Meet Dr. Ron Lee, A Dead Kennedys, Anti-Flag & Bernie Fan Running For The Virginia Legislature
Alas, You Won't Come Across Too Many Candidates Like Dr. Lee
Dr. Ron Lee is running for the Virginia House of Delegates this year (District 86), in a swing district that includes a bit of York County (23.7% of the district) plus blue Hampton City (60.1% of the district) and red Poquoson City (16.1%). The district went for Youngkin (R) over McAuliffe (D) in 2021 (54.2% to 45.0%) but for Tim Kaine (D) over Stewart (R) in the 2018 Senate race. Trump narrowly edged Hillary in 2016 but Northam edged Gillespie in 2017. Like I said, a swing district. A.C. Cordoza is the Republican incumbent. Lee is a first-time candidate and a thorough progressive. He’s a proponent of gun safety measures, the right of workers to unionize, believes in scientific integrity and evidence-based policymaking and is for policies that guarantee affordable healthcare to all Virginians.
He grew up in Germany and told me many of his relatives still live there. “They have humble jobs that somehow give them more expendable income than I have,” he told me, “and I am quite envious of their medical care and employment protection laws. It is a daily frustration to me that many Americans have no idea how much better their lives could be if they only voted for their own interest. I view Bernie, Elizabeth Warren or AOC as the bare minimum standard of what a democrat should be fighting for as a politician in the richest nation in the world. Unfortunately, in a nation hell-bent on following demagogues, the rational voices get drowned out by fearful rhetoric, politicized media, and wealthy lobbyist who are able to skew the narrative against those able to give us a better life, equality, and EQUITY.”
Lee is the most recent candidate endorsed by Blue America for the Virginia legislature. You can find all of them here and, you can also contribute to Ron Lee’s campaign or any of their campaigns on that page as well.
Learning to Listen, My Love for Punk
-by Dr. Ron Lee
“Die Artze” and “Die Toten Hosen” rocked the soundtrack of my childhood. German punk rock bands sang amazing songs with the occasional bad word that we would repeat on the playground to show our friends how edgy we were. It was music our parents hated and didn’t understand, which made it even edgier. We made mohawks out of our proper haircuts, sported Levi’s jeans, and LA Gear light up shoes. We had no idea what we were listening to, but it was awesome! A few years later my mom took me to the states, I learned English and was eventually introduced to Bad Religion, The Ramones, Sex Pistols, Pennywise, NOFX, and the Dead Kennedys. Let me tell you, if “Schrei Nach Liebe” was edgy, Dead Kennedy’s Too Drunk to F&$# was on another level, in another world, inside a jagged universe. If my parents knew I was listening to the Dead Kennedys, if they knew who I was hanging out with, if they knew about Jello Biafra, if they knew I had an anarchy patch on my school backpack, they probably would have grounded me for life.
As I grew up, I started listening to more music I enjoyed and less of what my friends were pushing on me. However, my childhood favorites were foundational to my future taste in music. I identified as a punk, I also identified as a conservative despite my leftist views. A conservative punk? That is a recipe for cognitive dissonance, and cognitive dissonance was about to hit me real hard. Despite loving WIZO and their antifascist music, Campino’s rants about social justice, Bad Religion’s deep lyrics (I needed a dictionary, I am not responsible for Greg Graffin’s vocabulary), Jello Biafra and his spoken word CDs, Rage Against the Machine and the truth Zack de la Rocha and Tom Morello would spit, System of a Down and Serj Tankian’s self-titled albums destroying Bush’s politics, I had never stopped to LISTEN to the meaning of the words I was singing. Words mean things, and that meaning was about to be explained to me in the most uncomfortable way by Billie Joe Armstrong.
Nurnberg Germany, June 4th, 2005: I am in the Air Force and stationed in Germany, I am one of a handful of Americans at the Rock-im-Park festival. Green Day was killing it! After finishing a song, Billie Joe said, “F$@% George Bush and F#$@ the war in Iraq”, he then went on a rant about US politics, and I was left speechless. How could he? How could I not have known? The next song was "American Idiot," and it was probably the first time I ever realized that the bands I have been LISTENING to had a message. An uncomfortable message. An anti-American message? Do I still like this music? Am I a traitor? I have friends that died in Iraq, am I dishonoring their memory? How dare he tell Germans about his beliefs and about the country I am willing to die for (Anti-Flag’s "Die For Your Government" song starts playing in my head as I write this).
