
Gang of Four
The Germs
The Gun Club
Guns N Roses
The Hives
Joan Jett
The Runaways
New York Dolls
Rancid
The Libertines
The Lookouts
Pearl Jam
Metallica
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Nirvana
Fear
Operation Ivy
The Replacements
The Strokes
The Dwarves
Hole
The Ramones
The Pretenders
The Real Kids
Siouxsie & The Banshees
The Slits
NoMeansNo
Social Distortion
Husker Du
The Dictators
The Cramps
Stiff Little Fingers
Suicidal Tendencies
Black Flag
Peaches
Thee Headcoats
The Undertones
Mudhoney
The Sex Pistols
Gogol Bordello
Sonic Youth
Minutemen
Bikini Kill
The Weirdos
7 Seconds
X
Wire
The Saints
Queens of the Stone Age
Television
The White Stripes

And then the censor at the end makes it hard for me to tell if he said another band, but who knows, that’s at least 99% of it hahah!
ENJOY! If you don’t know ‘em…CHECK ‘EM OUT

I’m pretty sure that the last band he mentioned that the censors bleeped was “and my own fucking band, Green Day, too!” Eldoon is right, check out this list of bands if you don’t know them because whether you call yourself a punk or not, the bands that he mentioned are great and powerful and each band will cause you to learn more about this music that exploded out of rebellion and rage and in its way, took over a little part of the world.

I recently wrote about the Pinhead Gunpowder show that I traveled to see out in Berkeley in February. I had the time of my life, was happy to support a woman suffering from cancer, see my friends, head to 924 Gilman for the first time, and see PHGP because I love the music, and yes, I happen to really like members of the band, particularly some guy named Billie Joe Armstrong. Some punk out in the East Bay decided to write a comment on the blog, calling the group of people I was with, “a bunch of losers.” Why were we losers? In his mind, we were only there to see Billie Joe and we wouldn’t like this band for any other reason than that. Fair enough, I suppose, even though he assumed a lot about me from one post without reading anything else I’ve written about Green Day or my life on this blog.

I was having dinner with friends when I read his comment, and I could easily have not approved it, but in this case, I was interested in his reasons (like I didn’t know what he was going to say in the first place) and wrote back then and there. I should have waited until I got home to reply, but I have tried my best to balance my fangirldom with real life commentary and was pissed and interested in knowing why he wrote that we were “losers.” He replied and implied that we were a bunch of losers because we were women traveling to see PHGP because of Billie Joe, and apparently, that is a not a good enough reason to see a band. Really, if that were the case, no one would see any band because of any member of it. He then went on to call me a bitch and a “women child,” telling me to “grow up” while complaining about my writing and misspelling “merrit” at the same time. Oh, and apparently punks don’t call themselves punks anymore.

There goes at least one idea of Gilman’s wall of ‘dont’s’ posted at the front door, “No Sexism.”

924 Gilman Rules of the Road

To be fair, maybe he was pissed that I mentioned that Aaron wasn’t very nice that night and seemed to have issues with the women in the audience, too. I know I had my issues when a fan screamed as Billie Joe walked into Gilman myself. What I wrote was meant to express how happy and determined I was to be a part of a special night at a special place with my friends that I had only recently heard about that made me feel part of a community and history that felt like home. I am a Green Day fan for sure, but this guy assumed (and I assume it was a guy myself) so many things based on the title of this blog and lines within the piece, that it made my head spin.

Billie Joe was recently featured in the gay-themed magazine, “Out.” It’s a great article and features a blog-only addition that can be found here. In the blog-only article, Billie Joe talks about what it means to be “punk rock.” He mostly focuses on the fact that the music brings together a community of somewhat like-minded people. Personally, I don’t care if you argue about the meanings of punk until you turn blue and drop dead. All I know is that I don’t know but one thing: it’s the music, stupid, that forms the community. It’s high time that punks stop arguing over every little thing and remember the sense of community, whether you are a punk, whether you don’t call yourself a punk anymore or whether you’re a bitch woman child. And for those young and old fans of Green Day that weren’t exposed to punk properly back in the day (or half-exposed to it like me), enjoy the gateway drug and the history and future as well.

