I remember studying the Vietnam War in high school and being so jealous of my parents for living through that time. It wasn’t the fighting I wanted, it was being part of a passionate generation. While the kids of the sixties and seventies spent hours rallying and organizing, my generation is so lazy that desperate politicians have actually made it possible to register to vote through a text message.
I mean, COME ON.
But then we went to war and I realized that even with a cause, the majority of my generation is just too lazy to become impassioned.
During Vietnam, about twenty GI Coffeehouses sprung up around the country, serving as a place for off-duty soldiers to hang out, listen to music, and become politically active. This past weekend, I was lucky enough to attend a show at the Iraq-era’s first GI Coffeehouse in Watertown, NY, home of the Fort Drum Army Base.
The event was a send-off party for a group of soldiers about to deploy, including “Andy.” Andy is an unassuming punk kid who you might bump into at Higher Ground and not give a second thought to. He wears chucks, studded belts, and Fat Wreck T-shirts. He smokes Camel Lights and drinks whatever you’ll buy for him. After all, he’s underage.
He’s also a medic responsible for the wellbeing of twenty men in Iraq.
Andy is a soldier about to serve his duty, but he still cheered louder than anyone else in the room when Baltimore-based folk singer Ryan Harvey sang “Cuz in year one Bush declared victory / In two and three the casualties increased / In year number four it grew into a civil war / In year five I will make sure we leave / In year five I'll make sure we leave.”
The whole event got me thinking: Why isn’t my generation more passionate? Why aren’t there more singers like Ryan, pouring their hearts into songs inspired by the war stories of young men like Andy? I mean sure, we rock against Bush and all, but lyrics like Ryan’s — which can all be read here — are a throwback to a time when anti-war lyrics were the only lyrics. When protesting wasn’t just some screamo band setting one track aside to say that “war sucks.” When musicians literally dedicated their careers to making change through music.
Working hand in hand with Ryan on a recent project has granted me the opportunity to hear the full range of his incredible Phil Ochs-style protest songs. Knowing him has also exposed me to several other anarcho and activist musicians to whom I had never previously listened. And I gotta say, we need more like them in Vermont. And I don’t just mean any guy with a guitar who occasionally throws in a hateful word towards Bush while playing RíRá. I mean a full-out, crunchy political organizer, scribbling lyrics on napkins at Langdon Street Cafe while on breaks from volunteering at Black Sheep Books.
Are you out there?
Email me. Let’s start a musical movement.