Thursday, July 17, 2008


I am really not a 60s romantic. But one thing that I miss from that time was the extraordinary role that artists played in criticizing the senseless war in Vietnam. From Country Joe and the Fish to Bob Dylan to Jimi Hendrix, musicians challenged the easy shibboleths of Cold War America, sometimes with humor, sometimes with bitterness, sometimes with tears.

Unfortunately, the Iraq War has not spurred the same outburst of politically-engaged artistry. I'm not sure why. It may be that the immediacy of the draft in the 1960s--and the American death toll in Southeast Asia, about ten times that of Bush's war so far--created a sense of urgency.

It's telling that the most powerful antiwar songs of the Bush II-era have come from the South, a region whose sons and daughters are disproportionately represented in the military and where "God, guns, and guts made America #1" bumper stickers are commonplace.

One of my favorite bands, the Drive-By Truckers, have written two of the very best antiwar anthems to date. Frankly there is no better, no more powerful or moving song about the tragedy of the Iraq War than "Dress Blues" (above) about a Marine from Greenhill, Alabama.

And on the Truckers' newest album (h/t to Scott McLemee at Quick Study--I'm always six months or a year behind the latest music) is "The Man I Shot," which captures the terror of shell shock or what we now call Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, one of the countless, everyday human tragedies of the war.

1 comment:

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