Letters from Readers: Fooled Again

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“We won’t get fooled again.” The Who

And so it has come to this. The Who sang their 1960s anthem at the recent Madison Square Garden Concert for New York City (Saturday, October 20th on VH1 TV) to honor the victims of terrorism on September 11th. They told us all how proud they were to be there. And Paul McCartney will probably be back on the pop charts with his new Freedom song, which had all the performers on stage together at the end of the concert. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards sang “Salt of the Earth,” an appropriate song to honor the firefighters and cops who did give up their lives to save people at the World Trade Center.

Perhaps healing through music is what is needed right now, especially for New Yorkers, but I found the performance quite scary. After all, the crowd booed when one of the star MCs suggested directing energy towards love, compassion, and understanding. Billy Crystal was overtly vengeful almost every time he opened his mouth.

Rock music started out as a rebellion against convention and motivated the 60s generation in their anti-war and civil rights work.

I remember Country Joe and the Fish leading the crowd against the Viet Nam War. “Give me an F (huge response: F); give me a U (huge response: U), give me a C (huge response: C), give me a K (huge response: K).” “What’s that spell? (Huge response: FUCK); What’s that spell? (Wild response: FUCK); What’s that spell? (Overwhelming response: FUCK).” And then they went into their anti-war songs. And what about Marvin Gaye singing “What’s Goin’ On?” Instead, now we have Mick Jagger screaming that what the concert shows is, “Don’t fuck with New York!”

It seems that some of those same rockers have indeed turned into their parents. The balding members of The Who can still play great music, but they have been “fooled again” and they are legitimating super-patriotism that makes it OK to bomb civilians in Afghanistan, and who knows how many other countries in the coming period. How is it that we have learned so little since the 1970s?

Rock musicians used to be arrested by the cops; but now they wear police hats and bow down to authority. It would have been unimaginable to see rock stars wear police hats in the 60s and 70s, but almost all of them at the concert got in on this new fashion trend. Yes, we should honor those who put their lives at risk and those who died trying to put out fires and save lives. But can’t we have some sense of balance here? Let’s honor the good deeds and urge the police to strive for their highest ideals. But let’s also not forget the repression that regularly comes down on especially poor and darker people by at least some of those who enforce the law.  Have we completely forgotten the Louima case already? Perhaps it is just too soon to get a reasonable perspective.

Bill Clinton boasted that he hoped Bin Laden was watching the concert to see the spirit of New York. Well, if he was watching he learned that so far people have learned absolutely nothing regarding disastrous U.S. foreign policies. Clinton opposed the Vietnam War to save himself from fighting, but he was not protesting U.S. imperialism. Bin Laden’s video tape was quite specific. He castigated the United States for repression of the Palestinian and Iraqi peoples, and he railed against the United States military in the holy sites of Islam. Why don’t Americans know that U.S. bombs still fall regularly, every week or two, on Iraq? Why can’t Americans understand that U.S. weapons and billions of dollars back up Israel’s increasingly brutal attacks on the Palestinians? When will we learn that bombs create enemies, not friends, and that increasingly desperate people may resort to terrorism?

Revenge is a natural human emotion, but intelligent people also do have brains that should be thinking of viable solutions other than bombing and displacing populations and destroying countries. If only John Lennon were still around to counter Paul McCartney’s blind wish to “fight for freedom” without understanding who or what he is fighting. Maybe Paul should visit the Afghani refugee camps and see what this latest “fight for freedom” has already accomplished.

Al Kagan

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