Monday, August 22, 2005

Arlington

Have you ever read or saw something that left you so incensed that you couldn’t think straight.  That happened today.  Don't ask me why, but Country Music Television was on when I got home. I think Nicole was watching it. As I sat there, I watched a video.  While watching the video, both of my eyes exploded. I couldn't believe what I was watching and hearing. I'm going to reproduce the lyrics here of a Trace Adkins song called Arlington.

I never thought that this is where I'd settle down.
I thought I'd die an old man back in my hometown.
They gave me this plot of land,
Me and some other men, for a job well done.

There's a big White House sits on a hill just up the road.
The man inside, he cried the day they brought me home.
They folded up a flag and told my Mom and Dad:
"We're proud of your son."

And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property.
I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company.
I'm thankful for those thankful for the things I've done.
I can rest in peace;
I'm one of the chosen ones:
I made it to Arlington.

I remember Daddy brought me here when I was eight.
We searched all day to find out where my grand-dad lay.
And when we finally found that cross,
He said: "Son, this is what it cost to keep us free."

Now here I am, a thousand stones away from him.
He recognized me on the first day I came in.
And it gave me a chill when he clicked his heels,
And saluted me.

And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property.
I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company.
I'm thankful for those thankful for the things I've done.
I can rest in peace;
I'm one of the chosen ones:
I made it to Arlington.

And everytime I hear twenty-one guns,
I know they brought another hero home to us.

And I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property.
I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company.
We're thankful for those thankful for the things we've done.
We can rest in peace;
'Cause we are the chosen ones:
We made it to Arlington.

Yeah, dust to dust,
Don't cry for us:
We made it to Arlington.

Am I the only one to get the heebie jeebies from that?  Who does this guy think he is?  Who does he think he’s speaking for?  Those are the first things that went through my head when I saw this video.  Next I started to think, well is this any different from any other song written in this way?  It got me thinking of a song I listen to every once in a while by Tom Waits called Day After Tomorrow.

I got your letter today
And I miss you all so much, here
I can't wait to see you all
And I'm counting the days, dear
I still believe that there's gold
At the end of the world
And I'll come home
To Illinois
On the day after tomorrow

It is so hard
And it's cold here
And I'm tired of taking orders
And I miss old Rockford town
Up by the Wisconsin border
But I miss you won't believe
Shoveling snow and raking leaves
And my plane will touch tomorrow
On the day after tomorrow

I close my eyes
Every night
And I dream that I can hold you
They fill us full of lies
Everyone buys
About what it means to be a soldier
I still don't know how I'm supposed to feel
About all the blood that's been spilled
Look out on the street
Get me back home
On the day after tomorrow

You can't deny
The other side
Don't want to die
Any more than we do
What I'm trying to say,
Is don't they pray
To the same God that we do?
Tell me, how does God choose?
Whose prayers does he refuse?
Who turns the wheel?
And who throws the dice
On the day after tomorrow?

Mmmmmmm...
I'm not fighting
For justice
I am not fighting
For freedom
I am fighting
For my life
And another day
In the world here
I just do what I've been told
You're just the gravel on the road
And the one's that are lucky
One's come home
On the day after tomorrow

And the summer
It too will fade
And with it comes the winter's frost, dear
And I know we too are made
Of all the things that we have lost here
I'll be twenty-one today
I've been saving all my pay
And my plane will touch down
On the day after tomorrow
And my plane it will touch down
On the day after tomorrow


The first of these two songs gives me chills in a bad way and I find myself angry when I listen to it.  The second of these two songs gives me chills in a good way and I find myself touched by it.  Are they really that different?  They are both written from a soldier’s viewpoint.  Neither one of these songs makes any direct statement about the current war, or any war for that matter.  I guess there’s one line of the first song that really ruins it for me.  When he sings, “There's a big White House sits on a hill just up the road.  The man inside, he cried the day they brought me home.”, I’m assuming that he’s making reference to the President.  I guess what I have the most problem with is not that Mr. Adkins has attributed a sense of pride to some hypothetical dead soldier.  That I can live with and can to some extent understand and find plausible.  The thing that most irks me is that he’s attributing an emotion to the president that I don’t know if he’s capable of.  I guess I never really picture our current president crying over anything.  Maybe if somebody punched him in the groin he might cry, but I don’t see him crying over much else.  That little bit of flag waving turns me off to the whole song.  Maybe that’s not the only part that turns me off, but that’s the bit that made me go from indifferent to angry.  

Am I way off base here?  Have I missed something?  Am I overreacting?  Am I letting my loathing of country music ruin what I’d consider a good song if it weren’t showing up on country music television?

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have not heard the song Arlington as yet, but a lady told me about and said it was heart wrenching to her. I guess everyone has a different sort of outlook, and perhaps yours is a wee different than hers, but I do believe I will go with her view over yours.

Cheers

An ex-serviceman

Unknown said...

While I appreciate that everyone will have a different take on these songs, and a lot of a person's view will be dictated by how they feel about the world and our nation today.

I have not had any military experience. I'd been planning on a career in the air force, when it was suggested, by a recruiter, that I might not be medically fit for service. I suspect that I would not get the same advice from a recruiter today. That event had a profound effect on my life. But I don't think it would change how I feel now.

Service men and women make a sacrifice, regardless of whether they are involved in combat. The sacrifice that is made is that they give up some of their liberty for the greater good of the nation. For this sacrifice I am eternally grateful to all service persons. They are all heroes in my eyes. I do however believe that it is important that we as a nation are very careful with the sacrifices made by service men and women and furthermore that we do not ask them to make a sacrifice needlessly. It is my opinion that the war in Iraq is needlessly wasting the liberty and lives of service men and women. No, I don't like Saddam Hussein, but he wasn't a supporter of Al Queda, he was just a petty tyrant. All I'd like is that we treat the gift given by service men and women as just that, a valuable gift that we are lucky to receive.

What does this have to do with your comment and these two songs? Well, to me, they are both heart wrenching songs, but for different reasons. In my mind, "Arlington" represents a person whose sacrifice has been treated in a blithe and selfish manner by our president. Do you know what does it for me? These two lines:

There's a big White House sits on a hill just up the road.
The man inside, he cried the day they brought me home.

I hope that it is true. I hope that our president cries every night, knowing that his actions have needlessly caused the deaths of many brave Americans. Frankly, I don't know that I buy that, I think that he has a very cynical view of this nation, and that he and his cronies have taken advantage of the political atmosphere to create a smokescreen behind which a lot of shady things have been done. Without that line, it would have been a nice song, but with that in there, it feels like a piece of propaganda. I'm sorry if you disagree, and I in no way mean any disrespect to the service men and women of this nation.