Category Archives: Politics

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 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.

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

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

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

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.

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.


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 Days in Iran


Just as orange became the color of revolution in the Ukraine during their “Orange Revolution” of 2004-2005, the color of green has become the predominant color of protest in Iran over the last few weeks. I’m not saying that Green Day had anything to do with this to promote their new tour… but… well… it’s just a coincidence, yes?

Five days ago, the Iranian people went to their voting booths in order to elect a new president. The battle for the presidency came down to two government-approved candidates, Ahmed Ahmendinijad (or as a friend calls him, Ahemenogenocide) and Mir-Hossein Mousavi Khameneh.

The vote seems to have been declared very quickly for Ahmadinejad and the next thing you know… all hell breaks loose. Five days later, there’s millions of people in the street claiming that they were robbed of their votes. The situation was somewhat similar to the United States election of 2000, but with one major difference: the great majority of the Iranian people seem to have taken to the streets in protest and we just let Bush become president. As a result of the flawed election and counting of the ballots, the ruling Supreme Ayatollah Khamenei is having a hell of a time putting the genie back into the bottle and serious trouble is on the way for the country.

I’d like to clear up a major misconception that Americans have about Iran: they kicked our ass in 1979, and we sorta deserved it. In 1953, the United States, along with the British, overthrew their prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh, in order to take back Iran’s nationalized oil industry. In the process, we returned Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi to power. The Shah’s rule was horrible and payback is a bitch. The Iranian Revolution occurred in 1979, and I remember clear as day watching the events unfold on my teevee as 52 American hostages were held in Iran for 444 days. Since I was raised in a Christian apocalyptic househould, I thought the end was neigh.

The apocalypse didn’t happen but something in Iran has changed since the Iranian Revolution brought forth an Islamic Republic with a pretense of democracy. The population has become younger and particularly in the urban areas, majorly hip. I used to know an Iranian guy back in the 80s. He had sea-green eyes and he was, as one may put it, hot. Today’s Iranian youth are highly educated, some are well-traveled, are very much connected with the world of the Internet and are pretty much demanding not necessarily an end to the Islamic Republic, but an end to living in an autocratic society. They want their freedom, whatever that means to one who lives under a government ruled by any religion.

Since I’m a member of the Idiot Club over at (yes, I know I’m obsessed, leave me the hell alone), a poster seemingly from Iran started a thread about what was happening in his or her country. Unfortunately the thread didn’t go very far, but one poster in general made me shiver. They wrote that they didn’t care what happened in Iran as long as Islamic extremists didn’t come over here and kill people. Mind you, Idiot Club fan club members are from all over the world and that opinion was clearly in the minority (though of course, as the song goes, they might be happy being in that Minority). I couldn’t help but comment, however. What happens in Iran affects what happens to us here, I wrote. This person probably had something happen to friends or family that caused her or him to think this way. Obviously they didn’t know that Iran and Iraq went to war with each for years or that Osama bin laden hates Shia Muslims, the majority of which are Iranians. Or maybe she/he was just a person who only knew what they knew from their small, isolated communities and never dared to look at or learn about the dynamics that actually make up the world, the cause and effect of it all. No good deed goes unpunished and not everything is as it seems.

Whether Mousavi (a reformist candidate with a deep and nasty history in the actual events of the Iranian Revolution) had become or still will become the Iranian president somehow, doesn’t necessarily mean that the relationship between the United States and Iran would get any better, but it certainly could not have gotten any worse than it already is. Or at least, I would hope it wouldn’t have gotten worse.

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.