Hitting a Sour Note

The same day another terror plot was uncovered, this one potentially involving liquid explosives and up to 12 UK to U.S. bound planes, I happened to hear a song from Neil Young's new album, Living With War.

Young has turned his talent into a tirade against the Bush administration and what the musician perceives as an erosion of civil liberties. With titles like, Shock and Awe, Flags of Freedom and Looking for a Leader , he draws the party line. But maybe the most blatant of the political songs is, Let's Impeach the President.

Let's impeach the President for lyin'
And misleading our country into war
Abusing all the power that we gave him
And shipping all our money out the door

Who's the man who hired all the criminals?
The White House shadows who hide behind closed doors
They bend the facts to fit with their new story
Of why we had to send our men to war

Let's impeach the President for spyin'
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
Tapping our computers and telephones

What if Al-Qaeda blew up the levees
Would New Orleans have been safer that way
Sheltered by our goverment's protection
Or was someone just not home that day?

Let's impeach the President for hijacking
Our religion and using it to get elected
Dividing our country into colors
And still leaving black people neglected

Thank God he's cracking down on steroids
Since he sold his baseball team
There's lots of people looking at big trouble
But of course our President is clean

Man, what's with the sour note? Somewhere along the way I think he replaced his heart of gold with a left hook. So adamant is the Godfather of Grunge, that he's even rejoined Crosby, Stills and Nash (a rare event, indeed!) for the Freedom of Speech Tour.

Hey, I don't care if musicians or artists use their platform for political purposes. No one's forcing me to buy their stuff. But with the world in its current state, I'm baffled at the one-sided critique. It is beyond me how someone could be so vocal about freedom and human rights, and so silent when Americans are beheaded, buses, trains and nightclubs are bombed, suicide bombers kill and mutilate innocent civilians, women are oppressed, abused and mutilated, and jihad is waged against the West -- all in the name of one of the great world religions, a professed religion of peace.

And all Neil can say is "Let's impeach the president." Hello? Is anyone home? Why is it that so many celebrities -- these self-appointed ambassadors of peace -- spend so little time and money condemning the atrocities executed by radical Islam? Please, I'm all ears.

I'm not particularly fond of President Bush, but to suggest that he's the big problem here is asinine. America is currently facing much bigger issues than who's in the White House... issues that have been brewing long before Mr. Bush or Young were even around. Our country's in the crosshairs of international terrorism while CSN & Y is creaking around stage spouting about freedom of speech. What's wrong with this picture?

And now another plot against America has been discovered.

Perhaps Neil Young should reflect on the words to his own song, Let's Roll, written shortly after September 11:

No one has the answer,
But one thing is true,
You've got to turn on evil,
When it's coming after you,
You've gota face it down,
And when it tries to hide,
You've gota go in after it,
And never be denied,
Time is runnin' out,
Let's roll.

"Turn on evil... face it down... go in after it..." That's it, Neil. Now you're in the right key.


Shawn Anthony said...

Great post. You make more than a few solid points. I'm no fan of Bush, but I don;t accredit him with all of the world's problems. What a simplistic and reckless thing to do ...

Ame said...

Someone gave me this info once on some health remedy that cured everything - the premise of the scientist who created the product was that there is only One Disease; therefore there is only One Cure.

Uhhhhh ... yeah ... but he missed what that One Disease is - it's sin. And he missed what that One Cure is - it's the blood of Jesus.

Much easier to blame the ails of this world on someone else or something else ~ 'cause then it takes me out of the "responsibility loop."

Michelle Pendergrass said...

I respect President Bush, but I'm not totally on the bandwagon.

I think that if people like this were to admit that there actually was a bigger problem than who's in the white house, they'd also have to admit that not all religions are "tolerant" as they'd like to believe. Then they'd have to admit that perhaps Christianity isn't what they thought. And then they'd just be staring into the face of Christ and for a lot of people it is just easier to focus on something else.

Jeanne Damoff said...

Good post. Good comments. I'm amazed at how much "credit" people give Bush for the state of the world, hurricanes (!), the price of gasoline, animosity in the Middle East, etc.

Until Jesus comes back, there will always be animosity in the Middle East. It's an Ishmael/Isaac thing. Impeaching Bush isn't going to make it go away. As another old rocker, Larry Norman, sang: "Why don't you look into Jesus? He's got the answer."

Christian said...

