"If there's a new way..."

Yesterday, Megadeth founder Dave Mustaine more or less endorsed Rick Santorum for president (pic at right courtesy of The Atlantic Wire). As of late, he's said he hasn't "endorsed him" but the effect has been kind of endorsement. I've been a Megadeth fan for years. I know Mustaine has converted to Christianity, something I don't find particularly upsetting, but his endorsement of Santorum was very confusing. So I wrote him a letter (also posted to their Facebook page that they have since removed).

So what's the rub? Megadeth's songs include some of the best metal criticisms of political corruption and complicated human-induced environmental problems. Selecting Rock Santorum is more than a little bit confusing. I admit that selecting any major party politician today faces us with with some big problems. But on the environmental front, Santorum has been a major part of what Chris Mooney named "the Republican war on science." It's really too bad.

Their most famous song, "Peace Sells...But Who's Buyin'" says,
If there's a new way
I'll be the first in line
But it better work this time

[...] What do you mean I couldn't be the president of the United States of America? It's still 'We the people' right?
Right or RIGHT? As someone who has worked on sustainability issues now for several years, I can't get how it is going to work this time, especi

Here's my letter...type-o's and all:


I can respect your views and find them confusing. It’s too bad you removed my comment. There’s a bigger point here that several people are talking about. We are frankly confused how one of the most seemingly environmentally aware and politically intelligent people we have looked up to can even entertain the idea of voting for Rick Santorum. Well…we might be able to understand it but we don’t really get it.

Before I go on, I want to say that I don’t mean this to be shouting at you. I’m mostly confused and want an explanation. I guess you don’t have to give me one. I’m just one guy who was once a kid who heard “Holy Wars,” “Hangar 18,” and “Five Magics,” and was totally thrilled. I’ve gone on to write the “Heavy Metal” entry for an encyclopedia coming out in the next year, The Encyclopedia of Music and American Culture. Megadeth certainly earned its place in that entry.

On one hand, I get that you are not the person you were when you wrote most of your albums. You’ve led a very public life. Part of that life has been about politics. Seriously, when you did the MTV Rock the Vote stuff in ’92, I thought that was pretty cool. I was 16 and from a politically-minded family.

Unlike some commentors on this thread, I don’t think Megadeth is “just music.” It’s clear that you, like Sepultura, Testament, Xentrix, Nuclear Assault, Kreator, Revocation, Heathen, Forbidden, and some other awesome bands work to raise social consciousness. It’s not dumb kid’s noise. It has a purpose. You’ve always had a purpose…full-fledged aggression mixed with a moral approach to the world that is neither condescending nor authoritarian. I’m sure I’m about the thousandth person who’s written to you to say that lines like from Rust In Peace and Countdown to Extinction played in my mind over and over again. As someone who’s minded politics and the environment, Megadeth serves a special place.

I can’t help but note that Countdown to Extinction came out in 1992. That’s the year of the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. The young girl talking in the song “Countdown to Extinction” is forever linked in my mind with the young girl who spoke at the Rio Summit. I get it. Those are my links and they’re not many other people’s. But I bring it up for a reason. Rick Santorum will be an environmental ruin for this country.

I’ll just give three examples: hamstringing the EPA, climate change, and hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling for natural gas in Pennsylvania. First, Santorum, like too many Republicans these days would like to defund, hamstring, or eliminate the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In a world where corporate influence far outweighs the good work of some religious people or the ability of common people to protect their water, their air, or their children, this is baffling. The EPA is sometimes the only bulwark “we the people” have to protect us from industrial pollution.

Second, Santorum denies climate change. He calls the science behind it “junk science.” That is junk thinking. It is basic chemistry and physics. The trend line from an incredible amount of data – some of it going back tens of millions of years – shows that the earth today is at a particularly warm period. More importantly, the earth is warmer than it has ever been during human history. That warming trend, which is continuing and accelerating, is inextricably linked to the release of carbon dioxide and methane from humans burning fossil fuels. The only “junk” out there on this comes from the fossil fuel industry and the politicians – like Rick Santorum – who have enslaved themselves to those industries. [See point #1 about the EPA above.] I find it interesting that you would vote for Santorum given what you wrote in “Dawn Patrol”:

Pretending not to notice

How history had forbode us

With the greenhouse in effect

Our environment was wrecked

That’s a pretty clear warning to me. Are you backing away from that? Santorum isn’t the only Republican with this view by any means but he is the most vocal of the four left standing.