ON WHAT IT MEANS TO BE “PUNK ROCK”:
That’s like a 10 part answer. I think of it as something that you need to have of your own. For me it’s about community. I think it’s kind of spiritual in its own way, because people fight over it so much and the meaning of it. It’s a sense of self-discovery. But also a new set of ideas and a new poetry, a new music that you discover that you notice that no one else is really into, or goes against what other people are normally into. It’s like you’re free to be an individual and taking on new ideas and challenging old ideas. I think it has a lot to do with burning down the establishment to create something new. But at the same time, you find relationships within that too. It’s something that’s supposed to empower you. It’s about starting something new. Part of the problem with a lot of punk rock is that people believe that it’s supposed to be one thing. Everything for me starts off with punk rock when I’m writing songs — it’s almost like I’m stripped down to the bare bones of music again. It’s kind of in my DNA in this point.
-Billie Joe Armstrong, OUT Magazine, Popnography Blog


Adeline Records Charity Auction for Haiti

Adeline Records 000 Logo

Adeline Records announced a charity auction today via their Facebook page and Adeline Records website. All proceeds from the auction will help Doctors Without Borders with their relief efforts in Haiti.

eBay items for auction include Rock Band (not the GD version) items, vinyl from Green Day, the Foxboro Hot Tubs, AFI, and Broadway Calls; Green Day’s “Live from Tokyo” EP on CD, as well as a “Rock of Art” catalog. So head on over and bid for stuff to fill out your own personal collection and help Doctors Without Border help Haitians with much needed medical care. It’s still a massively desperate situation in Haiti and while we’re all broke here in the States right now, at least most of us have a roof over our heads for the most part.

Follow Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on their Facebook page or on Twitter for all the latest updates on their efforts in Haiti and around the world.


New Green Day Mind Banner and a Note on Haiti

Violeta from the Green Day Community, who created my previous banner, kindly updated Green Day Mind to start the year off and commemorate Green Day’s first concert of the new decade that happened on January 12, 2010 in Bangkok. The photo was taken at the press conference given by the band on Sunday, January 11, after they landed.

Thank you, Violeta! Awesome job, as always!

Green Day Mind Banner for 2010 by Violeta

*the views expressed are the author’s own and are not endorsed by the band

*When I first started this blog, I wanted to occasionally talk about “Green things” besides Green Day. Primarily, the world, I suppose, outside of a rock band named after a color. When the Iranian Green Revolution first went down back in June, I wrote:

When describing “21st Century Breakdown,” Green Day usually says that it’s a (paraphrasing) “collection of pictures of things that happen in the world and America with a seeming new crisis everyday.” The onslaught of everyday living can be overwhelming, that’s for sure. I really hope, however, I never get to the point where I don’t care what happens to someone else, as long as I’m left alone. The planet really is too small for that crap. I may not be able to do much and I may not know everything or even anything, but this I know: Iranian men are beautiful and Persian culture is about 500 times longer than ours. I also know that what happens in Iran doesn’t stay in Iran. What happens in Iran affects us all.

Now, I’d just like to say, what happens in Haiti doesn’t stay in Haiti. What happens in Haiti affects us all because here’s another 21st Century Breakdown moment happening, and it’s a doozy.

As you may have heard, the country of Haiti, located in the Caribbean and sharing the island of Hispaniola with the country of the Dominican Republic, suffered a devastating, 7.0, earthquake on Tuesday that ripped through the Haitian portion of the island, demolishing the capital, Port-au-Prince. Needless to say, not many buildings stand and there are a lot of people who have died. It’s the very definition of a humanitarian crisis, and that distinction was already in Haiti prior to the current situation.

Haiti is a country that has suffered centuries of deprivation, political mayhem, natural disasters and human misery. The Haitian portion of the island was colonized by the French, who brought slaves from Africa to work the land. The legacy of slavery in Haiti was one of the worst ever in terms of conditions of living, disease and despair. In 1791, the slaves of Haiti overthrew their masters, and after several years of fighting, Haiti became the site of the first and only successful slave rebellion.

