Music produces an energy that cannot be contained, and when you compare that energy with teenage angst, you get Punk Rock.
At the time I discovered punk music, I thought I had a justification for my anger: I dealt with bad acne, felt like an outcast, and wasn’t one of the cool kids.
Looking back, my problems were minuscule, but as a 13-year-old, I didn’t know any better.
Punk rock meant thinking for myself, being a non-conformist, and having a mind of my own.
I listened to punk rock as an outlet for my rage, but it was my friend Casey who introduced me to political punk. The Dead Kennedys and Crass had songs that served as history lessons in and of themselves. Me on the other hand, well I was brought up with conservative values, so what could be more punk rock than to listen to songs that challenged my worldview without succumbing to those ideals?
Flash forward three years and I graduated from punk rock to hardcore, but I never forgot my roots. I would frequent the local venues where bands advocated for the rights of immigrants, LGBTQ issues, animal liberation, and the disenfranchised. While everyone had their fists in the air, mine were deeply shoved inside my pockets. To me, it was the most punk rock thing I could do.
Punk rock introduced me to anti-racist activism, anarchy, straight edge, and women’s rights as well as fighting government oppression at home and abroad. But it all fell on deaf ears.
Listening to punk rock is what actually inspired me to attend college. What better way to stick it to the man than to be in the system and tear it down from within a la “SLC Punk”? If Greg Gaffin, frontman for Bad Religion, can be a Punk Rock Professor, why can’t I be a Punk rock college student?
My first semester at UCLA I was still very conservative in my worldview. Just to give you a taste, I was vocally opposed to the California Dream! Act, and challenged marriage equality.
I thought these people didn’t like me, so why should I like them? Punk rock, right?
So what changed? I started traveling.
In my travels, I saw people treated differently, and how I, as an American, was treated simply because of the passport that I held in my hands. I didn’t realize that oppression exists at a systemic level in my own country until I came back and began to see through different lenses. I started to read between the lines and realized that I should have been standing with the people advocating for these causes I heard so long ago.
Now I am an advocate for peace and social justice and I don’t ever see myself advocating for anything else, and it was punk rock – the violent, mosh pit frenzied, angry music – that brought me to this conclusion.
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