God bless Neil Young. While I agree with y'all that our President is not the ONLY problem facing us these days, he is a big one. Neil's argument is an oversimplification, true, but for the most part is on the mark. George Bush is not responsible for terrorism, Hurricane Katrina, the price of oil or the brewing Armaggedon in the Middle East, but his responses to ALL these problems have been dangerously misguided.
Willful ignorance and indulgence of the corporations he serves (if you think he serves the American people, you are sadly mistaken) will lead us deeper into the muck which seems to be overtaking the planet.
As for all this talk about Jesus, don't hold your breath. The bloodshed in Lebanon and Israel is a terrible tragedy, not the heralding of Christ's return. People are dying, and if you believe Christ is going to show up any minute and make it all better, you are naive at best. Radical Islam is one of the most destructive forces at work in the world today, but radical Christianity is NOT the solution. Until human beings start caring more about one another than what they believe their God wants from them, we're just going to go on killing and killing and killing.

Keep on rockin' in the free world.

Mirtika said...

I love it when people bitch about losing freedoms when they apparently have lost NONE that I can see. They still grouse in public, still write protest songs, and no one is taking their guitars, homes, and putting them in solitary for it.

They want to know where speech is not free: Go live in an Islamic country. Go live in Cuba (and not kiss Castro's butt).

I dare ya, Neil.


Mike Duran said...

Hey Christian, I appreciate your visit to my site. I don't comment a whole lot on politics here, so this post is somewhat of a rarity. However, I think you missed the main point I was making. I posed it in the question: Why is it that so many celebrities spend so little time and money condemning the atrocities executed by radical Islam?

As much as you'd like to draw an equivalency between "radical Islam" and "radical Christianity," the comparison is absurd. The suicide bombings, hijackings, and beheadings being perpertrated today, are done in the name of Allah, not Jesus. The genocide in Darfur is a holy war being fueled by Islam, a fact which is virtually unreported by the mainstream American media. Iran, officially The Islamic Republic of Iran, has openly vowed to destroy America. Shia Islam is the state religion, not Christianity. The car bombing near the Bali nightclub, the train bombings in Bombay, the London subway bombings, Richard Reid the British shoe bomber, the hijackers behind the Sept. 11 horrors, all these people and events have one thing in common -- Islam.

No doubt, Christianity has its issues and extremists. But to try to equate the two is dishonest. Which brings me back to my main question: Why don't our celebrities speak out against Islam?

Janet Rubin said...

Not just celebrities. I often wonder why the media hardly ever mentions all of the worldwide persecution of Christians- how they are imprisioned, attacked, raped, their churches burned, and secret meetings disrupted by the authorities. These things go on in China, Indonesia, Sudan, Pakistan, North and South Korea, and so many other countries. The average american has no clue. How come?

Gina Holmes said...

Great post Mike. I'm of the mindset that celebrities should probably sing and act and save the politics for people that might know a little more than them about what's going on behind closed doors.

I think President Bush is doing a great job.

Deborah said...

I ask some of the same questions. I'm a big fan of Dr. Sanity (http://drsanity.blogspot.com) who diagnoses politics according to psychiatry, her discipline.

She talks about how the left is engaging in displacement, projection and denial in focusing on Bush's "evils" as opposed to the real evil we face from jihadi thugs.

My take on the theory is that artists are often people with weak boundaries. They are often more emotional and perhaps more mentally unstable. This makes it all the more likely that they can't deal with the real evils--the thought is too terrifying and humiliating--so they focus on an evil they can poke in the eye without fear of consequences. What's Bush going to do with Young, eh? No beheading awaits him. No shredder to be fed into feet first. In fact, he's more likely to win a music award than he is to be put on a watch list.


Mike Duran said...

Hey Deborah, Dr. Sanity sounds pretty interesting. When it comes to politics, sanity is definitely needed. I think you've got a point about artists being emotionally soft. Were we to see firsthand the atrocities of war and the oppressions of corrupt governments, our opinions would change and our energies would be refocused. Maybe if we saw dissenters run through a paper shredder, war would suddenly seem like a viable -- if not necessary -- option. Thanks for the comments all!

Heather Smith said...

I agree Mike! I'm so sick of Bush being blamed with every problem America has. He's a man, and yes, he will make mistakes.
I wonder too why people don't question the motives of those who hate us rather than the motives of a man who strives to help us even if we don't agree with him 100% of the time?

James said...

Mike ...
As you acknowledge, the impetus for "Impeach" is political. Questions regarding the violation of Constitutional law, abuse of power, and abdication of responsibilities regarding the public trust, directly address the health and security of our nation. As citizens in a democracy, it's our primary responsibility to be informed and involved, regarding all levels of governance.

