What do Kelly Clarkson, Nickelback’s “Photograph” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth” have in common? Little, except that they were all released during wartime America in the ’60s with Vietnam and in the ’00s with Iraq. Two wars fought under different yet similar conditions; however, pop culture and the youth culture have been slow to react toward the war. With more than 2,300 military casualties, 17,000 reported wounded, and a thirty-seven percent approval rating for President George W. Bush, Americans are growing restless with our country’s occupation of Iraq. Despite public disapproval, the entertainment industries have yet to speak out against the war at the level as witnessed during Vietnam.
With the release of The Constant Gardener, Good Night, and Good Luck, and Syriana, filmmakers are putting their antiwar feelings on the big screen for the public’s viewing pleasure. In James Risen’s State of War and Noam Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival, authors have published books for several years trying to expose where our country went wrong and how we can turn things around. Puff Daddy threatened people to vote in his “Vote or Die” campaign. Music artists, unlike filmmakers or authors, are not yet producing the volume of antiwar inspired songs like those artists of the ’60s.
The fear of political backlash is lessened as the majority of the country sees no end in sight to the president’s “Mess-o-potamia.” If the Dixie Chicks had confessed their shame for the president’s Texas residence today, radio stations would now likely give them more airplay instead of a blacklisting. Green Day grabbed Grammy Awards with their anti-Bush/ anti-War rock album, American Idiot. The Dave Matthews Band jammed out to “American Baby” in last year’s Stand Up. Kanye West began his crusade with “Jesus Walks.” These are successful artists, yet a stronger message is waiting to be heard as the nation’s youth and caretakers of the ’60s flounder as they come to grips with the seriousness of the current war.
A sentiment similar to that demonstrated by The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Jefferson Airplane, CSNY, Scott McKenzie, Joan Baez, The Beatles, and John Lennon is absent in today’s music scene. Is the nation waiting for a military draft or until American casualties reach 58,000? As civil war nears in Iraq and the US maintains its occupancy, D4L raps about “Laffy Taffy,” Nelly sings about his “Grillz,” and Fall Out Boy just wants to “Dance, Dance.” All catchy songs, but it seems trivial to think the gold in our mouths is the best subject for a song.
Perhaps the nation is so disturbed with the state of our country that we remove ourselves from reality by listening to the chorus lines and rhymes on our iPods. Music artists play to the public. If the public is not demanding that our current administration take responsibilities for their actions, then artists might hesitate to make a statement on their own.
If it is antiwar feelings that artists secretly have, it is not conveyed when they try to produce the next pop radio hit or nightclub remix. The public’s lack of awareness goes beyond the war and the administration. The clueless apathy could be a result of our culture of greed which causes deception.
One can only hope that the small stand in the entertainment industries will grow in favor of a more proactive stance. It has been three years since we entered war with Iraq; Vietnam took 10 years to end. There is little reason to believe we will not occupy Iraq for any shorter a period of time than we spent in Vietnam. As the artists of the ’60s proved, provocative, lasting music is written when there is an invested emotion. And war leaves enough emotions to last for several generations, but where is this emotion today?
Sam Rega is a sophomore majoring in motion pictures and philosophy. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.