Revolution #173, August 16, 2009

Warped Tour in Chicago: Entering the Fray and Taking on All Comers

There is No God! We Need Liberation Without Gods! Revolution!

The national Vans Warped Tour, a kind of alternative rock and punk mecca for suburban teenagers and young people 15 years running, had a distinct feel this year as crosses and other Jesus paraphernalia adorned a very significant proportion of the crowd. As the report to Revolution from a reader in Los Angeles made clear, Under Oath, a Biblical-literalist band was definitely in the house. They had a sign up on their booth, “American by Birth, Southern by the Grace of God” which is straight up some horrific KKK shit. And then there was The Devil Wears Prada...and they seem to actually mean The Devil...Wears Prada, which we heard punctuates their songs (some of which feature Latin readings of Bible verses) with agitation on “The power of Christ compels you!” Both of these bands were featured on the main stage at the Chicago show. And there were other Christian bands as well.

Revolution Books had a table prominently featuring the new message and call on "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," along with a secondary focus on Bob Avakian's book, Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, the Declaration on Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity, and the recent centerfold of Revolution, “A Fetus is Not a Baby!” People who came to the table brought a lot of questions about the history and possibility of communism (in particular many of them believed “communism is a good idea, but people will never work if they get all their needs met whether they work or not”), and not a lot of people came with any real sense of urgency to change the world, or with a feeling about the need for revolution.  What they did have was a serious distaste for Christianity taking over the culture, and in particular taking over this festival in a very palpable way.

With all this in mind, we made a simple poster that said “There is no God. We Need Liberation Without Gods. Revolution!” and waded into the swarms of people walking around, one person holding the sign over their head and another with lots of copies of the flier version of The Revolution We Need, The Leadership We Have.

This was electric.

The person holding the sign was practically not even able to get his hands over his head before people began swarming around. Immediately, pro-Jesus dudes began yelling at us: “Didn't you ever believe in God? Weren't you ever religious?” And young atheist women came up and told them to back off, gave us high fives and took the fliers. We would debate whoever wanted to come up and get into it, while making sure to give most attention to the people who very actively supported what we were doing (including “I LOVE YOU GUYS!” and “I have to shake your hands!”). We had the distinct feeling we were saying what a lot of people wanted to say or at least that they longed for this to be taken on. And the debates would get going between the different sides around us as well.

One grouping of young men who were at least Christian right-wingers, if not straight up Christian fascists, got particularly hostile, but with them and everyone who would come debate us, they were not able to answer with any substance our challenges for them to prove that there was a god, or our challenges on the content of the Bible and the horrors that meant. They even went on to justify horrible crimes when we said, look if there were a god, he would be a monstrous god who would let all these horrors go on in the world, one of them said “if that's what's happening to those little children in India, then that's fine with me because that's how God wants it”. When they realized we were communists, one of them  tried to get me going with, “well you know, this guy's grandfather killed 15-20 of your people in the Korean war”. It was interesting that consistently, we were not on our own or allowed to be encircled by these kinds of people.  We backed up what we said, and other youth would come up to us for high fives and to get the flier, and sometimes to debate the Christian youth. That particular group of guys walked away, one of them saying loudly to his friends, “Okay, come on guys, we don't need to waste our time on these people. We're going to have all of eternity in heaven to be able to bitch about these people!” Some eternity! We replied.

Supportive, intrigued, and sometimes very excited people would come talk to us, and we would get them the flier, have some basic discussion and send them over to the Revolution Books table. A number of people made the effort to find their way through the maze of tables, following the big red flags which were waving above our booth. Once people arrived, there was some difficulty in pushing this initial excitement to the next level, in getting organized with the revolution (nobody bought an organizer packet) or in getting deeper on the questions. Everyone kept insisting (and pledging), I just want to take the flier and I'm gonna check out your website. We tried to sharpen up that there was real urgency to fight for a whole different future.  Okay, you don't like what you're seeing with all these youth getting organized around a Dark Ages mentality, but it's even bigger than you think (the people behind the curtains are powerful forces who run this system) and these people aren't going away without a fight. There is a way out of the madness, founded on science and a morality of liberation and that's revolutionary communism. You've been lied to about this, and so has everyone else.  You gotta be a part of puncturing those lies and spreading the word about this revolution and this leadership. Mainly people said, okay I want to check out the website. But through all this, around 1,000 copies of the flier went out. A number of people put on stickers featuring statements from Away With All Gods! and some even took them to hand out at shows they felt would have a receptive audience. Later, when we went to some of the shows, people would recognize us, “hey, you guys were the ones with that sign!” All of this had a big impact.

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