Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Can Rock Defeat Terrorism?

One month ago, Eagles of Death Metal were in mid-performance at the Bataclan Theater in Paris when their show was interrupted by a terrorist attack that left 89 dead there (and 130 total in coordinated attacks elsewhere in the region). All the members of the rock band survived and were understandably traumatized, but they swiftly determined to return to Paris to perform as an act of defiance against the jihadists who targeted cultural expression as well as a hall full of innocent concertgoers. The band instinctively understood the power of rock music as a force for rebellion and liberation.
With its power to inspire hope and a yearning for personal freedom, rock’s barely restrained energy has always been a raucous threat to repressive governments and cultural totalitarians around the world. Islamists in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been known to blow up CD shops to silence the music. Che Guevara and the Castro regime in Cuba despised rock and persecuted musicians. A documentary called Rockin’ the Wall, narrated by my friend the actor Adam Baldwin, charts the role of rock in bringing down the Berlin Wall.
As recently as 2010, Iran’s Ayatollah Khameinei declared that music is incompatible with Islamic values, particularly music from what the fundamentalists deem to be a decadent Western culture. Khameinei banned Western music in his country, forcing many musicians into exile or underground. A thriving heavy metal scene, for example, now serves as a voice of resistance against the theocratic regime.
Western musicians and audiences aren’t accustomed to this kind of oppression. Living in the land of freedom and prosperity as we do, it’s easy for us to take that for granted until something like the Bataclan atrocity opens our eyes – and prompts us to rally in defense of freedom. “So much that was taken from Paris on the tragic night of November 13th is irreplaceable,” U2’s Bono said about the attack. “For one night, the killers took lives, took music, took peace of mind – but they couldn't steal the spirit of that city.” In an open letter to his friends, Eagles of Death Metal drummer Josh Homme wrote, “We dare not give another second of precious time to those who have tried to steal our freedoms and take away our power.”
Other musicians responded with a similar determination not to be cowed. Singer Josh Groban told the hosts of The View that he and his crew agreed music would help restore some healing normalcy, so they decided not to cancel his performance in Paris shortly after the attacks. “Music heals. It brings people together and we're real proud of that,” said Groban. “With music, with art, we’re in a privileged position that we have a chance to bring people together for all the right reasons.”
Boston-based musician Will Dailey and his band were on tour through the northwest of France when the attacks happened. Their next show was cancelled for safety concerns, so Daily and crew set up shop in a community center to play before a small audience and stream the show online. “They attacked music,” Dailey says of the jihadists. “Music is unity, universal communication, therapy, safe expression. [Our show] was a counter-attack in a way. It is freedom. Folk music, Rock and Roll, hip hop – they have always been about freedom.”
Less than a month after the attacks, U2 invited Eagles of Death Metal back onstage in Paris for the Irish band’s final show of their Innocence + Experience 2015 world tour. “They were robbed of their stage three weeks ago, so we'd like to offer them ours tonight,” Bono told the crowd. The bands played a cover of Patti Smith's “People Have the Power” together before U2 left the stage so Eagles of Death Metal could play their own “I Love You All the Time.”
In a Facebook post about their emotional return to Paris, Eagles of Death Metal addressed “the healing, defiant power of rock ‘n roll”: “The bad guys never take a day off, and therefore we rock ‘n rollers cannot either... and we never will.” The note concluded by thanking U2, the people of France, and “everyone in the world who continues to prove that love, joy, and music will always overcome terror and evil.”
It may take more military firepower than love, joy, and music to overcome terrorists like ISIS, but our freedom of expression and rock’s subversive power are indispensable defenses against totalitarian aggression. As Paul McCartney put it in his song “Freedom,” written in response to the terror attacks on September 11, 2001:
This is my right, a right given by God
To live a free life, to live in freedom
Anyone who wants to take it away
Will have to answer, ‘cause this is my right.

From Acculturated, 12/14/15

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Picks of the Week from Around the Web

Welcome to what may become my first weekly collation of a handful of online articles that caught my attention this past week, and which deserve to be shared. Check back for more next week.

