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Monday, May 15, 2006

RAY McGOVERN AND NEIL YOUNG: LAST WEEK'S HEROES

Recent days have brought two American heroes to my attention. I'm not typically a fan of heroes. It seems like most of the time we make heroes out of normal people in order to renew our own faith in humanity, that everything will be OK.

The American media and its retarded child the American public love heroes. They love everything about heroes. They love to point out that before the hero became a hero, he was just like the rest of us, so maybe we can be heroes someday, too. They love to marvel at the hero's heroism so they create a hero's showcase complete with satellite appearances, Parade magazine features, and true story books, all leading to the ultimate praise of the hero, the destruction of the myth itself.

Most heroes I see fall into the "small man makes good" category. My recent heroes fit more in the "David slays Goliath" category, or more accurately, the "man does what the rest of us are too lazy or weak or preoccupied to do." See, I think we make heroes out of the people who behave as we wish we would ourselves. With that in mind, my recent heroes are former CIA analyst Ray McGovern, for confronting US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld about the administration's basis for the War in Iraq, and Neil Young, for writing, recording and releasing Living With War, the only music I've heard that appropriately responds to the failure that is George Bush's presidency.

McGovern, who worked for the CIA for 27 years, was in Atlanta to receive the National Civil Liberties Award from the ACLU of Georgia. He finagled a $40 ticket to attend an unrelated event, Rumsfeld's speech at the Southern Center for International Policy. During the Q & A portion of the talk, McGovern used Rumsfeld's own words to point out the fundamental lies on which the decision to go to war was based.


On the administration's basis for war
"So I would like to ask you to be up front with the American people, why did you lie to get us into a war that was not necessary, that has caused these kinds of casualties? Why?"

On Weapons of Mass Destruction:
McGovern delivered his questions calmly but pointedly. Clearly, he was not intimidated by Rumsfeld or by the security personnel that tried to physically eject him. Rumsfeld waved them off.
"You said you knew where they were Tikrit, Baghdad, northeast, south, west of there. Those are your words."

On al Qaeda and Iraq:
"Well we’re talking about lies and your allegation there was bulletproof evidence of ties between al Qaeda and Iraq. Was that a lie or were you mislead?"

Though not one to get flustered, Rumsfeld failed to respond effectively.

McGovern did what a lot of Americans, myself included would like to think they would do – call Rumsfeld and Bush and Dick Cheney and Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice on all their bullshit. If nothing else, these people shouldn't get off without being asked these tough but rather obvious questions.

Please read the transcript of the brief confrontation between McGovern and Rumsfeld as well as McGovern's own account.

Neil Young's Living With War serves as a perfect complement to McGovern's cerebral approach to the problem of Iraq. McGovern's response to the war is an earnest search for logic and truth. Young's is guttural, primal, an emotional and physical tantrum against not just the war and not just its purveyors but also the world that allowed the situation to arise in the first place. The album's ten songs play like a nation's therapy session where the goal is to just "get it all out there."

As he does when he is at his inspired best, Young lasers in on the heart of human condition. Then he yells at it. The absurdity of living in a violent society that sees war as a solution, one that may potentially escalate to armageddon is rendered by the album's opening lyrics:

Won't need no shadow man
Runnin' the government
Won't need no stinkin' war
Won't need no haircut
Won't need no shoe shine
After the garden is gone

Lest we blame only those in charge, Young reminds us of the source of their power – a society too preoccupied with consumerism and gratification to notice that scary times have been on the horizon for a long time. Young sounds like early 80s David Byrne as he rattles of a list of complaints that leave precious few unskewered.

Don't need no TV ad
Tellin' me how sick I am
Don't want to leave
Don't want to know how people are like me
Don't need no dizziness
Don't need no nausea
Don't need no side effects like diarrhea or sexual death
Don't need no more lies
Don't need no more lies
Don't need no more lies
Don't need no more lies

The lyrics, music, instrumentation are appropriately raw throughout. Young's electric guitar rumbles and growls from beginning to end. No plaintive acoustic tunes here, though the set concludes with the 100 voices of a choir singing an eerie a cappella version of America the Beautiful that strains for joy but ultimately achieves only apprehension.

Rather than provide the complete lyrics to Living With War here, I simply offer this two word review - get it.

Who will this week's heroes be?



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