A Frank Take

Don’t Be An American Idiot

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Green Day warned us in 2004.

Author’s note: This column was written using song lyrics that represent my frustrations, concerns, and hopes about the the climate crisis, staggering inequality, and U.S. politics. I used this style in early 2020 (before COVID-19 struck) to write a column about the profound sadness I felt (and still do) for the world we take for granted.

From sea to shining sea, whitewashed upon the beach, my country under siege. When it’s all double-talk of conspiracy. We are not well.

Another protester has crossed the line to find the money’s on the other side. I beg to dream and differ from the hollow lies. Don’t wanna be an American idiot. I’m not a part of a redneck agenda.

I don’t need your civil war. It feeds the rich, while it buries the poor. Look at the world we’re killing. Look at the leaders we’ve followed. Look at the lies we’ve swallowed.

Save me, save me from tomorrow. I don’t want to sail with this ship of fools. I want to run and hide right now. There’s a lot on my back out at sea hopin’ these waves don’t cover me. I’m turned and tossed upon the waves. When the darkness comes, I feel the grave.

The beaten generation reared on a diet of prejudice and misinformation. We’re being sedated by the gasoline fumes.

I don’t want to bring a sour note. Remember this before you vote. We can all sink or we all float. ’Cause we’re all in the same big boat. One world is enough for all of us.

We got terrorist thinking, playing on fears. I don’t think there are any Russians. And there ain’t no Yanks. Just corporate criminals playin’ with tanks.

His father works some days for 14 hours. And you can bet, he barely makes a dollar. His mother goes to scrub the floors for many. And you’d best believe, she hardly gets a penny.

You’re working harder than ever now and the coffee sucks. You know Colombia and Kenya got too damn hot. The ocean’s rising and we’re all gonna drown.

Make me want to holler. And throw up both my hands. Yea, it make me want to holler. And throw up both my hands.

Now I’ve been crying lately. Thinkin’ about the world as it is. Why must we go on hating? Why can’t we live in bliss?

False lyin’. False preachin’. False teachin’. Wake up, y’all. Come on. The world won’t get no better if we just let it be. The world won’t get no better. We gotta change it yeah, just you and me.

Here’s to the teachers in the crowded rooms. Here’s to the workers in the field. Here’s to the doctors and their healing work. Here’s to the loved ones in their care. Here’s to the strangers on the streets tonight. Here’s to the lonely everywhere.

So people get ready. There’s a train a-comin’. You don’t need no baggage. You just get on board.

I won’t crawl on my knees for you. I won’t believe the lies that hide the truth. I won’t sweat one more drop for you. ’Cause we are the rust upon your gears. We are the insect in your ears. We crawl. We crawl. We crawl all over you. We sow seeds to see us through. Our days are precious and so few. We all reap what we are due. Under this sky no longer blue. We bring a dawn long overdue.

It has to start somewhere, it has to start sometime. What better place than here, what better time than now?

Here are the songs and the musicians from which the lyrics were borrowed: “The American Dream Is Killing Me,” Green Day (2024); “Holiday,” Green Day (2004); “American Idiot,” Green Day (2004); “Civil War,” Guns N’ Roses (1991); “Ship of Fools,” World Party (1986); “I Still Believe (Great Design),” The Call (1986); “The Beat(en) Generation,” The The (1989); “One World (Not Three),” The Police (1981); “The Walls Came Down,” The Call (1983); “Living for the City,” Stevie Wonder (1973); “Making Do,” Lake Street Dive (2021); “Proxima B,” Ben Gibbard (2020); “Inner City Blues,” Marvin Gaye (1971); “Peace Train,” Cat Stevens (1971, although I prefer the 1987 version by the 10,000 Maniacs); “Wake Up Everybody,” Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (1975); “Let The Day Begin,” The Call (1989); “People Get Ready,” The Impressions (1965); “Re-Education (Through Labor),” Rise Against (2008); “Guerrilla Radio,” Rage Against the Machine (1999).

Frank Carini can be reached at [email protected]. His opinions don’t reflect those of ecoRI News. He can’t sing or play an instrument.

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  1. The first time I heard living for the city in 1973 was the first time I ever smoked what in those days was reAlly high test weed. The song and experience are still with me 51 years later. An amazing song and political commentary

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