The most difficult part of having an infant in your house is that you can’t really leave her alone. If it’s just her and I at home, and I need to make food or take a shower, I need to think very carefully about how and where she’ll be safe if I put her down. Soon we’ll need to start thinking about who we will trust to care for her when we’re at work or (gasp) out doing something fun and adults-only. The first time I left her in her swing so I could take a shower it nearly broke my heart (not to mention filling me with not a little bit of anxiety). I put this record on.
Two separate threads come to mind: one is the question of who we trust to protect and educate this little creature that we brought into the world. The second is why Fugazi were so seriously exhilarating. These two threads are intertwined.
Every parent comes to understand certain basics about entrusting other people with childcare. There are limits to what you can control. For example, regardless of what rules or boundaries you establish as parents, there will be at least one grandparent who will try to spoil your child rotten behind your back. But having someone feeding your daughter extra dessert once every 2 months is not really a serious problem. I’m more concerned with values. I know that this word gets thrown around a lot by religious conservatives and other frightful people, but it’s an important word regardless. It’s much deeper than politics, at the intersection of heart and head, the crossroads of compassion and intellect. I mean it in the sense of a core set of beliefs about how to treat others and how to have faith in oneself in a culture that supports selfishness and superficiality. I’ve already heard too many stories of parents discovering that one of their babysitters has been teaching their child something that they object to. Of course the world will eventually throw plenty of disturbing ideas in her direction, and she will need to learn how to filter and make decisions for herself, but it’s another thing altogether to have someone you trust indoctrinating your child with silly bullshit. For example, I don’t want traditional gender roles reinforced by a relative or babysitter, there’s quite enough of that outside of our doors. Also, we’re raising our daughter vegetarian because of deeply held beliefs: opposition to cruelty and violence, perspectives about humans’ place in the world, our understanding of the economic and environmental consequences of meat production, and of course, the impact on our health. What if we leave her with a relative or babysitter for the day who decides, as I’ve heard so many times, that “a child can’t really thrive without meat,” and feeds her some? Not the end of the world, I know, but upsetting to me nonetheless, and a pretty serious violation of trust. Maybe all of this is unavoidable, especially once children are in school, but I want to believe that we can take responsibility for teaching our child values that we hold dear, and to some degree protect her, for a few years at least, from some of the wretched things that are reinforced by the world we live in. I believe that how we raise children is one of the ways we build a better world.
Now, on to the mighty Fugazi. If I were to pick one set of songwriters who I’d trust to pass knowledge on to a young child, it would be the genius tag-team of Ian MacKaye, Guy Picciotto, Brendan Canty, and Joe Lally. Seriously, for well over a decade, any time we might be tempted to become embarrassed of punk rock, or to entertain the notion that we’d somehow outgrown it, Fugazi would release something new, and we would be reminded of the potential to create something beautiful, intelligent and challenging out of instruments and outrage. I really believe that they defended the covenant of punk and DIY for years; not only with the music they made, but also with the way they conducted (and refused to conduct) business. They were like our wise uncles, our radical clergy or even our cool babysitters, showing us a world of possibility. The band was about music and ideas, not merchandise. As a result, they didn’t make or sell t-shirts. Shows were always all-ages and inexpensive, and there were no secrets about how money was handled. They took responsibility for violence at their shows, calling it out and policing it, and more than a few times refunding the door price to some overly-aggressive macho drunk and escorting him out, even when they were playing large venues. They were men singing about sexism, punks critiquing the assumptions and rituals of our subculture, D.C. residents showing us a glimpse of life in the capital. They defied the musical and behavioral conventions of the day and could’ve cared less about whether they made enemies or friends doing so. The first time I ever played a show in Europe was opening for Fugazi in Prague in 1995. The band walked it like they talked it onstage and off, honest, accessible and generous to the last. They lent us cables and straps because we lost some crucial luggage, and I watched Ian deal with the promoter and the show accounting in the lobby of the venue, out in the open, setting aside a large amount of money for a community arts center they had encountered on the way. Values. The experience has informed how I’ve thought about being in a band ever since, underscoring the importance of ideas and actions as well as music. This particular album seems to be nobody else’s favorite, but I love it. It closes with one of my favorite anthems ever.
Hot Track: “KYEO”
Words To Live By: “Don’t you know that things have settled down but silence is a dangerous sound, we must, we must, we must keep our eyes open…the tools they will be swinging, but we will not be beaten down.”