Gonna Die Like an Eagle 

Michael Franti and friends fight the hawks with hits.

Let the eagle soar
Like she's never soared before
From rocky coast to golden shore
Let the eagle soar

Words and music by John Ashcroft

Few people have seen the clever propaganda memo that the White House recently released in an attempt to stem the tide of youth protest to a war in Iraq. Planet Clair has secured a copy. Here are some excerpts:

America. That's my bitch. Her golden shores raise me and get me all fuzzy-feelin' and her majestic forests are tight. She's kinda like an eagle, soaring like she's never soared before, like when you first tried to snowboard and you hella fell over but then you got used to it and pretty soon you're like, booyaaaa!

One thing cool about my girl is that when another country totally opens a bottle of Haterade she's all, Nuh-uh! No you di'n't!

Shit's getting deep tho. Shit's getting deep. Now people wanna front on her, taking to the streets all like, "No blood for oil! Not in my name!"

Nothing but playa hatas! Straight-up nizzle de-shizzlas!

The effects of said memo remain to be seen, but Ashcroft's upcoming collaboration with Method Man could stem the tide, proving what we already know: that music has the power to change minds.

Or at least to raise the spirits of that disenfranchised segment of society known as "the liberals." A hundred fifty thousand or more of us took to the streets a couple of weekends back in protest of Bush's Yosemite Sam take on foreign policy. The San Francisco march was moving and powerful, but for those who are ambivalent about the war or even in favor of it, watching from home was a study in anachronism. Protests, like it or not, are still associated with hippies. Hippies, like it or not, are associated with drugs and being out of it, or worse -- being flaky. Face it, it's possible that demonstrations will never again actually work to bring about results other than strengthening the solidarity of the protesters.

"I don't look at it that way," says Bay Area hip-hop musician and activist Michael Franti. "I don't look at it like it's something from the '60s. This battle with violence and militarism is a battle that's been taking place for thousands of years ... and if it is looking back at the '60s, so what?"

Well, first of all, the only time any real progress is made in this country is when the middle-of-the-roaders get involved. They need to be swayed. If the media continues to make protesters look like some loony fringe -- which they tend to do -- the middle isn't going to listen. People opposed to this war need to get themselves a fresh PR campaign. In this case, music might actually be a good place to start. If someone like Jay-Z would step up and speak out about our expensive and morally dubious plans to attack Iraq instead of focusing on our to' up domestic situation, the apathetic middle might get off its ass and show some support.

Franti recently spoke at Yale University, President Bush's alma mater, in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. His speech focused on music as an instrument for social change. "Music has a way of bringing out emotions in us ... in a way that politicians, money, and religion do not," he told Clair. "It also has the ability to live outside the mainstream, even today when music has become so corporate and MTV is so powerful, there's still an opportunity for independent voices to be heard."

Besides, says Franti, music is just one tool, just like the act of demonstrating. Protesting's real effectiveness lies in motivating the already aware to keep going. "You can't look at it like things are going to change tomorrow if we protest," he says. "Bush isn't gonna pick up the paper and say, 'You know what? You 200,000 people who were out in the street today, you guys were right. I'm going to stop this war.' It's not going to happen. But if we raise the consciousness that maybe schools should take a precedence over the military, that health care should take precedence over corporate tax breaks, then over time maybe we'll develop that awareness."

Franti and his group Spearhead are part of the Not in Our Name antiwar benefit this Friday at the Berkeley Community Theater, performing along with Ani DiFranco, Saul Williams, Chuck D, and Ozomatli. "My personal goal for the concert is to raise money for AWOL magazine, which is a really great magazine that gives space to musicians, poets, artists, and filmmakers who are doing socially conscious work," Franti says. "The second thing is just to provide an opportunity for people to come together and look into the eyes of others who are concerned about what's happening with this war. As always through my music, I try to enrage, enlighten, and inspire folks. And right now is a time when we can all use some inspiration."

Tight. Now, may Ashcroft's eagle get sucked into the jet engine of the people.

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