There have been coups since then, political mechanizations both inside and outside of the country; hurricanes have battered the land, and the forests of the island, milled to within an inch of their lives, have been cut down for sugar cane fields, the timber industry and the lighting of the family hearth. The population is black and poverty stricken, full of proud people who love their country and are tired of its ongoing misery.

Haiti needs help right now.

Food. Water. Shelter. Doctors. That is all. There should be no argument, no thinking about the need to do it, only how to do it. I was a bit hot under the collar yesterday when Pat Robertson, an evangelical minister here in the United States claimed that Haiti continually suffered because they had performed Voodoo ceremonies and bonded with the Devil in order to gain their freedom from the French. Because, y’know, that’s the only way Slaves could ever overcome their Masters, I suppose. OK, he didn’t say that last part, but that’s what it sounded like to me. I’m not even going to go into what Rush Limbaugh said about the situation, I’m already bordering on my head exploding. Suffice it to say, it’s not the time for such talk. Food. Water. Shelter. Doctors.

I have a friend in Haiti at the moment. She works for a Non-Governmental Organization and was sent to Haiti to help with the country’s computer infrastructure. She’s now huddling in a company place. She’s lucky. She can leave and has a bed to sleep in. There are millions in Haiti who have neither luxury. If food, water, shelter and doctors do not arrive and are mobilized soon, an out-of-control situation will escalate into more of a nightmare than it is already.

Please consider contributing to the American Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, or any charity that you may wish to donate to. There may also be food drives in your area that need help as well. Haiti’s natural resources such as forests and water supplies are decimated. Learn more about natural resources and how you can help stop deforestation and water contamination at the Green Day + National Resources Defense Council here.

I have been crying a lot over this today. But Violeta’s banner made me a bit happier. After the jump, you can view his design from last year.

Continue reading


East Jesus Nowhere – Ticket to Hell Has Never Been So Fun!

NOTE: I drafted this a while ago but never published it.

Blasphemy - A Ticket to Hell Has Never Been Funnier

Blasphemy - A Ticket to Hell Has Never Been Funnier

I will mince no words: I like to curse and I have little respect for organized religion. In this video from Green Day’s show in Sacramento earlier this year, Green Day managed to provide me with cursing and remind me just how little respect I have for organized religion. Once again, Green Day has the courage to call hypocrisy when they see it.

Billie Throwing a Guy Out and East Jesus Nowhere – “Fuck me? Nononononono, fuck YOU mother fucker.” – Green Day, Sacramento, August 24, 2009

With that said, I want to take a moment to put the title of the posting into context… and then hopefully say something. We’ll see if any of the above happens.

During the American tour (which can provide a basic roadmap for those of you looking forward to the European, Australian, New Zealand and Asian tours), “East Jesus Nowhere,” was usually the fourth song of the show, preceded by “Song of the Century,” “21st Century Breakdown,” and “Know Your Enemy.” Billie may say some crazy stuff about pot-smoking and fornicating at the beginning, (haha, one only hopes he does!), and then the band launches into the song. At the record’s bridge, Billie asks the audience to provide a child, any child about 10 years or so of age, which parents in the house readily do. Billie then ‘saves’ this sweet and innocent youngster. I’m never sure what he’s saving the kid from, but I know that I would have much rather been saved by a Billie Joe than by a preacher.

Here comes the requisite disclaimer in this day and age: I do not dislike religion itself. My philosophy is worship anything you want but do not force me to worship the same way that you do. Don’t try to save me and I won’t try to save you, unless I see you about to get hit by a car on the street. Don’t preach purity when your bathroom is filthy. Or something like that.*

East Jesus Nowhere” is a powerful and problematic song. It’s destined to be on the radio. It’s also destined to cause some religious circles to go ballistic if it makes it there.

There’s been some buzz about whether the lyrics will be changed when it gets more airplay. I really hope the band doesn’t change a bit of it. We’ll see what the future brings. In fact, I heard it on the radio when driving in my rental car a while back and some words had been obliterated. Needless to say, I screamed a little bit.

