I’m So Bored with the USA

From middle school onward, my favorite band was The Clash. Their revolutionary insights and expressions about history, politics, and society were so absolutely essential in my waking up from slumber in suburban NJ, USA during the late 70s and through the end of the 1980s. They served almost like a gospel for my emergence from sleepwalking conformity into the practice of waking up to some more transcendent consciousness within/without. I tended to just really like one or two bands very very intensely, and not have a lot of records or interests here and there in music. There were the things that really moved my soul — and it had to move the brain as much as anything else — and there was everything else. The Clash moved me in ways from intelligence to passion and a gnawing realization that I was existing in a profoundly unjust world.

The Clash informed my politics very deeply — the orientation of my political views (while much more capaciously informed, I would hope!) have probably not changed since, in terms of the basic direction, from the way they were pointed by The Clash’s hard edge of insight. (Them and a whole lot of Catholic liberalism and activism, and two very progressive-oriented religion teachers I had in St. Joseph’s High School — Bob Morton and Ted Kean.) But I owe a great debt to the music of The Clash for being around when I was shaping views about history and politics and society. Getting involved with CISPES in college (“the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador”) got me an FBI file when we later learned that they had been surveilling our weekly meetings in Bethel Chapel. And then the two years of activism protesting apartheid in South Africa, which led to two arrests — one of which was spent some hours in a city jail cell with Cornel West — was all of this set on noisy track by the driving energy and passion and sincerity of revolutionary spirit of The Clash.

How sad it is to realize, during a worldwide pandemic in 2020 — with all of this craziness, this false-religious anti-science ignorance, the gun-toting, planet-devouring faux lifestyle of hyper-consumption that has gotten the world addicted to the raping and death of our natural ecosystem as a matter of course — how breathtakingly sad to realize again that these lyrics have not become “dated,” but actually express my only possible space of reaction to the current polarized, no mask/mask, guns/no guns, science/no science, two-party spiritual and cultural and political asphyxiation. (I am the latter in every case, it goes without saying.) It is not a little dispiriting to know that the lyrics of one of your most animating punk-rock anthems are still the best expression one can muster up today, some 30 or 40 years later.

It all comes from the most cynical abuse of religion that perhaps any people has ever perpetuated for such a sustained length of human history: unapologetically mercantile from its very inception as a set of corporate-run colony outposts, from the slaves at its founding, through nearly continuous war, through the genocide of a native people, to the buying and selling of the human spirit for corporate gain, a rapacious, demonic prosperity gospel which has been foisted down the throat of a fragile biosphere.

“Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr (1849)

“I’m So Bored with the U.S.A.” [lyrics]

Yankee soldier
He want to shoot some skag
He met it in Cambodia, but now
He can’t afford a bag

Yankee dollar talk
To the dictators of the world
In fact it’s giving orders
An’ they can’t afford to miss a word

I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?

Yankee detectives
Are always on the TV
‘Cause killers in America work
Seven days a week
Never mind the stars and stripes
Let’s print the Watergate Tapes
I’ll salute the New Wave
And I hope nobody escapes

I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
I’m so bored with the U.S.A.
But what can I do?

Move up, Starsky
For the C.I.A.
Suck on Kojak
For the USA