We spent the last week watching the endless memorials and reading the endless editorials marking the death of former President Ronald Reagan just like everyone else (eyes closed, teeth clenched, in a state of near-disbelief at the collective amnesia brought on out of sympathy, perhaps, with the departed Gipper’s own long-diminished faculties). But through the lulling fog of hagiography, we did happen to notice that so far no one seems to have commented on what we, down here at street level, are compelled to regard as the only truly positive legacy to be handed down from what many of us still remember as Reagan’s long reign of error: the golden age (one golden age, anyhow) of the American independent rock scene. Remember The Minutemen? Remember Hüsker Dü? Remember Minor Threat? Remember Rock Against Reagan? Music journalist Michael Azerrad, author of Our Band Could Be Your Life, certainly does, and he used that book, in part, to build a case that the Reagan years (AIDS, Iran/Contra, etc.) provided fertile turf for the sprouting of a generation of politically angry homegrown rock that changed the course of American music—and, if rock mythology is to be believed, the lives and leanings of America’s youthful DIY rock followers.
Giving oppressive Reaganism full credit for such an artistic blossoming may be overstating the case for mere coincidence, but hey, that hasn’t stopped Reagan’s neo-con fan club from pushing the myth that their boy Ronnie personally tore down the Berlin Wall with his own two hands.
And the fact remains that there was no Rock Against Clinton—rock and roll as a voting bloc being generally pro-blow job—leading to eight long years during which there was little for music fans to do but watch the paint dry on Madonna’s remodel into Britney. Now we’ve got a new oppressor—Bush as Reagan, new and devolved. Isn’t it about time for some new Minutemen?
Gay cooties ran rampant at the polling places on June 8, when Montanans for Families and Fairness (who oppose a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage), came into contact with the Montana Family Foundation (proponents of the amendment). Short of a queer quarantine, participants, like skittish schoolchildren, employed several tried and true methods of keeping the gay-bug away. First is the simple verbal declaration: Call those who look gay or have recently strayed within queer range “fag.” Chad Pulfer, who served as poll captain at C.S. Porter, encountered his anti-gay polling counterpart a day after the primaries and was greeted with the playground taunt. Another way to keep the gaypidemic from spreading: keep conversations with gays and friendlies to a minimum. At C.S. Porter, says Pulfer, the two groups ended communications after an admonition from one gay marriage opponent: “I’d be more comfortable if you didn’t talk with me.” Thirdly, enlist the help of law enforcement. At the College of Technology, Pat Rosenleaf and her husband, both retired high school teachers, were handing out leaflets opposing the proposed ban on gay marriage. At around 7 p.m., two cops and a sheriff arrived. “We thought maybe there was a serial killer at the [polls],” says Rosenleaf. “Imagine our surprise,” she says, when the officers converged on the Rosenleafs themselves. Police, on behalf of an unidentified election judge, apologetically asked the couple to step outside the polling place, she says. Those collecting signatures in favor of banning gay marriage, however, stayed inside. Montanans for Families and Fairness reports that one volunteer heard the following comment at the Missoula County Courthouse: “You’re more normal-looking than the rest of them; you should know better.” Word of warning: Looks can be deceiving.