That obligation operates parallel to, but independent of, "radical Islam", Kamikaze pilots, Cuban missiles, or any other form of tyranny or aggression. If anything, the imperative for public involvement in the American political process is accentuated in times of crisis.

Which of course, is the message in the music of "Living With War" - a call to action by an artist, following an age-old tradition of advocacy through song. The question as presented by Neil in his work (not in his "celebrity" status) is whether the Bush administration is incompetent, or criminal or both. That question is at the heart of an impeachment hearing. A defense of "yeah, but there's really bad people in the world" might distract some observers, but hardly benefits the accused.

No one ... not even Neil Young ... claims George Bush is the cause of all things gone wrong in America. But the issue of accountability - as illustrated by the slogan displayed on the desk of President Harry Truman: "The Buck Stops Here" - calls on Bush as the chief executive to either step up ... or step down. How many members of this administration have been held accountable for failure at the federal level? How many people has Bush actually "fired" for their ineptitude? Even "Brownie", of Katrina infamy, was merely moved into a new position.

Personally, I believe this is a corrupt administration driven by cronyism and ideological fundamentalism that runs contrary to the public good. If you disagree, that's fine. But don't confuse the issue by pointing to the jihadists. "Radical Islam" is not the cause of this administration's ineptitude (if you doubt that, read the book "Fiasco" - it'll break your heart) or their high crimes and misdemeanors: that was a choice.

Mike Duran said...

Thanks for the comments James! You wrote:

The question as presented by Neil in his work (not in his "celebrity" status) is whether the Bush administration is incompetent, or criminal or both. That question is at the heart of an impeachment hearing. A defense of "yeah, but there's really bad people in the world" might distract some observers, but hardly benefits the accused.

Once again, this is not the point of this post. The question I asked is, Why do our celebrities not address other more immediate, violent threats to our society? This question has not been answered by the dissenting commentators here. The fact that most vocal celebrities are politically liberal suggests both a shared mindset amongst the avante-garde and a potential agenda to their "art." Like it or not, Neil Young's art and celebrity are intertwined. His "celebrity" grants him a hearing. You and I, on the other hand, are limited to blogs and water cooler debates. All Mr. Young has to do is pick up a guitar to gather a crowd. The fact that he's singing from a leftist perspective before this crowd says a lot. So please don't try to portray him as some kind noble musician. He's using his celebrity to further a specific position.

If Mr. Young was truly concerned about, "Questions regarding the violation of Constitutional law, abuse of power, and abdication of responsibilities regarding the public trust, directly address the health and security of our nation," then why didn't he express that during the previous administration?The Clinton Legacy includes:

- The only president ever impeached on grounds of personal malfeasance
- Most number of convictions and guilty pleas by friends and associates*
- Most number of cabinet officials to come under criminal investigation
- Most number of witnesses to flee country or refuse to testify
- Most number of witnesses to die suddenly
- First president sued for sexual harassment.
- First president accused of rape.
- First first lady to come under criminal investigation
- Largest criminal plea agreement in an illegal campaign contribution case
- First president to establish a legal defense fund.
- First president to be held in contempt of court
- Greatest amount of illegal campaign contributions
- Greatest amount of illegal campaign contributions from abroad
- First president disbarred from the US Supreme Court and a state court

If Neil Young is so interested in "the issue of accountability" as you put it, where's the songs about Clinton's indiscretions and incompetency? Alas, there are none.

Here's the truth, James. Neil Young is a liberal celebrity, and like many other liberal celebrities, he uses his celebrity as a platform to denigrate conservatives and further his liberal views. If he was a genuine crusader for truth he would hardly be so one-sided with his politics.

I've already said here, I'm not a big Bush fan or defender. I'm familiar with "Fiasco," heard an interview with the author and agree with some of his points. If your fundamental position is that "Radical Islam is not the cause of this administration's ineptitude," then I agree (although we'd disagree about the level of that ineptitude). However I'd suggest that, radical Islam is potentially far, far more destructive than the Bush administration. We've "survived" six years under Bush, but if a Muslim terrorist organization acquires a nuclear device, we may not survive. So which one is more deadly? If you had to choose to live in a country where GW was president or the Taliban ruled, which one would you choose? Yeah, I thought so.

Amy M. said...

Putting all comments aside...I don't pay money to go to a concert to here the political views of some celebrity! I go to hear music I like, or used to like, but they they ruin it by throwing in their snide, political jokes/comments...especially when you don't agree with most of what they are saying; and even if you do agree, you don't want to hear it at a concert. Bette Midler did the same thing...I had looked forward to the concert and came away disappointed and felt like I had wasted my hard-earned money...she and Young can keep their political views to themselves when they are supposed to be performing for our enjoyment!!

