If you were a left leaning teenager going to high school in a conservative suburb in the U.S. in the 80’s you were surrounded by the cult of Reagan. It cannot be overstated enough just how much his racist, xenophobic and homophobic beliefs permeated society during that time. Woe onto you if you disliked Reagan and refused to join the cult. Because of ‘red scare’ tactics being a tried and true method to shut down voices on the left you would constantly be called a commie, and told that if you didn’t like his policies you should just leave the country.
Conformity was king, not only were you supposed to love Reagan you also had to look just like everybody else; perms, neon clothing, pastel clothing, tans, etc…were the standard that you were supposed to want to achieve. If you went outside of that box with your appearance you would get shit on not only by fellow students but by teachers and total strangers. In my senior year in 1988 I got my first shaved undercut, wore skull buckle pikes and applied a lot of black eyeliner. So, I got a lot of negative attention, with one teacher even telling me that if I dressed like everybody else I wouldn’t be bothered.
What helped me get through all of this shit was the music of the Dead Kennedys, and Bedtime For Democracy was my first taste of them. I don’t remember the year I bought this album but I think it was late 86 because I had this when I transferred schools in early 87. Songs such as Rambozo The Clown made me realise that I was not alone in my hate for Reagan and that it was totally okay to not want to conform to his cult. The music made me feel like I was a part of something that opposed social injustices and fascism. In other words it got me in touch with the way punk music can carry a important political message and speak for those who have no voice.
I don’t think I would have become politically active without this album and it fuelled my love for political punk music; something that I still care about and listen to. So, thank you Jello Biafra for helping me realize that I will never be alone in thinking that the Reagan administration was shit, and that not conforming to society should be praised and not scorned.