Rage vs Love: Life Lessons Taught by Green Day

Posted: November 9, 2016 by Jaden C. Kilmer in Uncategorized
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Rage vs Love. The heart shaped like a hand grenade

Well, it happened. The elephant in the room today is, well, the elephant soon to be in this room. Someone more than half the country did not vote for and therefore, a lot of people, including the people at this blog, are angry.

I, personally, reverted back to my twelve year old self. I loaded up American Idiot and blasted it. Next up in queue, 21st Century Breakdown.

And as I listen to these albums, which in many ways are emblematic of the political culture the last time the president was from the GOP, I’m realizing they have a number of lessons about life and politics.


A common critique of the two albums is the vagueness of the lyrics, sometimes bordering on word salad. But today, that vagueness allows American Idiot to feel relevant to 2016 in addition to 2004. Yeah, Billie Joe isn’t singing about iPhones and ISIS and Harambe, but he’s pointing out issues that remain in today’s society.

The first half of American Idiot is a fiery, fervent dismissal of 2000’s politics that sounds a lot like 2010’s politics.

Don’t want a nation under the new media/And can you hear the sound of hysteria?


Welcome to a new kind of tension/All across the alienation/Where everything isn’t meant to be OK


Don’t want to be an American Idiot/One nation controlled by the media/Information age of hysteria/It’s calling out to Idiot America

Well, they called it. Our new president is the man who got by far the most air time from the media. A guy who got political advice straight from straight from the head of a huge media corporation. The guy who consistently channeled hysteria and paranoia en route to a resounding electoral win.

Holiday continues the political talk, and while it gets a little bit more specific to the Bush age, with references to the Iraq War, warns off the power of money in politics.

Another protester has crossed the line to find/The money’s on the other side.

And the satirical monologue near the end?

Bombs away is your punishment. Criticize the Eiffel Towers who criticize your government. Bang bang goes the broken glass and kill all the fags who don’t agree.

The reference to the French government’s refusal to back the Iraq War and struggle for marriage equality are things of the past. But what’s important is the message the satire paints. A warning of a government who reacts first with violence or anger against even a disagreement, or someone who is different to the sense of what’s “normal.”


So that settles it. Green Day says get up and riot and protest, yes? Let’s do it!

But not so fast. Because the story of American Idiot is actually a heartbreaker about a man caught up in his own righteousness and anger. Above all else, American Idiot is about how normal people can lose themselves and lose sight of their values.

In American Idiot and Holiday, the protagonist sets out to San Francisco to protest and be a rebel against the Bush administration. Along the way he falls in love with another protester and adopts a whole new alter ego- a punk rock, drug dealing, riot-inciting rebel known as St. Jimmy.

But he ends up getting wrapped up in that persona. He loses sight of the initial goal and becomes essentially a rebel without a cause. In the end, the girl (whose name he can never remember) leaves him because he lost himself along the way. He stopped fighting what he set out to fight.

Where have all the bastards gone? (…) Where have all the riots gone?


The town bishop’s an extortionist/And he don’t even know you exist/Standing still when it’s do or die/You better run for your fucking life


St. Jimmy is a figure of/Your father’s rage and your mother’s love

And that line right there is the central theme to the whole story. Rage versus love. Whatsername embodies rage, but shows a capacity for love at the same time. St. Jimmy starting out as a balance between the two, but eventually gives in to his father’s rage and becomes just generally angry rather than productively so. His retreat into drugs as his solace rather than action is what causes whatsername to abandon him. And eventually, she settles down somewhere and St. Jimmy is left to pick up the pieces and find himself again.

Rage and Love are not mutually exclusive.

People have a right to be enraged right now. But that rage must be properly directed. And Love must, in the end, win. Revolutions are born of love and die of hate. We are angry because Love lost, and in the next four years we must always remember that, lest we end up rebels without a cause.




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