WireTap  
comments_image Comments

The Sanity is Contagious

WireTap speaks with Anti-Flag's Justin Sane about patriotism, community and the second round of the Rock Against Bush tour.
 
 
Share
 

When it comes to engaging new voters, PunkVoter just won’t quit. Their second Rock Against Bush compilation has already sold over 70,000 copies and has climbed to the top of the College Music Charts. The coalition of over 200 bands has already registered and motivated a whole new round of listeners and will-be voters. And now the punks are going back on tour.

This time, the tour is being lead by Anti-Flag, the Pittsburgh-based punk band that has been urging young listeners to question authority and take action since 1988. At the helm of Anti-Flag is Justin Sane, the permanently 19-yr-old sometimes solo artist and political activist who appears, over a decade into the band’s history, as ready as ever to change the world.

Along with Anti-Flag, the tour will also include Midtown, Strike Anywhere, and Mike Park.

“This tour is about motivating punk voters to learn more, take action, and make their voices heard” says Sane. To make this happen, PunkVoter will be working with many local organizations and holding educational events, bringing in guest speakers, and showing movie screenings throughout the country to educate and motivate its members.

WireTap caught up with Justin Sane just days before he and his band were heading to Portland Ore., where the tour is kicking off on Sept. 17 at the Roseland Theater.

Q: In the press materials for this second round of Rock Against Bush tour, PunkVoter mentions the “punk community” several times. Can you tell me how you see the punk community?

A: Well, the community I feel I belong to centers around music, to a large degree, but I think overall what draws a lot of people is the idealism and the visionary perspective of the punk scene.

What I love about the community is the fact that that it is very accepting of my faults, as well as my good points. It’s not the kind of thing where you’re gonna be judged by your appearance. It’s also made up of people who believe in being good to each other, and to people over all.

Q: How is this second round of the Rock Against Bush Tour different than the first?

Well, the bands are different, for one. I think many of the bands are more overtly political. I also think there’s more of an urgency. If you look at the polls they show Bush leading Kerry by as much as 10 points in some places. So we’re looking to reach people who have never voted, who pollsters aren’t talking to.

We’re not endorsing John Kerry. But we are certainly endorsing anybody but George W. Bush and John Kerry is the one with the best chance of doing that. The way I see it, if things go well, in 4 years John Kerry will be the one we’ll be trying to get out of office. I see Kerry as a stepping stone.

I voted for Nader 4 years ago and I still feel that the issues he’s addressing, especially trade, healthcare, the environment – almost every progressive issue and the things I truly care about – fall in line with what he stands for.

But I do believe that there are things about Kerry that are better than Bush. A woman’s right to choose, for instance, will be in serious jeopardy if Bush gets elected.

The next president will have the opportunity to appoint 2 Supreme Court justices in the next four years and the Supreme Court makes that decision (about abortion). Bush has also gutted the EPA. And I don’t think Kerry will be incredible [for the environment], but he will be better. Kerry’s platform is based on militarism and I’m not for militarism, so I prefer to see electing him as an important step to take now, versus an end-all, be-all solution.

Q: How do this album and tour fit into the larger picture of the political work that you and Anti-Flag have done in the past?

I was born into a political family. My parents were activists, so I grew up going to demonstrations. It just made sense for me to be in a punk rock band. Punk rock spoke to a lot of issues I cared about.

Anti-Flag has been involved in numerous anti-war events. We also co-founded an organization called Underground Action Alliance, to help get punk kids involved in activism. In October, for instance, we’re going to be doing a student’s rights workshop where we’ll be informing students about what they can do to protect their rights – because when they walk into a school their rights don’t go away.

One thing you’re doing when you’re touring is establishing a relationship with people who listen to your music and feel the same as the way you feel about the world. You’re putting a face behind the message, making the message more personalized, and a stronger message.

One show isn’t going to change the world but what it does do is it solidifies the community and strengthens the community. Because it reminds people that they’re not alone… that there are other people willing to back the beliefs they have.

And in America right now, where it feels like we live in a police state under the PATRIOT Act, this is really important.

Q: What would you say to youth who don’t traditionally listen to punk music and may need a little help becoming more engaged?

We know that people’s tastes vary. So what we always say at our shows is we don’t care what your hairstyle looks like and we don’t care about your sexual preference or what music you listen to. What we care about are the ideas in your head.

For young people overall, whether or not they listen to punk rock, I encourage them to be informed. That was why we started Underground Action Alliance. Being active isn’t a competition. Everybody has to participate to the point that they can. And that might just mean talking to a friend about an issue.

Q: Where is the second round of Rock Against Bush tour going? Are you touring in swing states?

The only state we’re going to that is not a swing state is California, and that’s mostly based on geography. We have to go through California between Oregon and Nevada. Anti-Flag also did the Warped tour earlier this summer. Warped is a very mainstream tour and our reason for doing it was to reach an audience that doesn’t normally hear the kind of things we have to say. We talked about the draft, we took polls on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and we talked about the Bush administration’s policies.

This tour is kind of a follow-up tour. We’re trying to excite people about following through [in November].

Q: We hear a lot about conservative values in the country. What would you say are the core values behind the progressive punk agenda?

The main concept is to treat people with respect and understand that it’s OK for people to feel and think differently than you do. It comes down to tolerance and treating people like human beings because, after all, that’s who we are. That’s the message of Anti-Flag – that we’re not nationalities, we’re not flags, we’re human beings.

A lot of these huge multi-nationals who often play on patriotism as a way to control people, they have no allegiance to any flag. And the people who are connected to those countries – people like Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and G.W. Bush – they also manipulate people with patriotism, but ultimately they have no allegiance to their fellow human beings. They’re running a campaign based on patriotism and fear.

Q: What are the core issues that will get young people voting this fall?

Health care would be a good start. Over 43 million Americans are without healthcare and a lot of them are young.

The war in Iraq – the fact that [the current administration] has a track record of invading countries…you hear the same rumblings about Iran that you did about Iraq. I believe that if Bush gets elected he will try to invade Iran and maybe Syria and maybe North Korea.

If you don’t want to find your feet in a pair of combat boots, you better go out and vote. As a far as jobs that pay a living wage – or the serious lack of them, I’d certainly think that that is an issue.

A lot of young people don’t see any future for them as far as a job or a career. We talk to kids all the time who feel like they have no future. I think that’s tragic. Young people should be excited about the future.

Live in a swing state? Visit the Punkvoter site to learn more about when the Rock Against Bush tour will be in your neck of the woods