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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
GUEST,Phil Lest we forget (Masters of War) (43) RE: Lest we forget (Masters of War) 16 Nov 04
Of Piercings and Protest Songs
By Greg Cahill, AlterNet, 16 Nov 2004:

What started innocently enough as a band of Boulder High punks using the Nov. 12 school talent show to make a political statement has sparked a national free-speech debate and led to an unexpected civics lesson complete with red-faced school officials and humorless federal agents.

Sure, they may not be Rage Against the Machine, but for one glorious fleeting moment the punks at Boulder, Colo., ruled the high-school auditorium.

It all began last week when the impromptu band of students and one teacher was rehearsing Bob Dylan's Vietnam-era protest song "Masters of War," a bitter indictment of those that deal in death. An unidentified female student claimed that the musicians who she said were calling themselves the Tali-banned had modified the lyrics to say, "George Bush, I hope that you die/And your death will come soon," all set to a provocative slide show with images of war and President Bush.

The student told her mother and mom did what every red-blooded American should do when the president's life is in danger: she called a local talk-radio show. Before you could say "First Amendment," U.S. Secret Service agents descended on the campus to investigate the alleged threats.

Principal Ron Cabrera insisted no such threats were made.

According to a published report, the band had planned to call themselves the Tali-banned, but, at the urging of faculty, later changed the name to Coalition of the Willing (wouldn't Unwilling have been more appropriate?).

"We were misunderstood," singer Allyse Wojtanek told the "Daily Camera" after the talent show, while news vans packed the school parking lot. "People thought we were like communists, and that was not it at all. We have a peaceful message."

It's a message that even the song's author managed to muddle during a previous Bush administration. In 1991, in the midst of the Gulf War and with protesters clamoring to air their views, Dylan performed "Masters of War" so unintelligibly during the national broadcast of the Grammy Awards show that his band members were uncertain what song they were performing. In his recent autobiography "Chronicles, Vol. 1," Dylan writes that he detested being foisted into the role as a spokesman for the protest generation and took every opportunity to sabotage that status.

The Boulder punks have proven the power of protest music is, indeed, bigger even than Dylan.

Meanwhile, the ringing in the ears has faded and the talent show is just a sweaty memory, but the Secret Service investigation goes on and repercussions may just be starting as the feds seek to make the world safe from piercings and protest songs. After all, everything in high school goes on your permanent record. One can only imagine a tattooed Boulder High grad applying for a job as a teacher a few years down the road in a society rife with compassionate conservatives: "You seem like a bright young woman and your qualifications are impressive," the interviewer might explain, "but our policy is not to hire terrorists who threaten the president.

"I'm sure you understand."

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