Last night I attended a performance of the musical Hair: the American Tribal Love-Rock Musical, which I had not seen before. I became familiar with the music when it first came out — or at least with the tamer songs like “Aquarius,” “Hair,” “Easy To Be Hard,” “Good Morning, Starshine,” and “Let the Sun Shine In.”
Several of the other numbers were considered quite scandalous when the show debuted off-Broadway in 1968 — as was its hippie infused counter-culture theme, its anti-war message, its glorification of illegal drugs, and the bohemian lifestyle of the “tribe” members who make up the cast. Not to mention a dimly lit scene at the end of the first act when the entire cast sheds its clothes for an artistic purpose that I didn’t quite grasp.
The musical has lost some of its shock value these days. Most of the formerly forbidden words trotted out in songs like “Sodomy” and “I Got Life” are in common use on television these days, and the sexual revolution is old news. Since the military now relies on volunteers rather than a draft, anti-war protests are rare and the main conceit of the show no longer applies.
That leads me to wonder whether our opinions about America’s involvement in wars around the world would change if they affected us more directly. There are ways in which we’re all involved, of course — taxpayers pay the bill for the ongoing conflicts, a tab that has reached obscene proportions every year for the last decade. And, most of us know some young man or woman who has been killed or injured in the fighting.
But no one is made to go. What if a military draft were reinstituted? What if our sons and daughters were forced into the armed forces and shipped into harm’s way against their will? Would there be an outbreak of anti-war protests on college campuses, marches on the Capitol, and a major movement of opposition to the wars?
You bet there would. It’s amazing how more active we become when motivated by self-interest rather than something like, shall we say, Christian ethics.