Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Donald Drumpf, Bernie Sanders and Kurt Cobain

Connecting the dots between Bernie and 'Nevermind'

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2016 at 1:57 PM

click to enlarge Bernie Sanders at Roosevelt High School - PHIL ROEDER
  • Phil Roeder
  • Bernie Sanders at Roosevelt High School

[EDITOR'S NOTE: In keeping with John Oliver's recent suggestion on his Last Week Tonight program that we all #MakeDonaldDrumpfAgainaldDrumpfAgain — Drumpf was the original Trump family name — we’re going along. If Dan Savage can singlehandedly create a “Google problem” for Rick Santorum, the least we can do is try and help take a xenophobic racist “billionaire” down a few pegs.]

Whatever the outcome of this year's presidential election, one thing has already become evident to me: The damage caused by Donald Drumpf's irresponsible and racist provocations has already begun to take root.

Indiana received a taste of what Donald Drumpf's America might hold after a mosque in Plainfield was vandalized with anti-Islamic graffiti. It's a dark and uncertain time in America, particularly for religious and ethnic minorities.

The only thing that gives me hope in this bleak political landscape is the candidacy of former Independent and current Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders. As depressing as it's been these last several months to live under the specter of Donald Drumpf's ignorant – and after his refusal to disavow David Duke this weekend, possible white supremacist-adjacent – platitudes, I've received inspiration in equal measure from the success of Sanders' campaign for social equality. Against heavy odds Sanders burst into the primary season as a formidable contender for the Democratic nomination against tough competition from longtime party favorite Hillary Clinton.

RELATED: Read David Hoppe's endorsement of Bernie Sanders 
Sanders' unexpected push into the forefront of the American psyche reminds me of an unforgettable pop culture moment from my own adolescence.

No one expected Nirvana's Nevermind LP to make a dent on the Billboard album charts. But in one of the great coups in rock and roll history the album rocketed to Billboard's number one spot in January of 1992, just a few months after its release in September of '91. If you weren't around to absorb the atmosphere of popular rock and roll culture during the era that preceded Nevermind, it might be difficult to understand exactly how unexpected and revolutionary the album's ascendancy was.

During the late 1980s, popular rock music had hit a real low point. Instantly forgettable hair metal acts like Winger and Nelson were cranking out stale, saccharin, artistically void power ballads and what these tunes lacked in compositional skill was compensated for in grossly overwrought studio production sheen.

As terrible as the final product was, these glossy impersonations of rock and roll ruled the radio dial.

If the music itself weren't bad enough, the lyrical themes were often worse. Mindless misogyny was the order of the day. Warrant's "Cherry Pie," with its accompanying sexist video, provides a typical example.

Not content to wallow in the degradation of women alone, one of the most critically respected bands of the day, Guns 'N Roses, attempted to give mainstream acceptability to expressions of blatant racism and homophobia. The lyrics of the band's "One In A Million" off their hit LP GN'R Lies lamented the existence of "niggers," "immigrants" and "faggots."

Corporate execs heading the big record labels had perfected a moneymaking formula with hair metal, and, at the time, it seemed nothing would stop them from continuing the scheme in perpetuity.

It was in this morally regressive and musically hopeless environment that Nirvana's Nevermind arrived. Initially, the album received very little media support, its reputation grew largely through eager word of mouth praise from music fans tired of the same recycled hair metal tropes. The record's growth in popularity came through grassroots support.

Nirvana's raw, stripped-down aesthetic challenged everything the hair metal era represented. Cobain's anguished, caustic howl rendered the pubescent fantasies of hair metal into an embarrassment.

For me, the most important element Nirvana brought to the world of mainstream rock was the injection of Cobain's humanist values. Cobain celebrated the work of women and LGBT artists, and spoke out against racism and the corrupting influences of corporate music culture. Nirvana brought progressive change to the consciousness of an entire generation of rock and roll listeners.

While there are vast worlds of difference in the machinations of politics and the music biz, it gives me some comfort to remember that sudden and unexpected progress is possible. But this sort of progress can't happen on its own. Right now, we need every capable citizen of consciousness to begin acting immediately to thwart the cancerous campaign of fear and hatred promoted by Donald Drumpf.

For me the best political option in this fight is Bernie Sanders.

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