Third, Pennsylvania where I live and where Santorum is from has been undergoing a natural gas rush. Santorum recently told a crowd in Oklahoma that there is “nothing” to worry about. In case you don’t know, two new technologies have been put together to get at massive gas reserves in shale beds. We can drill thousands of feet into the earth and turn the drill bit and go horizontally for thousands of feet. Then, having bored a hole around a mile down and a mile across (give or take depending on conditions) the well is hydraulically fractured. By blasting a mixture of fresh water, some sand, and a cancerous (literally) cocktail of biocides, lubricants, and other chemicals into the earth at upwards of 14,000 pounds per square inch, the shale bed can by stimulated into releasing gas back up the well bore to the well head. People refer to this process as fracking. It is an environmental and community health ruin.

I have met people from across the state now who can’t drink their well water because of these processes. Some of them can set their taps on fire. That’s cool a couple of times. But it’s not cool to have to have a gas ventilation system set up in your house because your water leaks so much methane your house could explode. I know people who have been ripped off. Cattle, dogs, horses, cats, chickens, song birds, and fish have all been killed by fracking. I know people whose property value has plummeted 85% because of damage to their water. Little kids waking up in the middle of the night with their noses bleeding and doctors reporting that kids have elevated levels of toxins in their bodies. People losing hair. Headaches. Just wait for the cancer clusters. Just two weeks ago, Carl Stiles killed himself because he had become so ill from what his family is certain was fracking pollution.

Santorum called this all “the boogey man.” He said, “Ooh, all this bad stuff's going to happen, we don't know all these chemicals and all this stuff, What's going to happen? Let me tell you what's going to happen, nothing's going to happen." Call me uncouth, but as a Pennsylvanian, that’s garbage. The people of Dimock, Pennsylvania lost their water from gas drilling. When the state government and the company stopped providing that water who stepped in? First it was neighboring communities. But then the EPA came and has supplied the water. Once again, we are back at number one.

So I know you said you admired Santorum for his going back to be with his kid. As a father myself, I too am touched by that. Every day that I get to spend with a healthy and happy boy is a day worth more than my life. And I mean no disrespect to you when I say that it affects you differently than it does me given your family history and your father’s negligence as you’ve written about it. Santorum’s devotion to fatherhood is admirable. And certainly, given your vocal embrace of Christianity, his faith is too.

But why does it stop with his son? What about the son getting ill from fracking operations or the arsenic in his water from mountain top removal in West Virginia or Kentucky? What about the boys and girls exposed to the pollution of coal and gas power plants around this nation that create cancer clusters and literally billions of dollars in medical treatment for human-caused industrial disease. It’s no accident that asthma, leukemia, and other awful illnesses proliferate near, downwind, and downstream of polluting industries. Why isn’t Santorum a father for those people and protect them as much as he would protect his own children?

If you’re still reading this I appreciate it. Yeah. My first reaction was pretty strong. I felt like maybe never buying another Megadeth album. Maybe it would be boycott time. But I guess that I, like a lot of other people, can’t square this circle. We just want to understand.

See, it’s not that I ain’t kind. I’m just not his kind. And, like you, I still believe that it’s all for we the people…not we the corporations. If there's a new way, I'll be the first in line. Rick Santorum is not the new way.

He should never be president. Ever.

Peter Buckland

1 comment:

  1. Peter Buckland, I am so proud to still know that guy I met in '94... whom I gave references to hire for a coffee shop job in '96... and who has gone on to become a beautiful specimen of a human being in the new millenium. Your political activism is only outshone by your level-headedness and down-to-earth parenting skills.

    I would work again alongside of you in a heartbeat. And I would be devastated to find out that someone "changed the matrix" and we were never friends. Even as our paths diverge--and they have--please know how much I respect the human being you have become.

    You are making the world a better place in both mind and deed. And you have the wonderful audacity to ask others to do the same!