Arizona's mixed messages

One of the formative scenes in "No Country For Old Men" comes right at the beginning. While walking around with a rifle, Llewelyn Moss (Josh Brolin) runs into a drug deal gone amok. Mexican bodies litter the dirt, laid waste after an ostensible skirmish over a truck full of cocaine. While he abandons the truck, the last survivor—"el ultimo hombre," so to speak—asks that he close the door, so as to protect him from "lobos." However, Moss reassures him: "There ain't no lobos."

There still aren't.

The three-time Grammy Award winning Tex Mex outfit from eastern LA, Los Lobos, are cancelling their scheduled Arizona appearance in order to boycott SB 1070.

I already explained my position on this—you're not boycotting the government as much as you are the ones who actually need help—and I'd assumed a group like Los Lobos would be most ready to lift an arm of action on the issue. Everyone in Los Lobos is American, but American in the same way those being discriminated against are American. I thought if anyone would be willing to stand alongside—and not removed from—their Arizona brethren, it would have been a crew like Los Lobos. And maybe, say, Ozomatli will still invade AZ and push for change, but more and more bands are hopping on the bandwagon by banding together—on the outside looking in.

Unlike athletes, musicians generally are paid to share their thoughts. An athletic boycott would theoretically hold weight because a sport's entertainment and economic bump are the only true platforms they have. We take sports at face value. Home runs and slam dunks are bipartisan, strikeouts and three-pointers demand no effect beyond the scoreboard. Some fans are upset when LeBron doesn't speak out against genocide in Darfur, some people chastise MJ for his "Republicans buy shoes too" ethos; but realistically that is what we should expect from them. Whatever political platform they have to speak from is one they have to construct themselves. They don't get drafted or sign endorsements for their political ideals, but they're risking losing it all if they become offensively vocal about any of it. And "offensive" in this case is defined by the corporate heads who sign their checks, not the popular conception of justice we hope they embody.

And that's how musicians are distinct. We give musicians microphones so they can speak. Musicians are a different kind of entertainer because they are capable of speaking partisan messages through notes of neutrality. How many future Republicans bought American Idiot? It was guy-liner pop-punk that made tweens from all corners drop their self respect to join some vague, abstract opponent. And Green Day didn't have to tell the millions of fans who bought the album that "tyranny" meant the Bush Administration, but they all responded anyway.

Because in nature, the door never matters, unless a gang of wolves is going to walk in. And in music, the message never matters, except for when it matters more than anything at all.