It took me years to understand; it took me seeing pain and suffering, it took the loss of my religion, it took too many people of color being slaughtered in the streets, it took to many people dying in a failed healthcare system, it took Fortune 100 companies receiving bailouts while kids were starving in our schools, but eventually I understood; eventually I dropped that “cultural” title of conservative and embraced the bleeding heart liberal I always was. Political punk rock isn’t a hatred of America; it is the opposite. It is cognitive dissonance in 3-minute doses designed to make the listener come to terms with the country they love, their motivated reasoning that keep problematic structures in place, and the reality of the broken fabric of our society. Punk rock is a vaccine against fascism; vaccines work best before the host is infected though. I would argue that punk rock also provides a blueprint to cure other groups and demographics, to help them clean up their own house. A few examples to support this claim:
Nazi Punks F&%@ Off – Dead Kennedys
Nazi punks Nazi punks Nazi punks, F#$@ off! Nazi punks Nazi punks Nazi punks, F#$@ off!
This Machine Kills Fascists – Anti-Flag
You don't have to be a racist to be a nazi F@#$
Your mindless nationalism gives you credentials enough
You spew your right wing rhetoric when we got your attention
You've mistaken the punk scene for the republican convention
No more infiltration, no more right wing lies
You don't belong in our scene
We'll fight you 'til we die
Schrei Nach Liebe - Die Artzte
Deine Gewalt ist nur ein stummer Schrei nach Liebe, / Your violence is just a silent cry for love,
Deine Springerstiefel sehnen sich nach Zärtlichkeit, / your combat boots are looking for tenderness,
Du hast nie gelernt dich zu artikulieren, / you never learned to articulate yourself,
Und deine Eltern hatten niemals für dich Zeit / and your parents never had time for you.
(Combat boots at that time meant Neo-Nazi in Germany, they wore black boots with white laces and were the epitome of a trash human, similar to the US Nazi Punks)
Ganz Klar Gegen Nazis - Wizo
Ich bin ganz klar gegen Nazis ohne jede Diskussion, / I am clearly against Nazis without the need for any discussion,
Es gibt für braune Scheiße keine Legitimation, / there is no legitimacy for brown Shit,
Rechts ist keine Meinung, sondern hirnlos, dummer Müll, / Right is not an opinion, rather just brainless trash,
Keine Fußbreit den Faschisten, scheißegal, wie laut sie brüllen. / No platform for the Fascist, regardless of how loud they yell.
In the early 1980s Punk Rock began having a Nazi problem and it made everyone look bad. If you already look different based on your style and listen to “violent” music, the last thing you need is some racist dirt bags making life harder on you. Punk rock made these stains on society persona non-grata; every group in America providing quarter or comfort to white supremacist could drive them out, it has been done before! Woody Guthrey coined, “The Machine that Kills Fascists” in reference to his guitar; artist like Tom Morello, Justin Sane, Pussy Riot and many others are charging full speed ahead to make people feel just uncomfortable enough to force them to LISTEN; because sometimes, it takes people being offended to enable them to LISTEN.
LISTENING is something that has become very important in my life as I try to dig deeper in a quest to better understand the art I love so much. Did you know that the Godmother of German Punk, Nina Hagen’s Du Hast Den Farb Film Vergessen had such a profound influence on former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that she had the Bundeswehr (German Army) play it for her retirement? Did you know that Nena’s 99 Luftballons was about two trigger happy defense ministers that ended the world because they thought 99 Red Balloons were fighter jets entering their airspace? Imagine the power of that song in Cold War Europe! 99 Red Balloons was never meant to be a fun karaoke song. Take a minute and LISTEN to KRS One’s Stop the Violence, Jon Lennon’s Imagine, Otis Redding’s (Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay, Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee and CCR’s Fortunate Son. Was there meaning you didn’t pick up on before? Take a moment and look at Banksy’s art (below), he tells a story in every picture, you just have to LISTEN! Misinformation, disinformation, News Entertainment Networks, opinion columns, paid op-eds, billionaire owned newspapers, special interest groups influencing political rhetoric, and idiots everywhere unable to reason themselves out of the unreasonable are all part of our daily lives, yet there is some grounded truth out there capable of teaching us about the dirty reality of our society. Just LISTEN!
After LISTENING for most of my life, I realized that punk rock is so much more than everything I have written about in this article because punk rock is actually much less than I led you to believe. Punk rock is a messed up mohawk made from your “normal haircut” while sporting Levi Jeans and LA Gear light up shoes. Punk rock contains important diatribes and the occasional “whoooo ooooo oooo hoooo hoooo” that the entire crowd howls making you feel that spiritual awakening many people associate with a church revival. Punk rock is an education of how the world works, how we struggle, and how we want to go through life. Punk rock is protesting Occupy Wall Street with an acoustic guitar, punk rock is Donald Glover pushing gun violence and race relations into the mainstream, punk rock is picking you up when you fall, punk rock is getting a Ph.D and studying HIV or Evolutionary Biology while rocking a show in a professional haircut and a polo shirt while profusely pointing at people. Punk rock is less about a music style and more about a shared societal concern for others, while simultaneously allowing You To Be You!... if you are not a racist fascist nationalist of course.