East Jesus Nowhere lyrics

Raise your hands now to testify
Your confession will be crucified
You’re a sacrificial suicide
Like a dog that’s been sodomized
Stand up! – All the white boys
Sit down! – All the black girls
You’re the soldiers of the new world

Put your faith in a miracle
And it’s non-denominational
Join the choir we will be singing
In the church of wishful thinking

A fire burns today
Of blasphemy and genocide
The sirens of decay
Will infiltrate the faith fanatics

Oh bless me lord for I have sinned
It’s been a lifetime since I last confessed
I threw my crutches in “The river
Of a shadow of doubt”
And I’ll be dressed in my Sunday best

Say a prayer for the family
Drop a coin for humanity
Ain’t this uniform so flattering?
I never asked you a God damned thing

A fire burns today
Of blasphemy and genocide
The sirens of decay
Will infiltrate the faith fanatics

Don’t test me
Second guess me
Protest me
You will disappear

I want to know who’s allowed to breed
All the dogs who never learned to read
Missionary politicians
And the cops of a new religion

A fire burns today
Of blasphemy and genocide
The sirens of decay
Will infiltrate the inside

-also, these are my opinions alone and do not reflect anything that anyone else might think or say. There, I think that covers it.


All About Dookie from Pop Matters


Pop Matters, an international magazine that focusses on popular culture and criticism, begins a 14-part series highlighting each song of Green Day’s quintessential masterpiece album, Dookie. Check out the first part on the song “Burnout” here. And yes, they will also talk about that “secret” song, too.


See the Light: My Year of Green Day and Genocide

I really hope that when Green Day puts out their next album, whenever that may be, that they and we can go back to “happier” times and lyrics, singing at breakneck speed about burning out, growing old, obsessive love, masturbation and pot… but… we’ll see.
-greendaymind

Why Green Day?

I’ve gotten the question of “Why Green Day?” so many times this year that I thought I should finally explain myself. My friends are a bit astounded at me for following Green Day intensely this year. They knew I was a fan but never knew how much of one I’d become. All I can really say is that it’s been one of those years and Green Day has gotten me through a rough season.

Green Day recently celebrated their 21st year together, but I’m a relatively new fan (read about that here, if you care) from the American Idiot era. It’s well-known among hardcore fans that their lyrics have spoken to fans for two decades now, but for me, this year has been the second time (during the latter Bush Administration being the first) in which Green Day helped me through a bad political and social time.

2005

Do You Know This Man?

Raphael Lemkin, Father of the Genocide Convention

Five years ago, I worked as an archivist at the American Jewish Historical Society. At the Society, we have a collection of archival materials written by a man of the name, Raphael Lemkin. Never heard of him? Don’t worry, you are not the only one. He coined the word genocide (Greek word genos, meaning tribe, and the Latin word cide, meaning to kill) in 1943/44 and was the first person to systematically write about a human condition which pops up more than we would like: the intent to destroy specific groups of humans by other groups of humans. There had been no word for this crime prior to this time, but there had been plenty of genocidal incidents before World War II (primary case in point: Armenia, 1915-1917).

Lemkin single-handedly pushed a major treaty through the United Nations in 1948, a document that he felt would be the beginning of the end of this disease that occasionally afflicts humans now named genocide, the United Nations Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide. Boy, was he wrong, but at least he tried. (Ok, he wasn’t wrong about the concept, just wrong that humans would do something about it if there was a law, a treaty, a will, a way…)

I was assigned to archive his papers and afterward, I wrote a journal article on Lemkin’s collections which was published in a jaunty-sounding journal called the Journal of Genocide Research. The paper (LINK HERE IF YOU CARE) has since been used by genocide scholars around the world to access Lemkin’s papers for their own historical and future research into the worst of human traits: the ability for one group of people to lose their collective minds and kill other groups of people who aren’t like them.

This Year

This past June 7-10, I was asked to present a paper at another jaunty-sounding event, the International Association of Genocide Scholars, held in Washington, D.C. The conference itself consisted of scholars with one goal in mind: presenting papers on this most heinous problem of mankind from numerous countries and perspectives, but primarily the social, economic and human toil that genocide inflicts on humankind.

