For all the similarities between the American war in Vietnam and those in Iraq and Afghanistan -- and there are, alas, too many -- here's one major difference: impact on popular culture.
A decade after the September 11 terrorist attacks, even as thousands of American soldiers have lost their lives overseas, fueling a level of public antiwar sentiment not seen in a generation, there is still no anthem that speaks to this era, that defines it. Now Joe Scarborough is aiming to change that.
The host of MSNBC's "Morning Joe" and a former Florida congressman, Scarborough is no John Mellencamp and he's certainly not the Dixie Chicks -- he's a Republican, after all. Yet the anchor, also a songwriter and Beatles fan, told The Huffington Post that his new song, "Reason to Believe," has a purpose that would have resonated with earlier critics of Vietnam.
"It's critical that we remember the heroes of 9/11 and those who are still fighting in an endless war," Scarborough said. "They need to come home. It's time."
The music video, released by Sony Records and put together by JAM, the production company of Scarborough and his MSNBC cohost, Mika Brzezinski, opens with a woman answering the phone in her house and getting word that someone -- presumably her husband and the father of the young girl shown next to her -- was killed in the twin towers.
"In the flash of an hour / Watching dreams fall from towers / All I once knew came tumbling down," Scarborough sings. About halfway through the video, the focus shifts from the terrorist attacks to the march to war.
The catchy tune and Americana visuals can't hide the searing lyrics as Scarborough laments the bloodshed of the last 10 years: "In an endless war / Tell me please how many more have to die / Before my sweet boy comes home."
Though his face never appears in the video, Scarborough's song resonates partly because he's the one sending the message. It says something about the antiwar canon of this generation that a conservative has been one of the most vocal critics of America's wars.
As art tends to require the passage of time, it could also be that Scarborough's song is just the first in a series of more reflective cultural examinations of the last 10 years. Such works cannot change the last decade, cannot bring back brave soldiers, but they can offer hope that the years will bring greater understanding. As Scarborough concludes: "At the end of the hour / When I'm drained of all power / I still find the reason to believe."
The song is now available on iTunes.