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Tim McIlrath

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Make It Stop

Posted: 06/21/11 10:53 AM ET

It's no secret that the rock scene can be a straight-male-dominated, testosterone driven, hyper-masculine place (Please see Sammy Hagar's Livin' It Up! In St. Louis DVD). The explosion of the Riot Grrrl scene in the 90s adeptly illuminated these problems and, to a degree, the immediate punk scene within spitting distance took heed. But that movement alone was not the magic bullet to rid rock of its inherent biases.

It was in the wake of these progressive movements in music that our band, Rise Against, was born. We started in the punk-rock basements of Chicago, chock full of cultural deviants just like us. While our souls will always dwell in those musty subterranean holy grounds, we woke up one day adopted by a much broader rock fan base. Our audience now contains those who cast their nets a bit wider than just Minor Threat and Black Flag. We started playing shows bigger than I'd ever attended as a fan, to people I'd never thought would ever listen to our music. I was introduced to a mainstream, commercial rock scene, in all its natural splendor and
gross inequities. I found hungry ears and some open minds. But I also found a place that all too often harbors homophobes and perpetuates homophobic behavior. I found a fire that needed water.

Just last September (2010), the headlines were plastered with a wave of gay (or gay-perceived) teen suicides. Tyler Clementi, age 18, was a gifted violinist at Rutgers University. After his roommate secretly set up a webcam to film him during a sexual encounter, he threw himself off the George Washington bridge. Seth Walsh, a 13 year old who had bore the brunt of harassment at his school, hung himself from the plum tree in his backyard. These events, along with a few questions from our own fans about where we stood on gay rights, created the spark that would bring life to our song "Make It Stop (September's Children)." We were happy to team up with the "It Gets Better" campaign and director Marc Klasfeld to then create the accompanying music video.

Bullying, in many forms, may always exist. Assholes are born everyday. But much of the bullying that takes place today is trickling down from a culture and a media that gives credence to the hateful rhetoric that clogs our streets and airwaves. As Americans, it's time to connect the dots between the deaths of teenagers and the people and organizations that are
part of the problem. When the song says "make it stop," it's talking to the parts of society that would hide behind euphemisms like "family values" to justify bigotry. When it says "let this end," it's addressing hate-filled TV networks that masquerade as news stations. And of course, "Make It Stop" is here to let our own audience members know that if they would make a fellow concertgoer feel unwelcome at a Rise Against show, then perhaps it is they who are not welcome at a Rise Against show.

Going from punk dives to arenas was kind of like moving into a new apartment. It's pretty nice, but in order to live here I'm gonna need to clean up the dirt and paint a few walls. When I can't decide on a color, sometimes I just paint stripes of each one.