Was Dave Mustaine Making White Power Music All Along?

Alyssa Rosenberg has a nice take on the whole Dave Mustaine controversy. Well, it’s not really a controversy. He’s a paranoid jackass. But this is what I want to say, I lived in towns in Illinois that were, for all practical purposes, all-white. Even if there were some black children (and by some, I mean one or two), they were living with a white parent or white parents. There were no black adults. I did not know a black person my own age until I went to college.

My dad had black minister friends. I knew their kids. But they didn’t live in the towns I lived in. Sometimes, when they tried to, people tried to kill them.

I don’t know if they ever were officially sundown towns, or if there just came a point when it wasn’t necessary to be. Everyone knew what rural Illinois was like and so it stayed.

Therefore, every single person I knew who was a Megadeth fan was white. As was everyone who was a Metallica fan, and everyone who was a Michael Jackson fan.

There was a way that racism functioned in those towns that is much different from how it functions in places that aren’t so starkly whites-only. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen it effectively addressed by activists. I assume because who gives a shit about racism in areas where there’s no one to be hurt by it? Maybe? I don’t know. We leave, though, folks. And carry that shit with us wherever we go.

Anyway, there was a way in which everything in our white world was obviously for us white people. Even a band like Megadeth was for us. The music moved us. The lyrics hit us in the gut.

You can get almost drunk on that belief–that this is all for us. And that “us” is a small, pure group of true Americans, who don’t really have a place in America other than what we’ve carved out right where we are. If you don’t have that sense that we have this unsullied spot, but that lurking out there are forces that seek to sully it, you don’t quite get how it was in those years.

We were growing up alongside Matt Hale, and, as it turns out, Wade Page. They didn’t have beliefs that different than ours. Uglier by degree, but not unknown to us.

And so, I wonder, now, when we were listening to Megadeth, who did we think they were talking about?

I don’t know. It’s hard for me to get at exactly the question I want to ask. But when we listened and we found those songs cathartic, who were the imagined bashed in? Shot? Murdered? Who did we imagine? Who did ole Dave?

If we imagine that all young people feel somewhat disenfranchised and at the mercy of forces beyond their control and we imagine the music that appeals to people in this state is on a spectrum with just regular, fun, angry music on one side of the line and music like Wade Page made firmly and obviously on the other side, today I can’t help but wonder if Dave was standing on the far side of that line all along, making music that appealed to those of us on the near side, sometimes for reasons we would never admit to, least of all to ourselves.


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