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How Punk Rock Turned Me Into a Dirty Rotten Liberal

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So, last night's debate was weird and surprisingly civil. Republican candidate Mitt Romney was crowned the unofficial "winner" by even the "left wing media," in spite of constantly cutting Jim Lehrer off and threatening to destroy Big Bird's livelihood (there's already a Fired Big Bird Twitter account).

My recent vegetarian song list got me on a Propagandhi kick. I was amazed at how most of their songs still apply to what's going on today. With a presidential election just around the corner, politics remain a hot topic. Punk music helped sparked my interest in politics by pointing out injustices and questioning the status quo.

I have yet to find truth in the whole "as you get older, you grow more conservative" theory. So far, I've found the exact opposite to be true. Maybe it's circumstantial-- I have a hard time backing any politician who thinks that homosexuality is a disease, or uses phrases like "legitimate rape." Or maybe it's just me-- I'm not married and I don't have kids. I think every American deserves a fair shot and shouldn't have to struggle with faulty education and health care systems. Maybe that will all change if in some strange, yet awesome turn of events I end up in the 1%, but I doubt it.

I went to a Catholic elementary school and had it pounded into my head not to question anything because my teachers and priests were supposedly the final authority on everything. Doubts could send you to hell-- man, Catholic guilt is a bitch. I had some big questions that couldn't be answered by blind faith. "God's creation" wasn't a good enough answer; I needed concrete explanations.

I didn't find them, but I did discover Bad Religion, which was a means for me to dig even deeper. The singer of The Adolescents best summed up what I was going through when I first got into punk:

We play music for people that don't expect cultural food to be spoonfed to them. They want to take the spoon and feed themselves. If they don't like what's on the spoon, they're going to throw the spoon at us.

The ideas I was being spoon-fed made me sick. I wanted to learn more about anything and everything so I could formulate my own opinions.

I was drawn to Bad Religion because they embraced these ideals and went against the grain (sorry, I couldn't resist). Greg Graffin's songwriting eloquently discussed the dangers of tyrants and heard mentalities. Bad Religion's songs about politics and religion provided insight into issues that I wasn't hearing about on the news.

Plus, I felt smart listening to songs that incorporated "fecundity" and "conflagrations" into the lyrics.

Pennywise has always been an outwardly political band, but their sixth album, Land of the Free? Is a great portrayal of the tense political landscape of the year 2001. "The World" compares foreign policy to a loaded smoking gun, and remarkably, the album was released in the summer before the 9/11 attacks.

One of the album's most relatable songs became its biggest hit, "Fuck Authority." It doesn't take someone of Greg Graffin's intelligence to figure out the song's meaning. This song embodied that spoon I was starting to reject. I didn't need authority figures to feed me what they thought was good for me, I sick of being lied to and was ready to make these decisions for myself.

Another band that helped build my be well informed and question everything ethos was Anti-Flag. It was 2002, a terrifying time to watch the news. I'd come home from school to see live footage of bombs exploding in Iraq and dreaded the potential countermeasures. I didn't want to live in a country involved in a war. I wanted it to stop.

"911 For Peace" summed up those feelings and added the sentiment "we're all human, it's time to prove it." Half of the album Mobilize was anti war songs, including the scathing "Anatomy of Your Enemy," which made me further despise the war.

The other half of the album was eight live songs that were essentially Anti-Flag's best of. "Die For Your Government" ended up being a gateway to bands like Propagandhi. "Today's Empires, Tomorrow's Ashes" is a strong message and a cautionary tale to take action against an unjust war.

Punk tends to get pigeonholed as whiny brats playing four chords and bitching about the government. That is a key part of the genre, but those bands are also responsible for encouraging me to question my beliefs and to be my own person. It's a valuable lesson I learned that I doubt I could have picked up from a genre like country or pop.

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