origin of the last american girl
I love this. I love every bit of this so much.
I grew up on Green Day. I fell in love with them through my brother. My brother, who incidentally, has no clue who Green Day is. I worshiped him when I was little, and part of that hero-worship included me hanging around him as much as I could (something every teenage boy hopes his little sister will do, I’m sure). A lot of that time he’d have the radio on. During this, “Good Riddance” was blowing up on the radio. It’s almost two decades later, and that song still reduces me to tears. So by the time I was starting my first year in college, American Idiot was released and like “Good Riddance,” was blowing up. To me, American Idiot was food. I craved it. It was sustenance. I was disillusioned with my personal life, and the nation. I was angry. I was optimistic. I was confused. I lived for that album. The day an acquaintance met me on the grassy hill on campus and handed me the burned copy of American Idiot I’d begged her for is seared into my memory. I ran (as well as one can with raging mono) back to my room and shoved it into my stereo. It didn’t come out for years.
Later, I got to see the show on Broadway. Front row. It was everything I’d hoped, and more. It was the result of every single media image, feeling, nuance – every frustration and joy I’d experienced – that we, the American Idiots, had gone through together. The only thing that would have made it better was if the audience had been a little less of the staid, we-behave-on-Broadway type, and had a little more of the yes-this-is-us energy.
In a coincidence that completely underscored the show, as soon as the performance ended, we weren’t allowed to linger. I wasn’t able to buy the cast album on my way out. I was herded, along with several hundred other theatre goers, politely and forcefully, out the doors. Outside, I noticed police tape blocking off areas I didn’t remember being blocked when I walked in (but I can be astonishingly unobservant sometimes, so I chalked it up to that). It only took about a minute before I realized I might’ve been a little hasty passing things off on my one track mind. I pulled out my little silver brick of a cellphone. I called my parents, thinking my mother (who thrives on public spectacles of despair and destruction, and has the news on constantly to feed that) might have seen something. She had no idea. I texted my brother (that brother) and gave him my location, and asked him if he could find anything out. He called less than five minutes later, “suspected explosive device(s) discovered in car in a parking garage.” A parking garage smack dab in the middle of where we were. While American Idiot and 21st Century Breakdown don’t encourage or glorify violence or “acts of terrorism,” walking out into an evacuation area only served to drive the album’s point home. See? We don’t live in our parents’ world. We chewed on teething rings in front of the television, watching Sesame Street and war criminals. Our classes were interrupted by bomb threats, or worse.
My boyfriend and I kept walking. We passed a huge intersection cordoned off, the area was a light show with police and ambulance lights. Bomb sniffing German Shepherds were walking around on tight leashes held by officers with tighter faces. We stopped for a moment, about twenty feet from the crowd. The crowd that doubled in size in minutes, pressed up to the tape watching the show. I couldn’t believe it. This is what we’ve become…we’re the generation that grew up doing math homework with the news media blaring in the background: weapons of mass destruction, another soldier’s funeral picketed, the third “trial of the century” in a decade, school shootings, genocide. We’re told to be wary of the slightest hint of a threat to “our great nation,” there’s no such thing as too suspicious. But when there’s a palpable threat to our safety, we press our abdomens against the tape, stretching it, thinning it, seeing the action unfold. Health officials and some chefs are warning us of “palate fatigue,” chiding us that we’re putting too much salt on our food and not realizing it because our taste buds are worn out. We need to retrain our palates into healthy parameters, they say. Maybe what I saw that night was Threat Fatigue. Like the wall of TV screens onstage, each blaring something, trying to compete with the others, to out-sensationalize the rest, that’s part of the conditioning we’ve grown up with. Things are bad now, and they’re getting worse. Except, it seems like nothing ever really gets much better, or worse. Whatever it is fades away and we don’t have time to let it sink in before it’s replaced with a new threat, catastrophe, extremely dangerous situation…
Like the characters in American Idiot, Tunny, Gloria, Whatsername, and Jesus of Suburbia, we’re the generation that doesn’t know what the hell is going on, but that isn’t going to stop us from trying to make it better.
– The Last American Girl