Lunch break the other day. Given the locations of my job, my academics, and my internship, the Hard Times Café in Minneapolis is a logical stop for a mid-day omelette and cup of black coffee. So there I am – sitting – waiting for my name to be shouted over the [insert doom metal band name here] track playing – and I unintentionally overhear a few elder gentlemen in conversation. Both have been DIY longer than many of us knew the alphabet, respectable punx in theory, even more respectable as human beings (I’ve had extensive conversation with one of them before). Their topic of commentary? The upcoming election.
“Nao why in the fack would I vote? Don’t mean a thing.”
Inside, I sighed myself close to death.
Please do not misunderstand me. After years of being a mixed race person attending basement shows, playing Magic: the Gathering alongside skinheads, conversations (and make-out sessions) with die-hard social and/or economic conservatives and liberals, working with the Democratic Party, obsessively watching Ron Paul’s interviews, studying political science, and listening to everything from Disaster Strikes to Against Me! to Propaghandi to Cro-Mags to Taylor Swift (shut up), I can completely feel for how many punx out there have given up on the system. American politics is not necessarily a fair game, and largely relies on money, power, and connections. Paint it Black’s Dan Yemin once said on the track “Election Day,” “and who needs D.C. when I’ve got D4?” Well, I love D4 just as much as the next Midwestern, whiskey drinking, pop-punk lovin’ sucka (I also love Paint it Black), but frankly, the system we live in requires us to at least think about what D.C. is doing. Why? D.C. does a lot; from constituent advocacy when the IRS or the Department of Homeland Security tries to get you (or simply makes a mistake), to monitoring and engaging in international trade regulations and human / animal rights, to passing bills that could infringe on or expand our freedom, to declaring official or unofficial wars that kill civilians and put our brothers and sisters in danger, to deciding vital court cases that permit or dismiss minority rights. We all love our shows, our vinyl collections, and our punk community – but we cannot forget that we are merely a subculture within our global society.
Currently, The United States of America is debatably the hegemon of the world. Simply put, the wielder of the most hard and soft power: a crucial concept to meditate over. Our nation, if you agree with this concept (putting opinions on whether it is legitimate or moral aside), has a heavy influence on our brothers and sisters from China to Turkey to Zimbabwe to Columbia to Indonesia to Russia. The United States is the largest economy in the world, is one of five member nation-states of the United Nations Security Council, and has by far the largest acting military in the world. Who we choose to manage our relations with such structures is important, even if the candidates vary little. Moreover, federal offices also have domestic implications; and everything from a State Senate elect to your Soil and Water Supervisor District pick (not to mention a few Minnesota State Constitutional Amendments) can affect your and your loved ones’ every day existence.
For democracy to work, it takes engaged citizens. Punx are people, too. And the punk voice is a strong one. Look to the recent occurrences in Indonesia and Russia. Sure, punk mentality in the United States may be stifled compared to what it was in Jello Biafra’s first heyday, but that does not mean the kids will not have their say, so to speak. Get out there on November 6, and in future elections. You are all intelligent enough to form your own opinions; I do not care for what or for whom you vote for. All I care is that you vote. Vote for yourself, if you must. Vote for a third party. Vote for one of the two main parties. Be active. Talk to your neighbors. Read the news (and many sources, not just ones aligned with your opinions). Phone bank. Put up posters. Run for office yourself. Work for a non-profit. Try and understand the system we are in. The only way it will ever progress to what we want is if we work it to what we want, what we need. The only way democracy will be real, is if we be real with democracy.
For information on how and where to vote, look into your state’s Office of the Secretary of State. They got your back on this one.