Raging against the machine

By Tom Chick

Me and Trevor and his nephew Donny protested the Democratic National Convention here in Los Angeles last Monday night. Our protest was successful beyond our wildest dreams -- we got international coverage. We weren't protesting the usual stuff, like the environment or corporations or the guy who shot a cop in Philadelphia. We had our own agenda. We wanted to protest Tipper Gore and Joe Lieberman's rise to power. If you follow the logical progression of things, Tipper will be the First Lady come November and then she'll be running for New York Senator in eight years. Joe Lieberman will be the Vice President in November and then running for President in eight years. Trevor says this will mean all songs with cuss words and all violent video games will be banned -- no more Louie, Louie and no more Diablo 2. And Trevor knows politics; he writes in Ross Perot's name whenever there's an election.

We were supposed to drive downtown at five, when Trevor got off work. But his boss caught him playing F.A.K.K. 2 on the office LAN and made him stay late to uninstall it from all the computers. Trevor had put it on all 32 of the computers at his work before he realized it didn't have multiplayer. "Dude, no Julie on Julie action," he had told me sadly.

I picked Trevor up at about 7pm and we went by his brother's house to get Donny, Trevor's nephew. We told Donny and his folks we were taking him to the Rage against the Machine concert. But this was just a cover for our planned anti-Democrat protest. We needed Donny along, because he's fourteen and he figured into our plans. He looks up to us because we're older than him and he thinks we're cool.

"Man, that is so lame," Donny said to Trevor, "You're wearing a Baldur's Gate T-Shirt to a Rage against the Machine concert?"

"What?" Trevor said, "It's clean."

"Are we getting any beer?" Donny asked when we were in the car.

"I can't drink beer," Trevor said. It's true. He can't. It gives him a headache. Wine, too. Especially hard liquor. Trevor drinks wine coolers, but he doesn't like people to see that's what he's drinking. So he pours them into glasses as tells everyone it's pure grain alcohol and Kool Aid.

"Man, you guys are losers," Donny said, "My brother buys me beer."

"Not anymore he doesn't," Trevor said, "Since your Dad made him join the Marines after he kept getting in trouble, he's not buying you anything. Maybe he'll buy you a postcard at the PK. Ha. I already bought you a Mountain Dew anyway."

"No you didn't. You just gave me the one you had in your car. If my brother was here, he'd buy us beer. You never let me do anything fun."

"We bringing you out here tonight, aren't we? And I let you play N64."

"What do I care? The only thing you have is Mario 64 and I finished that when I was in sixth grade."

"Do you want to see Rage in the Machine or not?" Trevor asked.

"That is so uncool. It's Rage against the Machine," Donny sat back in his seat and looked out the window.

"Are you gonna tell him?" I asked Trevor.

"Tell me what?" Donny asked.

"Not yet," said Trevor.

"Tell me what?"

"Nothing. We've just got to do one thing before we see the Rage. We need your help. You'll see. You could get on TV if you do this one thing with us."

Downtown was still pretty crowded even though it was about 8:30 at night. We had to park way north of the convention at the Staples Center and walk a good distance to get there. There were cops on every corner. Spotlights shot up into the sky.

"You want to know a fun fact?" Trevor said to his nephew. "You see those lights? That how they found Nazi bombers back in the war. There's a special name for those kinds of lights."

"What name is that?"

"I don't know. I'm just saying. There's a special name, but I don't know what it is."

"So where do we do this?" I asked Trevor. "Is there any kind of procedure?" Trevor had plenty of experience with protests, from back when he was at USC during Apartheid and he vowed never to drink Coors beer. He said at USC they marched for South Africa, Nicaragua, and some other places he couldn't really remember. He said he was civilly disobedient by not registering for the draft until he got a letter that said they could cut off his student loans.

"I think we should start here," Trevor said after looking around. We were a few blocks from the Staples Center. There were some people on the sidewalk, but the street itself was closed off, so there was no traffic. About a block away we could see formations of cops on motorcycles and cops in riot gear. There was a line of cruisers driving slowly down the street one block over. Immediately across the street were two cops on horseback, looking at us.

"Okay, Donny, here's what we're going to do," Trevor said, explaining the plan in detail. Donny wasn't too hot on doing this, but we said we weren't going to see Rage against the Machine unless he did as we told him. That kid really looks up to us, so he agreed to do what we said. Plus I think he really wanted to see the concert.