James said...

Hi Mike ...

Ah, blog debates ... a field of linguistic landmines that may unnecessarily widen the divide. Not to say we don't have differences of opinion, but I hope that what I may clumsily write is not taken personally. It's not the spirit in which it's written.

I tried to address the point of your post, on two accounts: The use of the word "celebrities" and the red herring argument regarding "radical Islam", in the context of "Let's Impeach The President". If you're going to post lyrics from "Impeach" then the debate should be concerned with the case for or against impeachment, not sidetracked by a rhetorical question addressing a separate issue.

And please allow me to point out, that in restating your original question, you've changed the very specific key phrase of "... the atrocities executed by radical Islam?" to the more general "...more immediate, violent threats to our society?

I was responding to the specificity of the first question. My response to the second version of the question, is that Neil Young, has responded to very real and immediate issues that threaten our society; such as gun violence, teenage pregnancy, drug addiction, economic injustice that has nearly obliterated the small farmer, and more. As for radical Islam, you yourself pointed out that Neil addressed this threat with "Let's Roll".

The London Guardian, writing about "Let's Roll": "as quintessentially Neil Young as any other: meant from the heart, without regard to what political lines he might be crossing."

Which leads to Mike's statement:
"Here's the truth, James. Neil Young is a liberal celebrity..."
Just as Neil's music has careened all over the map, so have his politics. From the same Guardian article:
"Young earned the derision of music business liberals in 1984 when he backed Ronald Reagan, saying: 'I'm tired of people constantly apologising for being Americans.' Here was Young the patriot and Young the libertarian in full flow. Four years later, he made appreciative noises about black civil rights leader Jesse Jackson's presidential ambitions."

On his 1991 tour with Crazy Horse at the height of Gulf War I, an over-sized yellow ribbon hung from Neil's mic stand.

At it's banquet on December 11, 2001, the People For The American Way gave Neil Young its Spirit of Liberty award. Young used the occasion to proclaim his support of the USA/Patriot Act, which became law on October 26. "To protect our freedoms," Young said, "it seems we're going to have to relinquish some of our freedoms for a short period of time."

His opinion of Bush and his prosecution of the "war on terror" has changed, along with his view on the use of the Patriot Act.

Lest we forget, Neil also performed at the "America: A Tribute To Heroes" benefit for families directly affected by 9/11.

That's Neil the "liberal". As for celebrity, Mike writes: "Like it or not, Neil Young's art and celebrity are intertwined."

I would argue that celebrity is a possible outcome of art. Hundreds of artists release CD's every year, with relatively few achieving (or maintaining) celebrity, despite being in the same "business" as the stars. In their work - their art - artists make personal statements. Many go unheard, but communication is a function of songwriting. If the artist reaches a mass audience, which bestows the status of "celebrity", they indeed have the opportunity to take advantage of that status, perhaps by calling a press conference to espouse their politcal views. That, I agree is "using" their celebrity, but it's an action separate from the act of creating art. Only those with great agents, can live off their "celebrity", without adding to their body of work.

That said, why is there so often criticism from the Right (and the Left at times), when a celebrity voices their opinions? Did they somehow surrender their right to free speech? The good old OneLook dictionary defines celebrity as "a widely known person", which takes in an awful wide range of people - including Senators and Presidents - are they all using their status to unfair advantage? And where was the Right to praise Neil for "Let's Roll"? And didn't Oliver Stone dodge a bullet from the Right with "World Trade Center"?! ... speaking of leftist, conspiracy-theorist anti-American celebrities!!

As to your final question, of course I don't want to live under the Taliban, or any other fascist regime ... nor do I want to watch the powers of the Executive branch devolve into Cheney's "Imperial Presidency" before my very eyes and remain silent. Do you consider the First Ammendment to be a zoning ordinance? Are you content when the president flat-out lies to an audience in Buffalo regarding his respect for the law regarding electronic surveillance in America? Is it comforting to know that the Justice Department is busy rewriting our laws, in order to protect this administration against possible War Crimes charges under U.S. statutes? How do you feel about the 700+ "signing statements" Bush has attached to legislation, exempting himself from sections of the law he finds objectionable? Mike, would you like to see where all this leads ... or speak up now and stop the erosion of rights and protections afforded by the Constitution? This is an attack on our system of government from the inside; and it's on-going, thereby an immediate threat, with long-range consequences. We had better have our house in order, if we hope to survive the external threats on the near horizon.