I didn’t want to do it. I’m not a scholar, just someone who has the ability to put one and one together and present facts with some conclusions. But my previous paper had made such a big impact on the community of scholars that I had no choice but to present. I had to drag myself kicking and screaming to do my research and write the paper. I was my own worst enemy when it came to putting my thoughts on paper, it was ridiculous. And Green Day came to my rescue with the song, “Know Your Enemy.”

Do you know the enemy?
Do you know your enemy?
Well gotta know the enemy right here
Well gotta know the enemy right here

Silence is an enemy against your insurgency so rally up the demons of your soul.

I listened to KYE probably 100 times to help get over myself and plow through the research and writing. My topic was on a group of African-Americans, who just happened to be Communists, that accused the United States government of genocide toward blacks in America. The group published a petition in 1951 by the name of “We Charge Genocide” at the start of the Cold War and against the backdrop of the intense ideological struggles of the time between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The petition was also one of the many precursors of the Civil Rights movement and caused quite a stir in the FBI and State Department.

The group’s premise was that in America, blacks had been terrorized and murdered under the willing eye of law enforcement and as such, were being destroyed as a group. Their accusations didn’t quite fit under the covenants of the actual Convention, but when you are trying to make a point, you can fit your argument into almost anything.

By the time I hit D.C., I was physically and mentally drained. I stayed at a friend’s house in D.C. for a night, which was nice, and headed off the next day for 2.5 days of non-stop genocide talk. Oh joy. Oh bliss.

The conference itself was ok, and my paper was well-received, if a bit light and fluffy. I was on the same panel as a woman from Australia who had done some intense research regarding the genocide which occurred in Cambodia from 1975-1979, asking the question whether Cambodia constituted genocide, crimes against humanity or revolution. Yes, people argue constantly over what constitutes genocide, subtly trying to undermine the premise of it until the distinctions become useless and paralyzing. Her conclusion was that it was genocide, plain and simple.

The conference was supposed to end at noon on the 10th, but these things never end on time, and we were having our final session at the Capitol, a place I had never been before. The session dragged on until after the noon hour and I had promised another friend that I would meet him for lunch, so I left. A few minutes later I got a call from him saying he needed to blow through a deadline and we were unable to meet. I now had nothing to do until my Bolt Bus left at 5:30.

I could have gone back to the meeting, but I was mentally done with the conference, so I pondered a bit and decided to head to the Holocaust Museum since I had never been there. As I was approaching the METRO, I became apprehensive about going and by the I reached the Capitol stop, I said forget it, turned around, and went across the street to the Library of Congress since I had never been there before. I toured what I could of the building for about an hour and decided to take my leave back to the hotel and that’s when I started to hear people talk about some incident that had occurred in D.C. I didn’t hear the details of the incident until I got on the METRO and it was still innuendo and rumor. People knew something had happened but not quite what.

When I entered my hotel, the big screen television in the lobby was focused on the Holocaust Museum. I froze and just stared, realizing how close I had come to being there. I sat in the lobby, watching the screen and hearing the most devastating news possible, a shooting had occurred and one man was dead. I began crying, particularly since the death crazed aspects of me being in D.C. were overwhelming and I had just spent 2.5 days listening to talk of genocide and presenting a paper on the subject.

In a nutshell, a white supremacist had walked into a Holocaust Museum and killed a black security guard. From that moment, I went into what I call, Humanity Overload.

Crying uncontrollably and still looking at the T.V., I put my headphones on and listened to 21st Century Breakdown. I was having one, that’s for certain.

Billie Joe's Guitar of Conscious

Billie Joe's Guitar of Conscience - Screenshot by CarmenPunkGirl

I don’t really remember much of the album as I was listening. I just know that its effect on me was calming, despite the guitars and Billie’s screamed lyrics. I kept the album on as I went to catch my bus, and all I could think of was how much humanity sucked.

From then on, it was Green Day for the rest of the summer. I took a break from politics, I didn’t think of genocide, I no longer watched the news. I primarily found comfort in a crazy band of fun misfits who sang about everything I felt. I went to four of their concerts in the States (Albany, the two MSGs, and San Antonio), and two shows in England. I began this blog the day before the conference, on June 6, to personally document their tour and escape from the harsh realities of life. I still haven’t paid much attention to the news. I needed a break, a respite. Sometimes you just have to DO IT.

