Ain’t no time to wonder why

by Brianna Riplinger

While Ben Affleck’s stylist grappled with whether the white-gold or 18-karat dove peace pin went best with his Oscar attire, members of the celebrity musician crowd have been expressing antiwar sentiment in their own admirable way. With antiwar songs popping up from Ani DiFranco, The Beastie Boys, John Mellencamp, Chumbawamba and Billy Bragg among others, there is a defiant cry for peace and a call for fans to learn about our government’s reasons for fighting.

The best song to date is “The Price of Oil,” written and performed by Bragg. In his usual pointed, clever style, Bragg earnestly calls attention to the hypocrisy of the U.S. government and what he considers less than honorable intentions for going to war. Bragg sings, “Now I ain’t no fan of Saddam Hussein/ Oh, please don’t get me wrong/ If it’s freeing the Iraqi people you’re after/ Then why have we waited so long?/ Was he less evil than he is now?/ The stock market holds the answer/ To why him, why here, why now.” His is the most educational, musically coherent and chilling of songs that have come out of the current political situation.

But the question remains: Will these songs and their kind make radio play lists? My guess is a big no, thanks to our Big Brothers Clear Channel and Infinity, and the consolidation of radio. Another reason to worry is the way people reacted to Dixie Chick Natalie Maines’ comment, “Just so you know, we’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” In a brief setback, radio stations temporarily dropped the group’s songs from their play lists and angry fans publicly destroyed their CDs. Still, I’m sure the mega-pop-country-queens will maintain their popularity overall.

I just hope the Internet-accessible songs and intelligent, outspoken musicians outshine the less commendable ones. Let’s hope war supporters don’t point to Fred Durst’s embarrassing speech at the Grammys or to Sheryl Crow’s ridiculous posturing as a 60s-era Bond girl, complete with “No War” bass strap, white leather mini-skirt and peace sign necklace. We don’t need them as representatives of the antiwar movement.

This is not the 1960s, and nobody is writing anything as urgent and biting as Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” or as poignant as John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Nevertheless, we should look to the songs that speak timeless truths about resistance, hope and defiance and use them to articulate our own unsettling truths today.

As I was walking to work the day after the first U.S. bombs hit Iraq, I heard a muffled chant coming from the steps of Northrop Auditorium. People with peace signs painted on their cheeks were clutching cardboard signs and shouting, “Protest is patriotic!” Their cries were accompanied by a familiar, vital sound. As I walked closer, I heard Bob Marley singing, “You can fool some people sometimes/ But you can’t fool all the people all the time/ So now we see the light/ We gonna stand up for our rights.” It gave me a chill. Perhaps through public discourse and intelligent art, an antiwar message can be heard and understood. For what’s it worth, anyway.

Brianna Riplinger welcomes comments at [email protected]