This post has been revised to better reflect my intent.
Due to the incredible expense of music performances I haven’t taken my kids to many concerts, especially no big name performances. A sad loss considering the importance of music to culture, and their own culture they enjoy by listening to current pop standards. Unless supported by communities only the wealthy can enjoy well known arts and artists. When my daughter requested that we go to the free Concert for Valor the opportunity was welcome. It was to be held on the DC mall at 7 PM for hundreds of thousands. Estimates were as many as 800 thousand would show up. The concert billed artists they new like Jesse J, Rihanna, Eminem, Carrie Underwood, and Bruce Springsteen, and others they didn’t know like Metallica, the Black Keys, and the Zac Brown band. The Concert for Valor was billed to support veterans and their difficult issues after returning home.
I am not much of a war patriot. For me the Vietnam war was a mistake both in implementation and in dividing this country. I watched the first week of the Iraq war with great interest, horrified at Donald Rumsfeld, all too aware at the tenuousness of the presence of weapons of mass destruction, impressed at how quickly one can roll through a country and capture it, and more aware of the difficulties of maintaining a country once occupied. History is filled with far more stories of failed conquests than successful ones.
Yet, I have considered some wars to be necessary as defense and certainly WWI and WWII could not be avoided. When younger my line in the sand was are they coming after us, are they invading our country? My philosophy was like personal defense. Do not respond to aggression aggressively until all other means have been covered completely and then use the least amount of force necessary while pursuing other diplomatic and peaceful means with greater intensity. I might even let them land on soil if there were any way to stop the war some way other then knee-jerk defensive reaction. Sadly, historically, it has been too obvious that war is good for some of the population while dragging the rest of it down. Now with cyber and virtual war that line dissolves.
Six million have served since 9/11. When they have returned home they have not been supported. Many are homeless. They do not receive the medical, psychological, and economic aid they need and deserve. The two-faced hypocrisy of a military-industrial complex that is quick to send people away and slow to help them when they return is infuriating. You don’t have to support a war to know you must treat veterans well and help reintegrate them into society. More infuriating when war hawks have ignored the real plight of veterans while demanding a patriotic lip service of respect. Yeah, respect them with words while recruiting them and then ignore their real material needs when they need them. Hawks then say just get over those nightmares, missing or shattered body parts, aggressive reactions–toughen up, get a grip. That modern wars now do shock wave injury make many look whole on the outside while thoroughly damaged internally. Too often their families can’t help and they end up alone and on the street. Often the story of vets is the war was pointless. Their take is they think of war culture not as fighting the ideology of an enemy but the value of the relationships they made with fellow soldiers while they were there. The reasons for the war disappear and they most mourn the loss of their closest friends.
Supporting veterans also means prevention. Don’t go to war! I am sympathetic with the egregious inhumane offenses in other countries and have often said a rape, dismemberment, or death cry in Cairo sounds as plaintive as one in New York. I understood why Hitch wanted to change the world by force as it often seems the only way. A global, interconnected, no-person-is-an-island reality, forces us to consider deeply our international involvements, with tremendous doubts and concerns. At what point do we allow other countries to have autonomy even when in full violent anarchy? Would we want other countries to deem us wrong beyond redemption and attack?
A few of the songs were antiwar songs and the crowd boo’d and social media comments spoke of inappropriateness. Can we not take care of vet’s without talking about removing the cause? Our society is so incredibly concerned now with safety and health yet harm from war seems to be an inevitable curse that we ignore. Eminem and Rihanna, both misogynists or enablers, are poetic yet emblematic of a form of this reaction as it expresses itself in tolerating or promoting abuse. My younger daughter liked Rihanna’s “We Found Love in a Hopeless Place” (not done at concert) as a means of dealing with difficulty but did not get it was about staying in an abusive relationship. Who can say when another should leave? The problem is too many stay without change of the situation. “The Monster” likewise which is a concern that fame and fortune change one for the worse; how does one preserve their sanity amidst such ego grooming. The many women around us sang along with “Diamonds” with such fervor I had to wonder at the deep need of finding self worth, otherwise absent. The song is almost a drone that you are as beautiful as the diamonds. These songs do serve as therapy and celebration for many people who are seeking self-worth. Such songs serve as a means to encourage their own well being. Such songs do transfer to general issues of transcending one’s issues rather than maintaining emotional ghettos.
