Monday, October 25, 2004

Subtle lyrics, Springsteen, Bertrand Russell and the nature of war

Today I was listening to Dylan's Jokerman and I realized for the first time that the Jokerman is probably Jesus. It was always one of those songs of which I knew the melody and probably most of the words, but I'd only ever heard it in the background, while I was doing other things (because, alas, it's at the back of my CD and I don't use shuffle nearly as much as I ought). But today I was walking home from school, smelling the nice October air, and I thought to myself...

I mean, "standing on the water, casting your bread"--walks on water..."you rise up and say goodbye to no one"..."you can walk on the clouds, manipulator of crowds"..."friend to the martyr, a friend to the woman of shame"--Mary Magdalene..."Michelangelo indeed could've carved out your features"--the pieta.

I don't know. Near the end Dylan starts discoursing on war and all that, but it's funny to me that I could have heard this song so many times without picking up on that. Though that's not to say this is the first time this has occurred. For the longest time, for instance, I didn't realize that the phrase "shot in the arm" in the Wilco song OF THE SAME NAME referred to a shot of heroin; I thought it was just a phrase equivalent to "I need that like a hole in my head" or whatnot. Oops. I couldn't understant what the Ramones were saying in the chorus of I Wanna Be Sedated for a long time. Didn't realize Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds was about LSD. I'm like that--sometimes I don't figure those not-so-subtle subtleties out until someone points it out to me. I'd rather nobody tell me what I'm misinterpreting.

Listening to Bruce Springsteen fairly obsessively now, as well, though it does seem that the only people who really like Springsteen (in my town at least) are adults approaching mid-life that are clinging to the last remnants of cool. That sounded very mean...I'm sorry, I'm just not in much of a mood to post today.

On a completely different note, today in history we watched an extremely biased tape of Frontline about the upcoming Bush/Kerry election, and there was a lot of time spent on Vietnam, the protests at the Mall, etc. It reminded me of the Bertrand Russell (I think) idea that in war the real sacrifice is not to ask a child to risk his life, but "to ask a child to kill someone else, whom you've never met." That really struck a chord with me. I would not be able to look at someone's face and then destroy his life. Oh, I know this sounds so idealist and flower-in-the-gun teenager-ish, but... If I needed to, I think I could throw a grenade or some such thing, as long as I didn't know who I was attacking. But to see someone's face. To yourself make the decision that some stranger's life should end--that decision that would devastate countless others, family and friends, and that would end the countless possibilities of that man's life. Maybe he would have been a great writer. A great physicist. A great artist. And one doesn't need to be great; maybe he would have been a good man. There is not enough goodness in the world, and who knows?--maybe you just destroyed some goodness.

It's hard for me to get my mind around. I hope there isn't a draft. I know women can't be drafted, and I'm too young, but if I were drafted into combat... It would be shameful not to fight for my country, but it would be infinitely more shameful to commit that act... I would break my legs, cut off my toes...because really, what is the loss of some toes compared to the loss of a life? The loss of goodness? The loss of (my) innocence? I couldn't do it.

Maybe I'm not brave. I couldn't do it.


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