Thursday, January 26, 2006

Political Protests

As both a political observer and an active participant I often study how other politicians, political pundits, and activists view and live in the world of politics. I ran across this video and it made me think about protest songs of the 60's and songs of our generation. It also made me think about how protests and attacks differ from generations past up to now.

As we compare the lyrics of "when the president talks to god" and other bush bashing songs to the lyrics of the 60's you can really see the differences in the way change is sought out in our political system. In the 60's there were lyrics like:

And its 1 2 3 what are we fighting for?
Don't ask me I don't give damn!
Next stop is Viet Nam.
And it's 5 6 7 open up them pearly gates.
There aint no time to wonder why
Whoopee! We're all gonna die.

There were also songs like "One Tin Soldier" and "Where have all the flowers gone?" The ideas were that flower power, thinking with your hearts, and longing for peace were all that we needed to achieve a perfect world. Today's political songs for change are characterized by personal attacks on the president. Prior to the 2004 election an album entitled "Rock Against Bush," a collection of rebellious punk rock songs including ones from mainstream acts like Sum 41, offspring, and the Ataris was released.

These were countered by pro bush songs like "Have You Forgotten?" a call to arms in the Iraq war:

I hear people saying we don't need this war
I say there's some things worth fighting for
What about our freedom and this piece of ground?
We didn't get to keep 'em by backing down.

And who can forget Toby Kieth's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue (The Angry American)," which asserts:

Justice will be served
And the battle will rage
This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage
And you'll be sorry that you messed with the U.S. of A.
Cause we'll put a boot in your ass
It's the American Way.

The political attack songs probrably reached a peak during the Clinton years when Rush Limbaugh used political satire to lambast President Clinton and other Democrats. I will never forget "all your money" sung to the tune of the beatles (all my lovin). Even though I am a diehard Democrat I had to laugh at "The Philanderer" Sung by a Ted Kennedy sound alike to the tune of "The Wanderer." I also soon began to cringe when I realized that this was leading to increasingly personal attacks on politicians.

President Clinton made it easy to launch personal attacks with his personal indiscretions. President Bush has also made it real easy to launch personal attacks and even though his administration is a lame duck I don't see the attacks lightening up right up to his last day in office. For the most part the lower down the political ladder you go the less likely you will have a song either bashing you, supporting you or making fun of you. One local exception to that rule was former Mayor Debbie Jaramillo who was parodied on a local radio station with "wasting away again in Jaramilloville" sung to the tune of Margaritaville. I used to have a cassette of that song and wish I had not lost it. It was really a classic. So when will the pendulum swing the other way? Will Americans decide that at some point the personal attacks on our politicians have gone too far? Or will politicians just grow thicker and thicker skins? Only time will tell.

1 comment:

SWT said...

Good post, Sheriff. And thanks for embedding that video. I'd never heard that song.

As a slightly older guy, I do remember some songs from the '60s aimed at the president. Country Joe & The Fish, who did "Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die," also had a song called "Superbird," about LBJ. They later added a verse about "Tricky Dick."

A more powerful song, however was Pete Seeger's "Waste Deep in the Big Muddy." By the last verse you realize that "The Big Fool" who says to push on is President Johnson.

"Bad Moon Rising" by Creedence was about Nixon, though it didn't mention his name.

Tom T. Hall did a song called "Watergate Blues" about you-know-who.

About a year ago I did a column about songs you won't find on the President's iPod. You can find it here:

Steve Terrell