Where are the Protest Songs?

There is an old Chinese curse, “你可能生活在有趣的时代” (Nǐ kěnéng shēnghuó zài yǒuqù de shídài) that translates to “May you live in interesting times.” It seems as though, since the 2016 election that we are in the throes of that curse.

I’m not naive enough to believe that the times in which we are living are any more or less interesting than any other periods of history. It is easy, though, to fall prey to that mindset when every day we witness so many worrisome events. Trump’s recent bad behavior at the G7 conference adds to the evidence.

In the late 60’s I was a sheltered little girl living in rural Floydada, Texas. I wasn’t completely clueless, though. I knew about the Vietnam War, after all, it came to our television sets direct from the battlefields every night. Also on my tv I watched protesters marching against the war, young men burning their draft cards and seeking asylum in Canada. And, I’d seen television coverage of the Civil Rights movement. The clashes between protesters and police officers were disturbing, but in my little cocoon none of that really touched me.

Then in May of 1970 four college students protesting the Vietnam War were killed by National Guardsmen on the campus of Kent State in Ohio. I was 13, not much younger than the students who lost their lives that day. The desire to make my voice heard began to rise.

I’d love to tell you that I immediately left my home to join in angry protests, but again, I was just 13. I did start paying attention, though, not just to the protests, but to the protest songs.

Like this one from Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young.


Lately I’ve begun wondering where are today’s protest songs? Am I so old that I am unable to recognize them as such? Are there artists putting out meaningful lyrics that make young people feel the need to change the world? If you know of any, please pass the knowledge along. We need protest anthems for these interesting times.

The Bracelet

We all wore one, a spring steel bracelet bearing the name of a
Young soldier, a prisoner of war, or missing in action in a foreign land
I prayed every morning and every night for this faceless man,
In my mind he was handsome and brave, with a shy smile and sad eyes.
He just wanted to be fishing in a pond, drinking a beer, flirting
With his best girl, watching the Cowboys play on a Sunday afternoon.
Instead, he was stuck in a prison, and my teenaged mind could not,
Would not contemplate what conditions he might be living under.
I worried over that bracelet, twisting it this way and another until one
Day it snapped, and I lost one half. I never discovered what happened to
The man whose name I wore. All that remains are the letters CDR Q,
On half a bracelet, and try as I might I cannot recall his whole name.