Sunday, September 21, 2008
A Dead Kennedy and Bread On the Table
When I was in my youth I found punk rock music. I will not sing the praises of this genre nor will I say in hind sight it has little value and I now see how destructive it is.
While I was searching out and listening to punk rock music I undoubtedly came across the Dead Kennedy's fronted by Jello Biafra. They were a political band and sang about issues and events I had never heard of. Even today it is not uncommon to hear of a political issue or figure from the past and finally a DK song from 20 years ago makes sense.
In my late 20's I saw Jello speak at the University of Utah. I enjoyed hearing him speak about an array of topics some I agreed with others I didn't but I always respected his clear stance on issues. He also had a way of sharing information in a way that was entertaining and informative. A combination I feel is valuable and powerful.
Even though I was exposed to some history, like who was Pol Pot, and rethought some issues - the drudgery and conformity of corporate America- the most powerful lessons I learned from Jello Biafra through punk rock were "how's" instead of "what's".
One of the lessons I picked up on was "Become the Media". Don't just wait for the media to feed you what they want. Instead broadcast your own facts with your personal bias. At the time I think he may have been referring to graffiti, news letters, zines, rallies and public access TV. Now the with the widespread use of the Internet and blogs I am sure he meant that too.
Another lesson was to simply stand up for what you believe in. In one of his songs he says he loves his country and suggests he may even "love it more than you" because he is willing to fight against the "stars and stripes of corruption". I think on many topics we would be on opposite sides of the fence but I still respect him and his method. At the core of his message I felt he was most interested in people acting in a way they thought was responsible instead of trying to get them to think or act like him.
When I saw him speak those years ago he said something that surprised me. I think if he had encouraged everyone to go out and burn a flag on a street corner it wouldn't have surprised me as much as it would have disappointed me. But what he said went something like this. At the end of the day we are all pretty much the same. We are worried about keeping a roof over our heads and putting food on the table.
I remember this ending put all his music and what I had heard in his spoken word tour into a different perspective. I saw him as a person who had strong convictions about daily issues and the state of things in America and the world at large and allowed him self to get heated up about it. But he knew, though the issues were real, it was still a form of entertainment. A way to get people to listen and hopefully act. And action is the message I heard the loudest from him. He has his views and he takes action. And he understands that others have their views and they should take their responsibility to act as well. I can't say never but I rarely felt preached to when I listened to the Dead Kennedy's. Other than I should exercise my right to act with in the laws that have been laid out by our government. Even though his views were clearly in opposition to most national leaders the message I picked up on was overthrow corrupt leaders by lawful means. Educate the public, encourage conviction and action, and vote. So I was surprised that at the end of his lecture he acknowledged the commonality we share in general as people. And that from this we should engage in dialog with each other. An unlikely sentiment from a world renowned punk rock icon.
With elections on their way and prop 8 on the ballet in California and SB 777 having already passed I have had current issues on the forefront of my mind more than any other time in my life. My son and a baby on the way contribute to this in the greatest of way. Having lived through the life the previous generation fought for or failed in for me, I am now concerned for the future I must help build for my children. And I do not think breaking down definitions and destroying tradition is the way to build a brighter future for any one.
Who would have thought that 20 years latter the Dead Kennedy's would have influenced a Mormon father of two to stand up for what he believes in and vote.
I don't know what I would say to Jello Biafra if we ever met. It might just simply be, "Thanks for encouraging me take a stance."