<< Election 2004: Voter Confusion

By Larry Zamel, 17, Fairfax HS (Los Angeles)
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Larry says that The Punk Voter concert made him realize that George W. Bush must go.

Politics was always a really boring and confusing subject for me. It didn’t really matter to me who was president, or what he did, because presidents come and go. So when George W. Bush was elected as president in 2000 I thought of him as just another one, to sit in the White House for another four years and do nothing until a new one comes along.

All that was before I went to a Punk Voter concert, where great bands like Authority Zero, Alkaline Trio and NOFX played. Even more bands were on their "Rock Against Bush" CDs. Listening to the music made me want to know why everyone was so mad at Bush. I started to be more and more interested in the Iraq war and in the election. I started watching the news, reading newspapers, watching speeches on TV and listening to people’s opinions. I learned that Bush was never in combat. I heard people talking about lies, conspiracies, wars and greed. Who knew politics could be this interesting? It made me want to know what the lies were, and what was going on beneath the surface of the Bush administration.

When I saw the documentary Fahrenheit 9/11, I was really affected by it. It was a really intense movie criticizing the Bush administration. At one point, a mother whose son got killed in the war, read a letter that he wrote her before he died. That really hit me, because he was just a kid, like me and you. It seemed so unfair that he was dead, and that he had died for nothing, while I was sitting at home watching TV. I began to feel an obligation to the fallen soldiers to pay attention to politics, and keep us out of unnecessary wars.

Illustration by Larry Zamel, 17, Fairfax HS (Los Angeles)

But some people said that movie didn’t tell the whole story and it was just propaganda, trying to make Bush look bad. It made me feel mad, confused and frustrated, because I realize there’s probably more to Bush or Kerry than I know. I know that all my opinions are just based on other people’s opinions, so sometimes I wonder if I should say anything at all. Maybe I’m just a stupid kid, but I know a few things. I do know that there’s no "Rock Against Kerry" concert tour. I haven’t seen documentaries or books against Kerry, or actors and musicians who rise against him. I also would rather have a president who actually fought for this country and tried to make a difference instead of chickening out and not going.

I feel like Bush lied about the real reason for the war in Iraq. There were no weapons of mass destruction, so why did we invade? I think he wants Iraq’s oil. So when I hear about soldiers dying, it makes me really mad, because I know how it is to lose someone, so when people lose fathers and brothers for nothing, that’s when you know something is just not right.

That’s why I feel proud to say now that I do have a political opinion. I stand against Bush. And if someone like me can get a little politically involved, then anybody can. I’m not a documentary-watching, newspaper-reading person. I tend to live in my own world, but this is serious. This president, who is going to control us for the next four years, needs to be carefully chosen. So read more, listen more and think more. You should at least know a little, and when you’re old enough, start voting. We need all the help we can get.

Larry’s review of the Punk Voter concert

I have to admit, I did not go to the Punk Voter concert to be an informed voter. I went to see my favorite band, NOFX, which I have loved since I was a kid. When I had problems and no one to talk to, I used to lock myself in my room and listen to NOFX’s fast, happy punk rock on my earphones. I would get lost in the music and go off to somewhere else for a while, away from all my problems.

When I got to the concert at UC Riverside last April, I jammed through the crowd so I could get as close to the stage as I could. The first band was Authority Zero. I had never heard of them, but I became a fan instantly. Their music was like a combination of all the bands I like—Rancid, NOFX, Pennywise—fast, catchy, energetic punk. Their guitarist, Bill, cut his finger on the strings during the second song, but he kept on playing. Even though the guitar was sprayed with blood, he kept playing six more songs—how can you not love that?! The way they screamed and jumped around, their show was really insane. Their stage performance left me in shock.

In between bands, they showed us a film about politics, but I have to say I don’t remember much of it. Jello Biafra, the former Dead Kennedy’s singer, gave a speech about the dark side of the Bush administration. He warned us that if we don’t pay attention, we will be lied to and manipulated. He asked us, "Do you want to go to the Army and make Bush and Dick Cheney rich?"

But for me, the highlight of the night was NOFX. When they came out on stage, it was like seeing a ghost from my past. I screamed along with every song and I felt released, the same way I felt when I was younger. I still have the blue guitar pick I caught when their guitarist, El Hefe, threw some into the crowd. When they played their sarcastic song, "Murder the Government," the whole place started to mosh and get really chaotic. It was great.

After the show I was in a complete state of happiness for about a week. I still get a stupid grin on my face when I think about it. I told my friends about the show and they all wished they were there. (To all who could not be there, I recommend Punk Voter’s two fantastic compilations, Rock Against Bush Vol.1 and 2, which feature tons of unreleased songs and great bands like Bad Religion, Green Day and (of course) NOFX.) For more information, see punkvoter.com.