The Art of Manliness: "Why Every Man Should Study Classical Culture"

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tim Tebow Wins Without Scoring

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, news broke that quarterback Tim Tebow and former Miss Universe Olivia Culpo, who had been dating since October, have gone their separate ways. Ordinarily, this would register as only a minor blip on the celebrity gossip Richter scale, except for one unusual detail that set the internet afire: apparently Culpo left Tebow because she was fed up with his unwavering vow to save himself sexually for marriage.
Tebow, as everyone who follows sports and/or pop culture knows, is one of the most outspoken, committed Christians in either arena. In fact, the 28-year-old is arguably more well-known for his steadfast faith than his accomplishments on the football field, at least since winning the Heisman Trophy as a college sophomore.
Olivia Culpo, apart from her pageant success, is known more recently as the former girlfriend of Nick Jonas of the Jonas Brothers, all of whom were outspoken, committed Christians themselves at the height of their fame. The boy band’s sexual restraint not only ran against the grain of pop star promiscuity, but they and their “purity rings” even made abstinence temporarily cool and inspired a trend.
But Nick Jonas was apparently unable to hold out against Culpo’s charms (in fairness, not many young men could). About losing his virginity, he told Wendy Williams, “As I grew up, I sort of figured out what was important to me and my own belief system.” Abstinence apparently didn’t make the cut.
But Tim Tebow continues to hold out, despite it reportedly costing him a relationship with someone whom many people would consider a hot catch.
Or perhaps it’s the other way around. Because despite news of the breakup inspiring a raft of crude jokes at Tebow’s expense – “For once, it's not Tebow who's having trouble scoring - it's his girlfriend,” the New York Daily News quipped in an article titled “Tim Tebow still can’t find the end zone as girlfriend Olivia Culpo breaks it off over lack of sex” – it is Culpo, not Tebow, who likely missed out on a great catch.
“He was really into her,” a source told the New York Daily News, but “she just can't deal with the sex thing. He's pretty adamant about it, I guess.” Indeed, and that makes him a rarity in today’s sex-saturated pop culture – such a rarity that it polarizes people into one of two teams: those who deride Tebow as a loser for not taking full advantage of the opportunity to, um, find the end zone with Miss Universe, and those who are impressed with his almost superhuman adherence to religious principle.
At Jezebel, for example, where Tebow is a favorite target of the angry bloggers because he’s a white Christian male and because his mother famously refused her doctor’s advice to abort him, they titled their article, with their usual boring profanity, “Miss Universe Allegedly Dumped Tim Tebow Because He Refused to Fuck.” It painted Culpo as a “woman who knows what she wants” and “doesn’t have to wait for anything.”
No doubt she is. But if indeed Tebow’s abstinence is indeed the reason for their breakup (E! Online claims to have been told by “an insider” that the split had nothing to do with it), it makes her look like a woman who didn’t recognize what a young man of exceptional character and personal strength Tebow is, and what a partner she could have had.
Peer and cultural expectations – not to mention hormones – place incredible pressure on young people to lose their virginity. A good-looking guy in the public eye and in the hyper-masculine world of pro sports, like Tebow, is under special scrutiny and presented with extraordinary temptation to cheat on his religious commitment. "Once you start seeing these girls around the NBA,” basketball star Magic Johnson once reportedly told a rookie, “you won't be thinking any of that Christian and God stuff.” As ESPN’s Jemele Hill put it back in 2009, Tebow “must spend a good bit of his day stiff-arming willing women as if they were SEC linebackers.” By contrast, former NBA titan Wilt Chamberlain boasted of sleeping with 20,000 women, and Magic Johnson reportedly had sex with 300-500 partners a year and threw orgies at his house. Johnson ended up contracting AIDS.
If Tim Tebow can stay strong and committed to his Christian principles in the face of this onslaught of temptation and the public derision that he often receives, then he’s a man who can be trusted to be faithful to his partner. That’s no small thing in today’s world, particularly for a handsome young man in the sexually charged world of celebrity. Not only that, but it points to his strength of character and his trustworthiness to act according to principle in every other aspect of his life.
And isn’t that worth waiting for?
From Acculturated, 12/4/15