You see, I don't always agree with Neil, but I don't think he should stop expressing whatever's in his heart - not even at his concerts. It's never stopped me from enjoying his shows! Long Live Neil Young & Crazy Horse!

Mike Duran said...

Well put, James! I appreciate the spirit of your response. It's great to know Mr. Young's views are fluid, however as you've pointed out, they do appear to have settled left of center. I'd give him more props if his views maintained more of a middle ground, but the shift is probably more true to his ideological roots.

Furthermore, you didn't address this question, which was one of my main points in the previous comment: If Neil Young is so interested in "the issue of accountability" as you put it, where's the songs about Clinton's indiscretions and incompetency? It is difficult for me to put stock in Mr. Young's cry for "impeachment" and "White House shadows" when he didn't vocalize the same concerns for the previous, equally corrupt, administration.

I'm afraid your lengthy discussion about "celebrity" is a tad misguided. I had no intention to exegete the differences between celebrity and art. And as I said in my original post, Hey, I don't care if musicians or artists use their platform for political purposes. No one's forcing me to buy their stuff.

So once again it's back to my main question: Why aren't more of these artists/musicians/actors -- people who have creative gifts and a platform -- speaking out against more serious issues?. It appears this is where you and I disagree.

You believe that "the erosion of rights and protections afforded by the Constitution" is more important than terrorist threats. I absolutely, unequivocally disagree. Radical Islam is hardly a "red herring." James, THIS IS THE ISSUE. I believe, as I said in my previous comments, that militant Islam poses a far greater threat to Western civ than "electronic surveillance in America," "signing statements" or even First Amendment rights. If you don't believe that, or acknowledge the obvious, eminent threats posed by these jihadists, then we are world's apart.

Hey James, I appreciate your stopover at Decompose and the spirit of the dialogue. Maybe we'll bump into each other at a concert and pick it up there...

Scrubs & Shines said...

In wartime,
truth is so precious
that she
should always
be guarded
by a bodyguard
of lies.

Winston Churchill

George Bush made mention of W.C. "I've always been a great admirer of Sir Winston Churchill, admirer of his career, admirer of his strength, admirer of his character -- so much so that I keep a stern-looking bust of Sir Winston in the Oval Office".

I think its time to impeach the president for leading your country into a war over lies. I dont believe the Bush Administration is being honest about Bin Ladden and 9/11, Save your country, You American's need to stop the tyrany and get your troops home. Another great president from your country once said...

Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official... ~Theodore Roosevelt

s pichan said...

Neil would be blown off the stage if he attempted to perform his supposed tribute to our fallen heroes for our troops in Iraq. He exploits our soldiers that sacrificed their lives, enabling Neil to freely sing whatever he wants. To bad he doesn't appreciated that. He just used them in order to take jabs at W.

Ernie said...

I gather you are one of those maximum-comfort-seeking Neil Young/CSNY "fans" who prefers to hear "Old Man", "Teach Your Cildren" and "Harvest Moon" and would really rather not be confronted with either Neil's or CSN's politics. You have the audacity to quote the lyrics to "Let's Roll" as if you understand the motivation behind them, though you apparently not only don't understand them at all but are further ignorantly willing to use them to further your political agenda by implying Neil meant them for anyone other than Bin Laden and his evil minions. A Bush fan or apologist, you still don't seem to get it that as well documented by now Saddam Hussein not only had NOTHING to do with 9/11 and Bin Laden but in fact the two men despised each other. My guess is Neil would be quite angry with you for your not only toe-ing the Bush administration's line of linking Hussein with 9/11, but using Neil's lyrics to do so. In Neil's stead and as you would learn if you bothered to read up on him, I will try to be clear once and for all "Let's Roll" was definitely not a call to arms against Iraq, but against the real perpetrators of 9/11, who are still at large by the way. This is what you ought to be concerned about rather than misdirecting your energy against a vital artist telling his truth, which happens to be THE truth. Anyway, I hope you got to see CSNY on their magnificent tour. If you were one of the handful who walked out of any given "Freedom Of Speech" show when things got real "sour" (as you put it), you were certainly free to bail, but I hope you also noticed nobody really cared if and when you felt you needed to leave. Misinformed, incorrect and as apparently agenda-laden as were your comments, I hope you are as concerned about freedom of speech as is Neil Young and will post my message. Otherwise, I invite you to sit back and revisit "Helpless" as many times as you wish to. Peace.