But genocide never really leaves you once you think about it in any serious way. My place of work is holding a conference on Lemkin’s collection of correspondence, papers, and life’s work coming up this weekend in New York (click on the picture below for more information), and I’ve had to help with the accompanying exhibit and will also be presenting a short paper on the recently digitized collection of correspondence we now have on the web.

Letters of Conscious - Raphael Lemkin and the Quest to End Genocide

Letters of Conscience - Raphael Lemkin and the Quest to End Genocide

However, I don’t feel as panicked and hopeless about it or humanity in general as I did earlier in the summer. In fact, I’m regaining my sense of fight and hope, of pluck and stamina, and I have Green Day to thank for helping me, kicking and screaming all the way, renew a sense of purpose. As Billie Joe says, you have to live here, in the moment, right now, so get up, stand up.

Mind you, I don’t want to equate Billie Joe Armstrong’s lyrics or actions to the words or actions of Raphael Lemkin as being equal. Lemkin was determined to stop a very real problem of humanity by using the law and political will to stop the mass killing of groups. Billie Joe wants to raise our conscience a couple of levels while raising a few beers and forgoing our guilt in having a good time. However, I think Lemkin and he both possess a special and rare human quality that few people possess. This far-reaching quality is the ability to encompass large groups of people, embrace them, and try, for just a moment or their lifetime, to ease their pain.

I told my fellow GD friend, Tony, that I had listened to “Know Your Enemy” to prepare for the conference earlier this year and that I had no desire to think positively about a myriad of things in regard to humanity or the upcoming conference. He succinctly said, “you just have to ‘See The Light’ instead.” I took his advice and began to listen to this song from Green Day. And slowly, but surely, it’s been helping to pull me up from the abyss.

I really hope that one day genocide will no longer be a problem and that no one has to think about such a horrible crime again.

So, that’s my story of 2009: Green Day and genocide. What a year its been.

Well I crossed the river
Fell into the sea
Where the non-believers
Go beyond belief

Then I scratched the surface
In the mouth of hell
Running out of service
In the blood I fell

Well I, I just want to see the light
And I, I don’t want to lose my sight
Well I, I just want to see the light
And I need to know what’s worth the fight

I’ve been wasted
Pills and alcohol
And I’ve been chasing
Down the pool halls

Then I drank the water
From a hurricane
And I set a fire
Just to see the flame

Well I, I just want to see the light
And I, I don’t want to lose my sight
Well I, I just want to see the light
And I need to know what’s worth the fight

Well I crossed the desert
Reaching higher ground
Then I pound the pavement
To take the liars down

But it’s gone forever
But never too late
Where the ever after
Is in the hands of fate

Well I, I just want to see the light
And I, I don’t want to lose my sight
Well I, I just want to see the light
And I need to know what’s worth the fight

© GREEN DAZE MUSIC; WB MUSIC CORP.;


Green Day Adoption Daze

OK, not to start any false rumors or anything about the band adopting a slew of children, but a Twitter user, heckieclaire, just posted a really nice, wistful link about a man taking his son to his first Green Day show… and glowing that Billie Joe had adopted his son… well, it’s hard to explain… just go and read it

BHJ, I think your son is in mighty fine hands with BJA! EEK! :)


Song of the Century: Louder Than Bombs and Eternity

Green Day – Song of the Century – 21st Century Breakdown *

Sing us a song of the century… That’s louder than bombs … And eternity

Do we realize that it’s the 21st Century? Sometimes I wonder. The 21st fucking century, and yet humans are still arguing and fighting over the same issues spawned at the start of the 20th: land, privilege, sex, God and money.

Honestly, I can’t remember a time in my life when there’s never been tension in the air. I’ve been tense since the second I was born. (If you’ve not been tense for the past 45 years, don’t worry, I’ve been tense for you.) This last election in the States wiped me out so much that I’ve decided to take a break from politics, the universe, and almost everything… except work and Green Day. I am forgoing television for a few months and haven’t watched for about a week now, which is saying something for me. I’m listening to music and trying to think. I’ve been listening to rather loud music, but still, the music frees my eyes from concentrating on tiny moving pictures. I’ll keep up with the world as much as I can, but really, the world can go to hell in a handbasket for all I care right now. I’m sitting here in the ghetto that I love, in my new Brooklyn home with the amazing view of Manhattan. Big sky. I am as happy as a clam. Ahh. The coming of the second decade of the century is so far soaring above bombs and eternity for me. Aren’t I lucky?

