From Ohio to Baghdad


The 60s: closer to garlic or green tea in taste? What's easier to digest to you? It's very hard to sit here and criticize a person and their opinions. Who knows what experiences people have had to form their world view? That's why it must be heard and respected. Yet, on the other hand, it can be so easy and entertaining to do so.

Neil Young is entitled to use his power and wealth to spread his anti-war (read anti-Bush) gospel and maybe earn some pennies in the process. He's earned it. Hey, he may even come up with a few good tunes in the process. Personally, I listen less to what they have to say politically anyway. I just don't think they are all that enlightening. But that's me. I would much rather read Vilfredo Pareto several times over than hear tired 'I love lady bugs anti-everything' lyrics.

I do have a problem, however, when celebrities call for the impeachment of a President. Why? For starters, their rhetoric usually completely disregards the historical and political American heritage. It's not often that I hear an artist and say to myself 'Hmmm. Good point.'

When I was 17 I could have been convinced. But now? At 34 and with all that I have experienced? Nah.

I apologize, but I'm (like most people) more rooted in reality than they are. Steve Earle is a great performer and musician - I watched him at Theatre St.Denis in Montreal in 1991 - but how credible is he to judge a President?

When carefully examined, Bush very much falls in line with traditional foreign policy doctrines from Thomas Jefferson (less so with TJ) to Andrew Jackson (more with AJ) to several Presidents in the 20th century (believe it or not, Woodrow Wilson). His goals are, well, familiar to the American experience. The weight on their shoulders, though, threatens to unravel.

Had these people - celebrities - actually studied American history (I'm sure some have but they aren't talking, it seems) they wouldn't be so frivolous and light with throwing around big words like impeachment. It's like how we call everyone a racist these days. We use it with such irresponsibility it threatens to lose all meaning. Proving that the President lied to the people would be a lot harder in court than most people care to admit. It's not so clear cut. Perhaps it's closer to libel against President Bush?

Look, I'm not looking to defend Bush. My point is it's a whole new pastime to chastise - right or wrong - these figures in public either for money or cheap laughs.

In any event, rock stars apparently have the clear sighted talent of seeing the big picture. Not so with Iraq. It seems as though they are not seeing the hopeful possibilities in that country. Maybe they should listen to the people of Iraq closer. But it's hard to listen when you are convinced of your beliefs. Call it musical fundamentalism. They continue to view and intellectualize contemporary times through a 1960s prism. Playing parallels with history is a fool's game indeed. In drawing analogies one has to have confidence in the premise that history unfolds in a predictable manner. In some cases it does and in others it manages to be deceptive.

The not-so revolutionary ideals revolution of the 60s failed for a reason. They were less rooted in the natural laws of world history and more of a showcase in narcissistic 'what ought to be' notions of baby boomers. Singing to impeach Bush is a right to free speech. If so, why has it become a question of censorship when we ask artists to account for their rationales? Or do they get a free pass because they are decades (supposedly) ahead of the rest of the population?

Now how do you match the haunting words of 'four dead in Ohio' with '3 dead in Baghdad? in a great million dollar song? Yes, the challenges - and ironies - of life.

1 comment:

  1. How exactly does Bush's foreign policy mirror that of Tomas Jefferson's? You should back up such a claim.

    Musicians are probably not the best people to debate policy, but when there is enough of a groundswell, they tend to give voice to it.


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