I am a product of the 1980s. You see, that was the decade of my rise into adulthood. I started that decade in junior high, hating the Russians and celebrating the United States hockey team’s victory over the communists during the 1980 Olympics.
I went through high school and college, and by the end of that 10-year span, the Berlin Wall was down and I was married and had my first real job.
As such, that decade’s music affected me, and I have much of it on my iPod today. I enjoyed the hard rock music of groups such as AC/DC, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi, just to name a few of the more popular bands of the time.
That music carried a message, much of it tied to the times — as today’s music carries a message. After all, artists write songs because they have something to say. Sometimes that message is simply to party, have fun and get girls. You may not like the message, but it is a message.
Music has a reputation of being, well, liberal. The staunch conservatives of the 1950s revolted against Elvis Presley and rock-n-roll. The 1960s brought us the music of the so-called hippies, and their drug culture and free love.
The 1970s brought us disco, and the Studio 54 scene of sexy moves on the dance floor.
Even in my decade, my parents didn’t understand the allure of the cranking and pounding electric guitars and drums of that hard rock music.
Now with my 47th birthday looming on the horizon, I am in the same position as my parents were during the 1980s when it comes to today’s modern hip-hop and rap songs. That music is simply not the voice of my generation, though it may very well be the voice of my 16-year-old daughter’s generation.
Bands that offer an opposing view are few and far between, but it appears the Havelock Board of Commissioners and Havelock Police Department found one.
During last month’s board meeting — based on the recommendation of the police department — commissioners voted to spend $7,500 to hire the rock band Madison Rising to play at next year’s National Night Out.
Based on what Police Lt. Brian Woods told the board, organizers hope the band appeals to younger residents, who will come out to National Night Out not only to listen to the band, but also to get information and learn about community safety.
That makes sense. After all, National Night Out is supposed to be a community-wide, anti-crime rally, and it seems most break-ins, thefts and drug crimes are generally committed by younger people.
But, the issue may be in the message that the band Madison Rising brings to the event, a message that some taxpayers who are footing the $7,500 bill to bring the group here don’t appreciate.
According to the band’s website, Madison Rising promises music with meaning. But if you’re a Democrat, you may not like that meaning.
The band doesn’t hide its conservative values and offered its music free of charge to the Mitt Romney-Paul Ryan ticket for campaign events, according to its website.
Madison Rising, named in honor of our fourth president James Madison, "promotes the principles of liberty, independence, smaller government and personal responsibility," according to its website.
The band’s song titles include "Right to Bear" and "In the Days That Reagan Ruled."
So the question becomes this: Is the band promoting America or is it promoting a Republican agenda for which Havelock taxpayers — whether they agree with that message or not — are paying $7,500 to hear?
I suppose if you don’t agree with the band’s message, you can simply choose not to attend next year’s National Night Out, but that doesn’t stop your tax dollars from being spent to bring that message here.
I really am torn on the issue on several levels. First, the individual taxpayer doesn’t always get his or her way. Commissioners are elected to make decisions based on what’s good for the population at large. Granted, I’m not sure if commissioners had ever heard of this band before the meeting, and I’m not sure they had ever heard one of the band’s songs. I know I didn’t. I had to look them up.
Secondly, and it goes back to what I had said earlier, all music carries some sort of message. I listen mostly to country music on the radio these days, and there is no doubt that some of the songs carry a decidedly conservative message. But that’s OK. My tax dollars are not being spent to put those songs on the radio. Plus, I can always change the station if I don’t like a song’s message.
Here, Havelock taxpayers can’t change the station.
On the flip side, the band is trying to help get today’s younger generation involved in shaping the future with its song "Rally the Youth." Its song "Honk if You Want Peace" discusses stopping "the war machine," and "Soldiers of America" honors all those in uniform fighting for our country.
Those messages appear to be ones that most people would support.
Still, it can be a slippery slope, and commissioners would do well to step lightly the next time they are asked to spend tax money to hire a band.
Ken Buday is the editor and general manager of the Havelock News. He can be reached at 444-1999 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.