As the Buddha says, all every one wants is to be happy. I would add to that: and to party.

Sing Us a Song of the Century… that’s louder than bombs and eternity.
What a beautiful way to start a lullaby. The song of the century should be so spectacular that it drowns out all ways and means of destruction. When I first listened to 21st Century Breakdown, I was surprised that the album began with such a sweet song as if sung in a newborn’s ear and captured on a Victrola. The lyric begins with an earnest hope quickly deafened by metaphoric bombs and projecting the future. Eternity is a hell of a long way away; everything comes down to the present.

I suppose I should not be surprised that the 21st Century reminds me of all the centuries that have gone before it. Although I studied history in college, I’m not much of an academic but from lessons learned and books read, the past and the present just spin around again and nothing really changes. Sounds finally captured through technology and heard at the start of the 20th Century — hand-cranked — are the same tales of progress, earnestness, hope against despair, madness, war, and peace that are present in our current world of bytes and bits.

The era of static and contraband… That’s leading us to the promised land
A major theme of 21st Century Breakdown echoes around static, presumably the white noise of television and electronics and the heat of popularity, fame and status. Stolen images and stolen time, seconds ticking, adding up to hours and years, and then poof, you’re gone. Gone off into that magical hereafter. Ah yes, magical, indeed. Today is ignored while tomorrow is constantly dreamed about, heaven. It’s always about heaven, either on Earth or the great beyond. It’s always about reaching for something that you cannot see, and may not want when you finally adjust your eyes.

Tell us a story that’s by candlelight… Waging a war and losing the fight
Have you ever listened to a story while a candle flickers across the bedroom wall? Real, living light, not the artificial brightness surging through our electrical grid. Sure, it’s bad for the eyes, but imagine, huddled under your covers, with your father close to you. He’s spinning tales of Br’er Rabbit or a frightening Grimms Fairy Tale. The flickers across your wall create moving pictures — there’s the Witch tricking the children! — there’s the children being baked! — lesson learned, don’t go off into the forest by yourself! — childhood stories of fear and triumph, war and death, peace and love; the same themes from the 20th to the 21st. The means of communication may change, but the human heart rarely does. Nothing changes and children still grow up learning war is right, even if you have to fight the same types of wars over and over again for land, privilege, sex, God and money.

They’re playing the song of the century… Of panic and promise and prosperity
There goes that song again… dawning of a new era… calling…don’t let it catch you falling… ready or not at all… the 21st Century is ‘hear’ and the Victrola cranks out its old themes of stock market crashes, something for nothing, you too can have it all!

Tell me a story into that goodnight… Sing us a song for me
So tell me a story long into the dark hours, were I can dream of a world that doesn’t chase me with its fears and desires. A world where the Bill of Rights has a clause to “Let the People Party,” and we all earnestly grab the time to take care of each other, just like Billie Joe Armstrong takes the time to care for a drunken fan who’s about to get booted by bringing him onstage, telling him to calm the fuck down, we’re all here to party… why fight?*

This past Saturday, I was in my old place packing up during a hellacious street party on my block, complete with wall of sound speakers. After the sixth hour of salsa across the street mixed with heart-shattering beats up the street, both played at volume 11, I thought my brain would bleed. The Victrola has been replaced with massive woofers, where the sounds of panic and promise and prosperity come at you in mega-death decibels. At the end of the night, police helicopters started churning overhead. When that happens in New York (or anywhere for that matter), you know that something has gone wrong. Two people, aged 19 and 17, died half a block away from me due to gunshot wounds to the head. Their young song of the century is over now. I wonder what bedtime stories they learned?

Yes, if only the Bill of Rights possessed a “Let the People Party” clause to it. Who the hell am I kidding? We’d find some way to fuck that up, too.

*All lyrics by Green Day

*hattip: nothingwrongwithme.com



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