Millions of Americans watched the PBS telecast of a gala performance of Paul McCartney and others stars at the White House. Aging Beatle Paul McCartney was in fine voice.
Drones to attack in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Iraq still because of 9/11/2001. (Saudi Arabia is excluded from attack, though it was Saudi Arabians who flew the our airliners into the Pentagon and World Trade Center.)
Some of us working hard to embarrass the President with public awareness for all the taking of lives, maiming and destruction by U.S. military under his command were wondering whether Stevie Wonder and Herbie Hancock would have been in attendance if Obama had already begun nuclear bombing Iran as he has threatened. (Actually the ships are already in place and many in Congress support immediate hostilities.)
I mean at what point does a musician say no, I can't perform if my performing is lending support for war on defenseless populations of poor people, nominally non White poor people, in former colonized, now neocolonized nations.
Harry Belefonte, a friend of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, who called George W. Bush "the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world," was most probably not invited to this gala White House concert by Bush's successor.
Stevie Wonder, in his few gracious words accepting his award spoke (haltingly) of the future chance of America under President Barack Obama. At least he said nothing of the past two years or present under him, and did not sound all that enthusiastic.
Herbie Hancock, another great historic musician, who yours truly knows as a fellow Buddhist and from performing on the same program of a concert for a peaceful America on the Great Lawn not far from the White House in the early 1980s. (Herbie graced my apartment with a short visit afterward.) What was running through Herbie's mind as everyone swayed to the music and lyrics of "Hey Jude. Hey Jude, don't be afraid, And anytime you feel the pain, don't carry the world upon your shoulders. For well you know that it's a fool who plays it cool by making his world a little colder, Daaaah Dah Dah DahdeDah Daaah, Dah DahdeDah Daah, Hey Jude" (the "Dahs" repeating as the credits appeared on the screen at the end).
I will never be able to forget Lang Lang's participation and implied approval of Obama's wars when I next listen to Lang Lang's televised master classes, in the past so exciting for his ebullient sharing of sensitive intelligent discoveries of marvelous subtleties in masterpiece passages of Chopin, Mozart etc. Such subtleties become less exquisite, for intrusive thoughts oF Afghani and Pakistani holding dying children in their arms.
Of course, six months ago we saw a similar Obama White House evening of song, that time with famous and now elderly singing heroes of a half-century of anti-war protests. Bob Dylan sang (anti-prophetically) his "Times Are a-Changing." The event was meant to celebrate the accomplishments and sacrifices of the Civil Rights movement during Black History Month (to which that evening's rendition of Times They Are a-Changing was dedicated). Must have been a tough choice, to perform or not. At the time, Obama had already been drone bombing Pakistan and increasing the intensity of the war in Afghanistan for a whole year. Joan Baez seems to have agreed to appear only at the last moment. One can only imagine how Dylan and Baez feel now as bloodshed widens and new wars are imminent.
In the cases of all the above mentioned important personalities sanitizing (certainly unintentionally) the Obama White House with topmost popular culture, we cannot know what might have been occurring as mitigating circumstances. How many of these artists might have sought to use gaining entrance to the citadel of world power, in to have the opportunity to mention their disappointments and concerns to either the President, or his wife and powerful guests in within earshot?. We just don't know if any of them were able to put in merciful word of complaint for the deathly targeted in the Muslim world.
In 1968, Eartha Kitt, world famous singing star, with a single truthful remark at a white house luncheon, managed to make the front pages. Asked by Lady Bird Johnson about the Vietnam War. She replied: "You send the best of this country off to be shot and maimed. No wonder the kids rebel and take pot." Though she became a heroine to many, she was ostracized in mainstream America and subsequently switched her career audience to Europe and Asia.
As to this weeks telecast, maybe we war opposers expect too much from Americans. Americans partied for years indifferent to its army, navy and air force crucifying the beautiful Buddhist Asian population of the French colonies of Indochina. (That finally radicalized John Lennon.) Why expect anything different today? Americans have that same, now legendary, indifference to what its government is doing to the world. Seems that no amount of carnage could affect the average American's inward looking desperate search for fun and games, blinkers on to the fate of the millions of victims of U.S. homicidal foreign policies.
Not that many would care, but this musician has long ago lost his desire to perform for Americans. Music was not written for the ears of the callous, the indifferent to suffering. And no one composes music with those who would permanently silence the music for others in mind.