I smell blood and there’s no blood around

03.11.08 | Filed Under Americana, Music

I am of the mind to say that Mike Doughty has written some of the best “protest” songs of the past few years.  I know it may be difficult to take a contributor to the Grey’s Anatomy soundtrack that seriously … but hey, it’s a pop song.  And perhaps sneaking Doughty’s ethos into the mainstream could affect the situation more than any Noam Chomsky pamphlet would.

“Fort Hood” – the first track off his new album, Golden Delicious – is perhaps the finest example of these yet.  After 6 years of divisive politcal bickering, yielding  tens of thousands of dead people … I know that I’m simply exhausted with the whole situation … and the spiritual guilt I feel as a result of it. Guilt as an American for being a complicit participant … as a liberal, for failing to present a coherent counter-argument to war … and as a human, for being practically unaffected by it on paper.

And in my heart of hearts, “I’d rather hang up a flag and be done with it” too.  I’d rather just hope that The Surge worked and “leave the mobs and the murder in a distant land.”  It’s too hard to think of their dead, our dead.  It’s painful to have no response left to such loss, although I’m not sure it would be possible to have a proper or fitting one.

With a populist bent, Doughty also captures how dangerous the culture of political debate has become.  Sincere debate doesn’t sell.  Instead we get political coverage resembling a blend of soap opera digests and NFL clip shows … battles to be won, rather than problems to be solved. Instead of being revved up with misappropriated patriotic fervor, our young men and women would have been better served if they spent their youth … being young.  I don’t pretend to know how their young men and women would have been better served.

Finally, I think weaving in “Let the Sunshine In” is both a perfect conclusion to come to … as well as demonstrating a stark contrast in times.  It sounds so quaint in the context of today’s war … however, in this context … it seems to suggest that Things won’t get better until The People get better.

I dig that.

(You can read Mike Doughty’s own comments on the song here.)

And while I’m on the subject, “Busting Up a Starbucks” (off of 2005’s Haughty Melodic) clearly pointed out some of the embarassingly hypocritical aspects of the anti-war, anti-corporate movements of recent years.  When I go to protests, I like seeing giant puppet versions of world-leaders as much as the next guy.  But a protest’s message is only obscured when people throw bricks into Starbucks windows.  It’s hard to claim you’re taking the high road when you start a small riot.  I’d also like to point out that it’s hard to be converted from a conservative ideology by a dude in a blue wig and butterfly wings. At some point you have to decide if you’re protesting in order to change people’s minds and call attention to a situation … or if you just want your friends to see you call Bush a Nazi on MSNBC.

I’m pretty sure that Ghandi never threw a stink bomb into the subway, either.  Just sayin’.