“Only a Fool Would Say That” (Steely Dan)

A modern-day gunslinger in a Stetson (LBJ?) announces that with his weapon he can produce “a world become one” “where all is free.” Hard-working, everyday Joes feel the pull of this tuneful argument: after all, who wants to be told the opposite—that the world will always remain divided against itself, and that freedom cannot be universalized? And it seems quite reasonable that some old-fashioned “murder,” liberally distributed, would do the globe a lot of good, and at least move things in the right direction. From Korea and Vietnam to 21st century drone strikes, a certain idealism makes “fools” (and not holy ones, but just plain ordinary fools) of us all.


Read more "“Only a Fool Would Say That” (Steely Dan)"

“Til the Last Shot’s Fired” (Trace Adkins)

While Adkins’ micro-display of the Confederate flag and his narration as a Confederate soldier certainly resides over the edge of credulity, his call to “say a prayer for peace” centers the conversation. Though George W. Bush expressly focused on anti-poverty religious and community organizations in his first Executive Order, he also forcefully argued for the relative autonomy of faith-based financial assistance. And this trax’s association with the Wounded Warrior Project, in some way, hinges on a faith in the power of cost-shifting from government apportionment to people directly funding each other’s care. (Recurring donations that are tax-deductible if the amount is large enough!) More directly, this is institutionalized and structured prayer that takes place within a war economy. But Adkins isn’t singing about survivors or “warriors;” his primary narrators are corpses who have died grisly battlefield deaths. From the grave, they yearn for rest (“Let us lay down our guns”) despite war’s relentless forward march (“But we can’t come home til/The last shot’s fired”). Peace founded upon a corpse, and the price of doing (nation) business. Also: a monument to living.


Read more "“Til the Last Shot’s Fired” (Trace Adkins)"

“War” (Henry Cow)

War is a product of the “partial mind,” clouded by “dark obscurity.” One could read this Hegel’s way, since he argues that the State “is most supremely its own” (has a truly self-sufficient and complete identity) only at the moment of War. But instead of critiquing identity, which cannot be closed without adopting a warlike posture toward the other, the Cow’s disciplinary Marxism maliciously heckles all patriotic persons as dumb lemmings (“people get what they deserve”) who should have been able to make themselves whole without all the drum beating, trumpet playing, and gore. A project both impossible and endlessly, potentially murderous; or, ranting become its own object.

Read more "“War” (Henry Cow)"

“Two Tribes (for the victims of ravishment)” (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)

War as sporting event (“a point is all that you can score”), and thereby fit for a kind of anthropological analysis, via the metaphor of the “tribe.” None of this amounts, however, to an anti-war or progressive position: wars are promoted or fought for symbolic point-scoring purposes (see the 2003 Iraq War); and even superpower wars are anthropologically buttressed (see Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations). Thus, this attempt to shame the combatants, or to sway “enlightened” public opinion, unmasks nothing we don’t already know (and might even work as a football anthem).

Read more "“Two Tribes (for the victims of ravishment)” (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)"