Anti-Flag’s punk-rock activist Justin Sane isn’t losing sleep over a possible Donald Trump presidency.
The reason? The rising popularity of left-wing Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.
Sane said he’s heartened by all the grassroots support shown for underdog candidate Sanders, who embodies the qualities that Trump doesn’t, including open-mindedness, fairness and tolerance.
“Bernie Sanders, by far, best represents what I believe in, and all the issues Anti-Flag has been talking about all these years,” added the frontman, who performs with his band at Wild Bill’s Sports Bar on May 7.
Although Sanders getting the top job in the White House is deemed a long-shot, Anti-Flag’s singer/guitarist (born Justin Cathal Geever), believes the same about Trump’s presidential chances.
“Donald Trump only has the support of a small percentage of the Republican Party … There’s absolutely no way someone that hateful and bigoted could become president,” said Sane. “He wants to wreck America — and he also wants to wreck Canada, by the way … and every country that’s not America, including Mexico.”
The group’s Canadian tour comes with the jokey preamble: “American presidential hopeful, ‘Lil’ Donny’ can’t wait to get those tiny little hands of his on all those Canadian trees, oil reserves, potential casino properties, etc … we will trek across the Great White North while it’s still worth visiting!”
Anti-Flag has been criticized for being anti-American. The musicians deny this, saying they are actually against blind-nationalism.
Their 2015 album was named American Spring as an allusion to the Arab Spring protests that ignited brief Western hopes that more democracy would take root in the Middle East. While Sane has heard these written off as “failures” — much as the Occupy protests were — he believes both grassroots movements have planted seeds of change that could take time to germinate.
“Look how long it’s taken for the Civil Rights movement … African Americans are still being discriminated against and killed by cops more than white people.”
Sane credits the Occupy Wall Street protests for kicking off important
discussions about a fairer distribution of wealth.
“It created a platform and a lexicon for someone like Bernie Sanders to come on the scene …”
The 43-year-old was raised by activist parents in Pittsburgh during the 1980s. The Free Trade Agreement decimated the city’s steel manufacturing industry, causing an estimated 350,000 people to leave the city in search of employment. His Irish-born dad’s contracting company was hard hit by the slump.
“My family was poor” — but political minded, recalled the musician. “My parents were always involved in anti-racism, the environment and other causes.”
As a teenager, he loved the Sex Pistols’ Never Mind the Bullocks, and still considers it the best punk album ever. Pittsburgh had a very small punk scene at the time. “You could get beat up for having a blue mohawk,” recalled Sane — who still sports one.
When Anti-Flag got going in 1992, Sane said neither he nor the other musicians (which now includes Chris No. 2, Chris Head and Pat Thetic) had much skill or direction. “
We weren’t good singers, good songwriters, or even that good on our instruments.”
Sane believes the first Anti-Flag album that really gelled was 2003’s The Terror State, which criticizes the Bush war on terrorism.
“On that record we figured out who we were, musically and ideologically.”
American Spring, is the group’s ninth album and contains the song Brandenburg Gate, which expresses hopes for a more peaceful, tolerant future. The music video finishes with two men kissing in a church.
Sane sees legalized gay marriage as a sign of progress, but wants more public awareness about environmental sustainability.
“If there’s one change that every person can make to help the planet, it’s to go vegetarian, or better yet, vegan … factory farming is one of the biggest problems we have,” said the singer, who also advocates for Amnesty International.
“Sometimes our problems feel overwhelming, but there are things people can do,” said Sane.
He added, “I’m feeling optimistic because I know … a lot more people who give me hope than who make me feel hopeless.”
Tickets to the 8 p.m. show, with Oregon artist Lee Corey Oswald, are $20-$25 from the venue or ticketfly.com.