Sound those Chimes of Freedom
Bex Schwartz

Maybe it's just cooler to protest a war than support it.

Back THEN, Country Joe McDonald got thousands of kids to protest the Vietnam War and, more importantly, he got them to do it in tune. "One, two, three, four, what are we fighting for? Don't ask me, I don't give a damn - the next stop is Vietnam!" He wrote it, and the people sang and the people felt it, and it was good.

Now, what have we got? Dreck like that "God Bless the USA" song, or Mariah Carey's "Hero"? Even Neil Young, that golden god amongst musicians-with-messages, missed the boat with his recent single, "Let's Roll." As a battle cry, "Let's Roll" has some emotional resonance, being the phrase uttered by the leader of the Pennsylvania counter-hijackers. But now it's become a generic mantra of patriotism -- President Bush uttered the same phrase three times during the pre-game show and opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics. Bleech.

Maybe because rock & roll is, at its heart, about rebellion, this kind of 'solidarity rock' always seems to hit a false note. Cheerleader stuff. Propaganda. Basically, it's kind of hard to have a "fuck you!" rock and roll attitude when you're not saying "fuck you."

But wait a minute - isn't there anyone who wants to raise their voice and protest the current war? Is everyone on the side of Bush? Cheney? Ashcroft? Where's the Country Joe of 2002?

Probably, part of the problem is that people who oppose Bush, Ashcroft, & Co., can't get their shit together. Find me a group of fifteen people who disagree with the "war" against terrorism, and I'll show you fifteen different reasons why "Operation Enduring Freedom" is flawed. It's important to fight the good fight, but it's next to impossible to change the world when every individual is fighting an individual battle.

But I think a bigger problem is that our culture has diluted the power of protest music generally.

Think to yourself: what are the great songs that have captivated not just a few people, but whole crowds of people, massive throngs of humanity? They're not political songs anymore. I hearken back to the summer of '96, wherein entire stadiums of sports fans (and everyone else in the Western World) would perform the "Macarena" in harmony. Not to say that every hit single should use the power for good, but just imagine the implications if the "Macarena" had been about universal healthcare and it was just as catchy - staggering.

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March 2002

jay's head
teevee girl