Our United States seems to be tearing itself apart. However, we are all together in this American experiment and we have been here before. What we learn from these confusing times will determine how we continue.
That said, with all the protests and community cries for change, we have been missing a crucial weapon in fighting the status quo. In our history, there have been musicians and writers who have created songs that have encapsulated the idea or message behind a movement and motivated many more to get on board. I’ve listened to a lot of classic rock in my life and, even though I was not alive during the Vietnam War, I can listen to Credence Clearwater Revival’s, Fortunate Son, and know that many did not support the draft. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s and others, black Americans sang, We Shall Overcome, a gospel song with a long history.
Then, there are songs that encourage us all to be kind to each other such as Put a Little Love in Your Heart by Jackie DeShannon. Music is part of our consciousness. We are bombarded daily by media, but carefully written lyrics set to a powerful tune can incite action and foster unity.
When I remember music as a catalyst for change, I think of Live Aid, Farm Aid, and We are the World type things. Peaceful gatherings benefiting a cause and giving people a good show for their support.
Freedom is the presence of acceptable options. Every day, I see people coming together and trying desperately to make changes that they know in their hearts are needed for our country. If nothing we do, from Parkland High School students passionately speaking words that should not be spoken by children or burning cities out of anger over police brutality and racial injustice, facilitates change or at least opens up the conversation, then why protest at all? It is good to question and hold our nation’s “leadership” accountable by whatever means provided it does not infringe on the rights and property of others. However, these small to medium sized events are being met with much hostility by law enforcement. And, getting into conflicts with police is counterproductive in times such as these. Allowing emotion to override the message and the ultimate goal of a movement is happening a lot. This usually only lands protesters in jail or in the grave.
Protests need something to unify their purpose and a well-written song that appeals to a person’s core cannot be ignored. I am sure chants are effective, however most of the ones I’ve seen lately incite anger in people. Yes, we all know you are mad at the injustice or the situation. However, getting a face full of pepper spray or an introduction to tonfas, is not the best way to prove your point. So, let us take a little bit of an example from the hippies and civil rights leaders from decades ago and try some passive tactics. And, maybe a rocking protest song like Eve of Destruction by Barry Maguire. People in America need something to unify them. With all the divisive politics, anxiety about this pandemic, racial tensions, and the rest, music could be our last hope. Maybe that is a bit Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, but this is my five minutes and now I’m done now. Thank you for reading.