In 1968, I was still in High School. I remember vividly the times, the Vietnam War, the protests, the music. I remember, on the weekend of Woodstock wishing I could go. I remember the news reports of the traffic jams on the Thruway, the fence jumpers, the eventual anarchy. I remember the war protests and the way everyone was a little shocked when they came to happen at UB and police used tear gas here in Buffalo. That was a bit of a reality check for Western New Yorkers. It’s different when it’s LA or Detroit, but this was home.
I’m watching a documentary, CSNY / Deja Vu, and it got me thinking of all that. How much has changed and how much things have stayed the same.
I’m a follower of music and I’ve thought once or twice about whether there was or would be a resurfacing of war protest in music with the Iraq/Afghanistan wars. There’s been a few glimmers, but by large, popular music has ignored it. I thought perhaps rap/hip hop would become the new voice of any anti-war sentiment. It still might, but I think maybe things just haven’t gotten bad enough yet. Neil Young does list over 2000 such songs on his Living With War Today website, but the site also adds:
Music, like books has never been able to change the world alone. Only people and their mass reaction and the unity of that in the celebration of music can and did.
At a time when the masses are for many reasons at their most politically indifferent, it is hard to disagree with Neil’s recent comments regarding music and it’s role in shaping the world we live in.
There are few protest songs or politically motivated artists in these times. Why? My take is the absolute consumerism that consumes us as a force.
The majority of people are so wrapped up in their own desires to really care about others.
The documentary was about Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s reunion tour a few years ago that coincided with Neil Young’s then newest anti-war CD. They toured and used a mixture of old and new songs to speak out against the current war.
They felt that they needed to speak out, that no one else was doing that. They would have liked contemporary musicians to do that, but finally had to do it themselves despite all being in their 60’s.
I think the reason we haven’t seen a contemporary resurgence in war protest music can be attributed to several things.
First of all, as I said, things haven’t gotten bad enough. Sure, we’re putting up with some loss of personal freedoms, ask anyone who’s been through an airport or waited in line at the border. We’ve all known somebody who has lost someone in the military, but our sons and daughters aren’t being forced into the military, they’re ‘volunteers.’ Even the cost of gasoline has been pretty much accepted with resignation and blamed not on terrorist states, but on greed in our own petroleum industry.
And our politicians, most of whom were in college in the 60’s and 70’s, are savvy to the whole anti-war issue. They’ve learned how to spin things and keep the public fat and happy while they do whatever they want.
And the internet, satellite TV, cell phones and all that modern technology has changed things. Has it made it easier for people to express their opinions or does it just diffuse things? Is it too much information that overloads us and makes us indifferent?
So CSNY had their work cut out for them, getting people to listen to them. Understandably, they got a wide variety of reactions to their shows. The documentary showed the whole tour and what they experienced getting their point of view out.
One interesting scene in the movie was of some peoples reactions at a concert in Atlanta to the song “Let’s Impeach The President.” I never will understand the inability of some people to separate the connection between disagreeing with our government’s decision to put and keep our military in a war and our support of our citizen-soldiers who serve in the military. You can support our troops without agreeing with the policies that put them in harm’s way in the first place.
To understand this movie, lets pretend there is a prequel. That story would be about the worst president in US history, a disgrace to the global politics and people of the planet. He is a man without domestic economics policies and succeeded to the oval office without even having the largest number of votes. This man, incapable of leading a nation, starts a war on a lie with a country that has done nothing to his. [ Living With War Today website ]
So, I watched the movie. From a music perspective, I enjoyed it. From a philosophical/political perspective, I found it fascinating as well. I have always made it pretty clear I don’t like politics much. I’ve been lied to so many times, I just don’t trust it anymore. But it made a lot of sense to me.
But the main thing it did was give me a sick feeling. When I was 18, there was a draft and I planned for it. I had options, do nothing and possibly end up a grunt on the ground in VietNam, enlist in the Navy or Air Force and maybe get a better, safer way of fulfilling my obligation, or move to Canada. Fortunately, I never had to make that choice, my number was never called.
That was then and while it may have been a hopeless war by the end of it, at least we started out there for some good reasons. This time, we’re in a war based on lies with no moral high ground to support our being there. It’s a crime that we (our government) have put our sons and daughters (for the first time in history) in jeopardy for no good reason. It’s a shame we’ve destroyed what was left of our country’s good reputation.
But instead of being outraged by that, some people apparently only get upset when a song suggests holding a president accountable for this mess and impeaching him. Maybe that’s why we don’t see much of an outcry against this war, wrong-thinking like that has diverted people’s attention.
The movie, which came out in July, but I never saw in a theater listing, must’ve gone straight to video. I watched it online through Netflix. If you’re a music fan, or just curious, it’s probably at your favorite rental place. If nothing else, it’s one more chance to see one of the greatest musical groups ever.