The reason these songs along with others were important to much of the audience was entertainment. Current pop hits attract more followers. The audience was young. If you want them to come you don’t play Bing Crosby tunes.
Really though a lesson we can’t seem to learn is when we support human rights in other countries the country often turns against us. Just as the police knocking down the door in a domestic abuse case often have both sides turn against them in anger. The only thing worse than fighting is to have another interfere, as if they have all of the answers. While some would have every abusive relationship dissolve, isn’t the real issue to stop the abuse and if possible to save the relationship? To shun and balkanize every abusive relationship is more punitive than restorative.
I found it ironic, as Jack Black said, that soldiers, often country music fans, listen to Metallica more than any other group, often to energize themselves before duty. How many white kids have used Metal, Thrash, and Punk, angry white-boy music, for consolation and energy. We need to pay attention to this meaning and expression or miss the conversation.
The comments after the show were quite negative about Eminem cursing but no one in the press noted or reacted to George Lopez cursing. Yet, the vernacular of military soldiers has always been rather expressive. The duplicity of people who curse in normal conversation but do not reveal it otherwise is not polite or respectful but deceitful without redemption. Should we insist that only one vernacular be allowed?
The performance of John Fogerty’s “Fortunate One” by Springsteen, Grohl, and the Zac Brown band was outstanding in its energy and content. Springsteen was boo’d yet he has done more to support their causes than most artists. Certainly one can support vets without accepting the causes that made them vets.
I brought Tom Holland’s “Rubicon” to read during the long day of waiting–being two back from the front meant staying put and not crowd watching or wandering. It is about the last of the Roman Empire, a society that worshipped war for competition, civic pride, personal gain, authoritarianism, and traditionalism. Just too many similarities with, granted, a lot less death now, but we’re on the edge of global annihilation. The cold war has returned so don’t get too comfortable. Again and again societies fall prey to greed and competitive status at the expense of the masses. The masses have never been important except as a means to the success of others. It sounds horrible until you realize the masses often have no clue or even desire to know and understand politics. We pretend everyone wants a democracy but frankly most would rather live their close circle of life and not be bothered with politics, which often takes too much work to understand. Representative government was created to help but then the people turn and want some direct say even though they have lost the ability to be relevant.
Caesar finished off the Republic after Sulla did most of the work but it’s clear that any form of government that tries to implement a democratic, egalitarian, or even representative government is fighting constant decay. The many spoken comments at the Concert for Valor were about freedom but freedom is fleeting, and freedom to many means the freedom to fleece with the belief that people will rise to fight oppression. It’s easy to understand why a Jesus would be fabricated to somehow contain the wanton greed and bloodlust of the last century of the Roman Empire, an experiment of seven centuries that couldn’t broaden or maintain its ideals. An old joke about about being passive and loving runs “the meek may inherit the Earth but not until the rest of us are finished with it.”
I am cynical about voting too though I have reconsidered my own position to the positive. Holland quotes Cicero early in “Rubicon,”
In the Republic “there was nothing more fickle than the masses, nothing more impenetrable than the people’s wishes, nothing more likely to baffle expectation than the entire system of voting.”
Has anything changed? Well, yes, there does seem to be less bloodshed and reason does remain so let’s continue to work to that. Reason really is the only cure but it’s not an easy one.
Nevertheless, it was an amazing concert. A great review of six musical genres on one stage. From rock to rap with some thrash and country in between. A rare mixture in musical venues.
image source (errors)
Jim Newman, www.frontiersofreason.com