Trevor got out his sign, which was written on a rolled up poster board. He used duct tape to stick it on the end of his lightsaber. He said the plastic lightsaber was a good protest sign holder because a) it lit up, and b) he lives with his Mom and she would be pissed if he took the broom handle. The sign said "RATINGS=CENSORSHIP". But since it had been rolled up for so long, the edges curled and it looked like it said "INGS=CENSORS".

"I think most protestors use a certain kind of cardboard," Trevor explained while trying to smooth out his poster board so you could see the whole message. "Now if they arrest me, remember what I told you about bailing me out. If they start beating me, find someone to tape it. Okay, Donny, you ready?"

"This is really stupid," Donny sighed, following Trevor into the middle of the street while the cops on horseback watched.

"Hey, cops," Trevor called, waving a copy of Carmageddon 2 over his head, "See this game? It's rated 'M'. I'm giving it to this kid here, who has a learner's permit to drive and is only fourteen. How about that? Hey hey, ho ho, oppressive ratings have got to go!"

Donny stood there looking at the Carmageddon box. "I don't think this will this run on my dad's computer."

"Say the chant, Donny," Trevor said, switching on the lightsaber.

"No way. You look like a total loser."

Trevor waved his hands at me to say the chant, as if he was standing in front of a crowd asking them to be louder. I pretended I didn't see him.

"Hey hey, ho ho, oppressive ratings have got to go!" Trevor said it twice more before the tape on his sign came undone and it sagged down even more. Donny wandered over and stood by me. "Do I really get to keep this? I think it will run on the computers at school."

The cops on horseback leapt away from the sidewalk and trotted down the street where a bunch of kids were spilling out.

"Hey, that's the concert letting out," Donny cried, "You fags made me miss it!"

There were skinheads and kids with tattoos all over the place. Some had skateboards or bottles. Many had bandanas tied around their faces. The cops in riot gear and on motorcycles were moving towards them like armies in formation. More cops on horseback were coming from all directions. Lots of the kids were yelling the "F" word at the cops, who were starting to herd them like petulant sheep.

Two people with a Channel 8 news camera went running past us towards the scene. "Yo, over here! We've got a protest going over here and you might want to get this on camera." Trevor tried to get their attention, but they kept going. A small Japanese man with a microphone was tentatively moving towards the crowd. "Hey you, come here!"

The little man looked uncertainly towards the melee and then at us. He walked over and held out the microphone to Trevor. "What is happening here?" he asked.

"We're protesting Joseph Lieberman. We're fighting for the right to play Quake II in our schools and listen to whatever music we want. Playstation 2 sucks! X-box sucks! PCs forever! You can take away Napster but information wants to be free." Trevor held up a fist with his thumb and pinky sticking out. He waited for the little Japanese man to ask another question and the little Japanese man waited for Trevor to say something else. They stood there for a moment looking at each other.

"Thank you very much," the little man said. He asked Trevor to spell his name. Trevor spelled it. "Thank you very much," he said again, before looking out towards the riot police. The kids were starting to throw bottles. It looked like someone was lighting a fire on the other side of the crowd.

"We better get out of here," Trevor said. But we couldn't find Donny. We later found out he took off down the street to join the people from the Rage against the Machine demonstration. He got a ride home from some guy he knew from school. Trevor and me were out until 4am looking for him.

"Oh man, oh man, my brother is going to kill me if I lose his kid," Trevor was almost crying as we drove around the downtown perimeter, looking through knots of bystanders for Donny. "This is like Kent State, all over again."

"You weren't at Kent State. You're only 37."

"I'm just saying. That kid looks up to us. We're like role models to him and now we've lost him at a protest."

We finally drove to Trevor's brother's house and decided to wait in the car until they woke up to tell them we lost Donny. We both fell asleep in the car talking about what might happen to Wolverine in X-Men 2 and how hot we thought Rogue looked with her strand of white hair and elbow-length black satin gloves. Donny woke us up when he came out in the morning to get the paper. "What are you guys doing out here? Hey, can you come in and help me? I can't get that game to run on my dad's computer."

He was right. It wouldn't run on his dad's 386. Trevor says we're on TV or radio somewhere in Japan, that we got the message out and that it was fine work even if we did get upstaged by a bunch of kids from a Rage in the Machine concert. Since he felt bad about Donny missing the concert and not getting Carmageddon to run, he bought Goldeneye for when Donny comes over. We've all done our part for freedom and we're sitting here right now playing three-player Goldeneye. That kid really looks up to us.

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