Wednesday, August 16, 2006

That Old Hippie Highway

While visiting home this weekend, I had the chance to attend a Crosby Stills Nash & Young concert. No, I didnt travel to Monticello in a time machine; an uber rich developer built an outdoor concert hall on the site of the original Woodstock concert, and Crosby Stills & Nash played in 1969 so they came back and played in 2006, this time with a ringer of a bench player, Neil Young.

I love Neil Young. Harvest and After the Gold Rush are in my top ten favorite albums ever. I know that he, to put it lightly, is a bit of an acquired taste. An ex once asked, "Who's that guy with the bad voice that you like?" So for me, a chance to see Neil Young, despite the looming broken voices of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, was something I couldn't pass up. And the concert was good, although quite predictably, Young was by far the standout, both in his energy level and vocal ability. My mom put it best: "Way too much Crosby and Nash, not nearly enough Young."

So now Neil Young is knocked off my list of classic rock concerts I have to attend; I've done Dylan and Springsteen -- only the Stones and the Who are left. But Keith Richards or Pete Townshend might drop dead any day now and I think Roger Daltrey at this point is made out of clay, so this was probably my last big show of the 60's/70's.

Aside from Young's performance, the concert made me think about the protest movement in the 60's vs. the protest movement now. The average age of the concert goers, probably harkening back to when they attended a CSNY concert in the late 60's or early 70's, was probably 58. So these people lived right through a war; many of them probably served or had brothers or friends who served in Vietnam, and the energy and agreement with the Vietnam era protest songs like Ohio was noticeable. What was also noticeable, at least to me, was the disconnect with the young people, both at the concert and the ones I encounter on a daily basis.

Sure, many of us are angry at President Bush and his good time buddies. In fact, 60% of the American public disagree with the war, and Bush's approval rating hasn't cracked 40 in many months. We've got nearly 3,000 dead American soldiers, tens of billions of dollars spent, an overstretched military with North Korea and Iran looming, and still we have the majority of the youth in America complacent -- sitting on their hands, watching television and listening to their Ipods.

The question is: why? First, I have to give a lot of credit to the Bush administration of blurring the line between 911 and Iraq. Violent Islamic fundamentalism is a threat, much like communism was, but Iraq, and Vietnam like it, is not and was not the correct or just battleground. But, aside from the screaming and thus viewed as crazy liberal minority, Iraq war protests are nothing more than fodder for conservative commentators and the White House Press Secretary. And despite how much we wish is were so, the disapproval of Bush and the Iraq War has done little yet to change the political tide, with the possible exception of Ned Lamont beating Joe Lieberman last week. Even if the Democrats sputter their way into congressional power in November, it will largely be due to Republican incompetence and circumstance, and little to do with a wave of activism.

The second reason is there is no draft. Personal motivation usually trumps all political and social motivation, so despite the deaths of thousands or our countryman, the 21 year old who would have been drafted in 1968 is instead spending his summer bartending or at an internship. With the exception of those small amounts of people willing to demonstrate and protest even without a threat to them personally, the youth activists of the 1960's have simply become too comfortable and safe to get involved.

Sigh. At this point in my life even an event that brings me happiness still makes me search for the touch of grey in the silver lining.


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