As I watched the news of Gaddafi’s death yesterday morning (and heard the news about the Occupy Cincinnati protesters last night), I couldn’t help thinking about how humans have had a pretty good year so far. To be clear, I don’t think the answer to murder is more killing — I didn’t rejoice in the death of another human. What I was so optimistic about was the sheer power behind the human voice. I’m excited to witness millions of people all over the world using their voices to stand up for what they want.
As a writer I exercise my right of free speech on a regular basis. I’ve long been disappointed to watch my fellow Americans not always using that same right to its greatest extent. From a rebellion in Egypt to massive protests in London, Americans have watched people stand up for what they believe in and, finally, we’ve gotten off our couches and taken a stand for ourselves. We’ve accomplished regime changes and soldiers’ freedom to love anyone they choose. Whether it’s a new leader, higher taxes on rich people or civil rights for all, the citizens of the earth have been louder this year than they’ve been in a long time.
Protesting is far from a new concept, of course. Since the beginning of civilization, countrymen have been rising up against their leaders and fighting, often to the death, for their lands, voices, religions and freedom. The last time Americans have so actively participated in their government was during Vietnam in the ‘60s. What sprung from that unrest were songs that defined their generation and still resonate today. Country Joe & The Fish’s “I Feel like I’m Fixing To Die” is certainly still relevant for the soldiers we routinely send overseas to battles we thought would be over by now.
Despite the air of dissent, there was was still camaraderie between the people. Peter, Paul and Mary covered Pete Seeger, while Joan Baez routinely sang about half of Bob Dylan’s catalog. Getting out their message was far more important than collecting royalties.
The Folk singers of the ‘60s weren’t the only ones to use music as a means of sharing their feelings toward our government. Throughout the last five decades, other songs of objection and rebellion have been written. Occupy Wall Street supporter, Tom Morello (of Rage Against The Machine), has been making music about resistance since the ‘90s. Meanwhile, since the dawn of time, U2 have been singing songs with political agendas and deep back-stories, like “Sunday Blood Sunday.”
The subject matter may be slightly different, but the message and purpose are the same — the world is not OK and something must be done.
It doesn’t matter if you’re arguing for the 99%, your right to marriage or the last bowl of cereal. Stand up and use your voice for something. Here’s a playlist to inspire you.