In the aftermath of a Presidential election rife with allegations of fraud, and then the 9/11 tragedy, the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars, and the seemingly daily battering of democracy by the Republican Administration, Green Day felt the weight of the darkness that covered the country during Bush’s first term. As they sat back trying to find a new voice in an era that was disorienting for many, the band became increasingly distressed at the state of things. By the time they got around to pulling the material together for their next album, the group could no longer ignore the serious issues of the day.

The music always had plenty of passion but now it had purpose, bursting forth in American Idiot. The record is a modern-day rock opera that follows a character named Jesus of Suburbia, who has difficulty coming to grips with the collapse of the American dream. Yet Green Day more profoundly takes aim—to borrow Hunter S. Thompson’s description of Nixon’s America in 1972—at the “dark, venal, and incurably violent side of the American character almost every other country in the world has learned to fear and despise.”

Released in 2004 just before the Presidential election, the band offered one of the sharpest and loudest voices of protest against the Bush Administration and the America it continued to shape. American Idiot’s daring decree makes it an exemplary punk record. “I found a voice,” Armstrong says. “I made it to give people a reason to think for themselves. It was supposed to be a catalyst.”

The band didn’t cower in the face of the scoundrels and hucksters who wrapped themselves in the American flag and resorted to the cheap and hackneyed dismissal that anyone who criticized or challenged Bush’s policies was “anti-American” or “helping the terrorists.” Selling out stadiums all across the United States, the band opened each performance with the title song which included the lyrics, “Don’t want to be an American idiot/Don’t want a nation under the new mania/And can you hear the sound of hysteria?/The subliminal mind fuck America.” In addition to the album’s title track, the remaining twelve songs address lost innocence (“Wake Me Up When September Ends”), the death of the American dream (“Boulevard of Broken Dreams”), and the invasion of Iraq (“Holiday”).

With Barack Obama’s victory, a perceived new era of hope was ushered in and perhaps even a post-9/11 moment was arising where democracy could be revived and maybe even flourish. The band hoped, as many of us have, that we were emerging from this nightmare but soon realized that the reality remains much different than the dream.

When 21st Century Breakdown was released on May 15 it sold over 200,000 copies, even though Wal-Mart refused to sell it. “Wal-Mart has become the biggest retail outfit in the country, but they won’t carry our record because they wanted us to censor it,” Armstrong says. “They want artists to censor their records in order to be carried there. . . . We just said no. We’ve never done it before. You feel like you’re in 1953 or something.” . . .

This is but a small sampling of The Progressive's Green Day profile in the August issue. To read the entire text of this great article, please subscribe to The Progressive for only $14.97 by clicking here.

Plus, you’ll have access not only to the Green Day article, but also to these other features:

--Naomi Klein on "Capitalism, Sarah Palin-Style."

--Barbara Ehrenreich’s piece on the future for journalists

--Malalai Joya on the upcoming sideshow of an election in Afghanistan

--Ruth Conniff’s interview with William Greider

--Mikhail Gorbachev on the need for nuclear disarmament

--Kate Clinton on the gay rights movement

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Trump's politics are not the problem.

The fiery Milwaukee Sheriff is on the shortlist to head the Department of Homeland Security.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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