“armagideon time” – willie williams (1979)

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This past weekend, I attended a Bernie Sanders rally in Chicago.  The crowd had met at Daley Plaza where several guest speakers were scheduled to address the crowd before marching down La Salle towards the Chicago Board of Trade.  This was my first official political rally in years.  The last ones I had attended were minor campus ones when I was still in college.  It was 2008, and Barack Obama was the front-runner to the Democratic nominee to run against John McCain.  I was only 19 and this was to be my first presidential election.  The feeling of engaging in the political process on a national level was electric.  After eight years of war, America was ready for a change “Yes we can” became the slogan for young people wanting to make a difference.  Promises were made and we held tightly to them like emotional life rafts.  Eight years later, the political landscape has change drastically becoming more extreme. Continued wars, new wars, the National Security Agency, bailouts, recession, political gridlock, and denied equal rights were to follow.  The tone had changed from “Yes we can” to “Maybe we could.”

I have personally changed a lot in the last eight years.  Finishing college, moving to Chicago, and getting my first real jobs were all experiences that shape your outlook.  On your own, you tend to be more practical and pragmatic.  When it was only Hillary Clinton who seemed like the only viable contender in the 2016 race, I wasn’t mad.  At this point, the liberals had seemingly no options, but one option was better than what the other side had to offer.  I was never really fond of Clinton, but I knew I needed to vote for her when the time came.

In recent months, I had changed my outlook on the race and have committed my vote in the primaries for Bernie Sanders.  However, I do so with some reservation.  Sanders has become increasingly popular in the last year and has transitioned from being a fringe candidate to a contender for the Democratic nomination.  His opponents view him as a socialist, but he s a Democratic socialist.  He is pushing for single-payer healthcare, free college education, immigration reform, equal rights for LGBT, reorganizing Wall Street, and other ideas that give power back to the people.  Clinton has voiced some support for these ideas, but in a more conservative way.  Perhaps it would be fair to say in a more practical way.  The game of politics can be very slow and promoting sweeping change on a grand scale can be very scary for people even if it will serve to benefit them.  Jumping on board with an idea is like jumping into a pool; some people need to warm their toes first.

Despite my support of Sanders, I am skeptical.  I am remembering my 19 year-old self when I voted for Obama the first time.  I would eventually vote for him again in 2012, but I have since become disappointed in him.  I don’t want that in my support for Sanders because I want to believe.

The Sanders rally was really emotional, but positive.  The speakers were diverse and passionate.  One woman made a strong stance for immigration reform because she had a husband who was deported.  A friend of Laquan McDonald provided youthful energy and vigor demanding racial justice and peace.  When we marched, there was no violence or destruction.  People were angry, but an anger that fueled positive change because this is what democracy looked like.

It seems with each new election, people talk more and more about the end of days.  That if the candidate they hate gets elected, then it will bring about the end of our country and the world as we know it.  Both liberals and conservatives are guilty of this hyperbolic speech.  Each side is moving increasingly away from each other and becoming more extreme leaving no room for bipartisan support.

Perhaps we may be coming to the end of the human race.  I do not know.  No one does.  With climate change and our reliance on a technological infrastructure, it does seem we could be close to a complete meltdown.

This week, I was reminded of one of my favorite reggae tracks.  Willie Williams’ 1979 single “Armagideon Time” is a masterpiece.  The song is about injustice and rising up against oppressors in the final days; the perfect end times.  Williams sings about people not getting the justice they deserve, but praising Jehovah and fighting for what you want will bring you peace.

Reggae music at that time also had a habit of recycling backing tracks.  The backing track for “Armagideon Time” originated in a 1967 single by the Soul Vendors called “Real Rock.”  It can also be heard later in “Nice Up the Dance” by Papa Michigan and General Smiley.  I first heard the track as a cover by the Clash, but I’m partial to the original.  It sounds more authentic.

The theme is about overcoming struggles and I feel it is very relevant today.  In the U.S., there are people systemically oppressed by racist overseers that serve in the interest of those who line their pockets instead of their constituents.  The American public has lost faith in their leaders, so is it any wonder why we cling to easy promises of massive change?  The anger and frustration is more palpable now than ever before.  We could be on the first steps towards a revolution.  It isn’t enough to say you support an idea, but you have to fight for it as well.  Williams said the battle would get hotter but with faith, we will win.

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