Saturday, April 29, 2006

Living With War On A Listserv

Living With War On A Listserv

Got in a debate yesterday on the icprogressive listserv; reader Beky Sharp took issue with my post on the "Living With War" album. I share the dialogue in nice reverse blogger order. If she responds again, I'll update.


I'm not defending the Patriot Act. And I remember the PMRC well: I was a college DJ in 1985, it was horrible, and I've spent twenty years reminding people of it as any local Democrat will tell you. I voted for Nader over it in 2000, and lost a few friends over that.

No one - not even Neil Young himself - can defend every political or musical statement he has ever made in public over the course of a 40 year career. A conspicuous number of albums have mysteriously gone without CD release; unavailibility = repudiation? (In the case of that 1983 rockabilly album that may be a good thing.)

But is consistency a priority for an artist? I'd say Neil Young's very unpredictability, volatility, and inconsistency are among his greatest strengths. A decade ago Neil wrote a wonderful elegy to Kurt Cobain called "Change Your Mind" and apparantly he has done so. The statement you quote citing Young's support of the Patriot Act is from late 2002. Yet on the song "Let's Impeach The President", written only weeks ago, he sings:

Let's impeach the president for spying
On citizens inside their own homes
Breaking every law in the country
By tapping our computers and telephones

Sometimes the zeal of the converted makes a statement more powerful. And for any movement to grow, converts must be sought and welcomed, especially converts who bring with them a constituency of their own.

I won't call Neil Young a hero, though he has done some good, concrete things for people over the years such as Farm Aid and the Bridge School benefit concerts. Maybe it just seems strong to me because he speaks in the artistic medium I love most, guitar based rock music. But all I'm asking anyone to do is evaluate "Living With War" on its own merits, as a major statement by an important musician, and not measure it against past positions Neil Young now seems to be reversing.


From: Beky Sharp
Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 6:45 PM
Subject: [icprogressive] Neil Young - Living With War: Hear It NOW

What a dump load of crap, Mr. Deeth.

Anyone who defends the Patriot Act is not a progressive, let alone an anti-war hero.

I can't believe how naive some people are.

Also, for those of you who remember, the PMRC (Parents Media Resource Center) was the illegitimate baby of Tipper "the ripper" Gore, who wanted mandatory warnings and ratings on all records and CDs. And Al "the bore" Gore's later running mate, Joe Lieberman, eagerly climbed on board.

Censorship = good. Is that what you progressives are all about?

Give me a break.

- Beky Sharp


Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 5:04 PM
Subject: Re: [icprogressive] Neil Young - Living With War: Hear It NOW

john deeth writes:

Dave Marsh is my favorite rock writer and I had a very deep conversation with him over dinner once, the memory of which I treasure. In fact, Neil Young was one of the musicians we'd discussed, it was right at the time his album with Pearl Jam was released and Marsh had just interviewed Young.

But none of us is 100% consistent, and people change over time. Neil Young has flipped flopped politically three or four times over his career, and even went through a Reaganite period back around the 1985 "Old Ways" album. But that didn't invalidate "Ohio" or "Southern Man." In 2002 he was gung-ho with "Let's Roll," but he's hardly the only person who was for it before he was against it. Perhaps that's why he has reacted so strongly - like so many people, he was misled.

Neil Young is not a politician, he's an artist. Consider his current, very powerful statement on its own merits.


----- Original Message -----
From: Beky Sharp
Sent: Friday, April 28, 2006 3:56 PM
Subject: [icprogressive] Neil Young - Living With War: Hear It NOW

This is the real Neil Young:

Neil Young: Give Up Your Rights
Broken Arrow
By Lee Ballinger and Dave Marsh

from Counter Punch magazine

People for the American Way, which once described the goal of the PMRC censors as "to bring children and parents together on music selection," gave Neil Young its Spirit of Liberty award at a December 11 Beverly Hills banquet. 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."

No comments: