Thursday, May 3, 2007

Folksingers and Breakfast Cereals

Here's an editorial from this morning's New York Times. As "Anonymous" (I know who you are!) writes in the comments to yesterday's post, it's a little strange that the press are making such a big deal of this, since inviting Joan Baez to sing at Walter Reed is a bit like inviting Jane Fonda to speak there. I'm sure Susan Sarandon isn't welcome, either, although I would guess that Bob Dylan might be, since he always denied any overt political message in those songs that have come to be foremost among anti-war songs. Would Pete Seeger be welcome?

But the question underneath all this, or perhaps the implicit commentary, is that if the Army feels threatened by Joan Baez, then the Army feels threatened, period. Would Baez have been allowed to sing back in 2003 before those pesky Weapons of Mass Destruction failed to turn up for the party?

I had to chortle at the writer's Fariña-farina joke. So obvious yet so non sequitur, so not funny that it's a total hoot.

Unwanted Folk

Published: May 3, 2007

Joan Baez sang at Woodstock. If you recognize either name, you probably already knew that. If you don’t, go to Google, then come back and help us puzzle something out.

Why would the Army be afraid of her?

Last Friday, John Mellencamp gave a concert for injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Ms. Baez, a friend who’d been invited by Mr. Mellencamp, did not. She was barred by Army brass, supposedly because of the lateness of the invitation, although Mr. Mellencamp’s camp suggested it was because she was considered objectionable.

Objectionable for what? To whom?

Mr. Mellencamp and Ms. Baez are both politically outspoken. Both have denounced the Iraq war. Yet Mr. Mellencamp’s activism is the kind the Army could more easily overlook. He wears a T-shirt and jeans and sings songs so down-home, so red, white and blue, that you could use them to sell Chevy trucks, which Mr. Mellencamp has actually done. “Let’s forget about any problems we might have and let’s just have a good time,” Mr. Mellencamp told his audience in what The Washington Post reported was a rousing and apolitical show.

Although Ms. Baez is as much of an activist as ever — she camped in a tree last year to stop the bulldozing of an urban farm — she would probably have shown similar tact. In a letter in The Post yesterday, she said she regretted not having given soldiers a better welcome home from Vietnam, and would have loved to sing at Walter Reed.

What is astounding is that somebody apparently could not get past the image of willowy Joan singing “Blowin’ in the Wind” nearly 40 years ago and thought troops so young they wouldn’t know Mimi Fari├▒a from Cream of Wheat couldn’t or wouldn’t abide her presence.

They say generals are always fighting the last war. But Vietnam was two wars ago, three if you count the war on terror.

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