Friday, May 25, 2007

Bob Dylan - Masters Of War

I'm a day late (and always a dollar short), but yesterday was Bob Dylan's birthday. He's 66 years old.

Though I haven't listened to him as much in the last decade, I can't think of another literary/musical/artisitc figure who's had more impact on my life. And one of the first songs that made an impression on me was this one. I remember thinking, "Wow, I didn't know you could sing about things like that!"

The video is over the top and predictably anti-Bush. Not much nuance. No exploration of others who might be involved in promoting war. But hey, I'll take what YouTube offers.

I'd like to dedicate this to the Democratic National Party. Thanks for nothing.

Masters of War

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead

Copyright © 1963; renewed 1991 Special Rider Music


crystal said...

I thought I had commented on this post, but maybe I just dreamed that :-)

I don't really like Dylan, but he is good at songwriting. I especially like the song My Back Pages, and also the one for the movie Easy Rider.

Happy Pentecost.

Jeff said...

That's a great song by Dylan. Very, very poweful lyrics. Wow, hard to imagine he's 66. We're all getting up there (well, at least I speak for myself).

As for the video itself, you're right, it lacks nuance. I take it for what it is and the spirit in which it is offered, because in a representative democracy it is ultimately our own responsibility as to what the government does or does not do in our name. I think there is a lamentable tendency though, for some Americans on the left to practice a sort of self-hatred regarding the USA, while simultaneously overlooking the faults of others in the world, even to the point of bestowing noble virtues and motives onto some of our adversaries. Masters of War in this administration, there are, no doubt, but there are plenty of others elsewhere too, from Al Qaeda to thugs like Vladimir Putin who can level a city like Grozny without batting an eyelash. We have a miltary-industrial complex. The former Soviet Union was a military-industrial complex. People are people, wherever they are, all subject to the same prejudices and foibles. We don't have a monopoly on goodness, but we certainly don't have a monopoly on evil either. As for the military profession, I've never considered it a dishonorable occupation in and of itself, although I am very interested in exploring the possibilities of Christian pacifism these days.

The war in Iraq is wrong. It was ill-conceived, ill-motivated, ill-planned, ill-executed, arrogantly-continued, and to fail to point that out forcefully in Washington and elsewhere is a scandal. That does not mean, however, that the Al Qaeda fanatics who blow up cars in marketplaces full of people and Shia fanatics who ethnically cleanse neighborhoods by taking drills to people's heads shouldn't be condemned for it. I don't demonize Islam or Muslims, but if I'm not willing to give American extremists and Christian extremists a pass, I won't grant it to Islamic extremists either.

In his article The God of Bush and Bin Laden, Leo Boff points out, "Bin Laden talks of acts of terrorism with a Christ-like face, adding: 'Praised be Allah.'"

From others we've heard:

"Thousands of young people look forward to death, like the
Americans look forward to living."
-- Al Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman abu Ghaith

"We have discovered how to hit the Jews where they are the most vulnerable. The Jews love life, so that is what we shall take away from them. We are going to win because they love life and we love death."
-- Hezbollah Leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah,

They love death like we love life? Wonderful... Yes, Masters of War we certainly have, but Al Qaeda and Hezbollah has them too. I'm sickened by these old men who coerce and con young men and women into donning suicide vests for some murderous errand or another. Would they ever do it themsleves? Hell no. They're doing just fine thanks, they've got their virgins in paradise lined up already, but you, you my young friend, you need that...

I guess that's the way it has always been. Old men snookering young men to go fight and die for some scam.

cowboyangel said...

Crystal, you didn't dream that. You just commented faster than I could produce a good post. I've been having problems lately with the YouTube videos. When I try to make a change to the post, the video disappears. I had to start over, and, alas, your comment vanished along with the video. But now I found out you like My Back Pages. You didn't mention that the first time.

cowboyangel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cowboyangel said...


Thanks for the thoughtful comments. You expressed pretty much exactly what I was thinking when I brought up my issues with the video.

The self-hatred of some Americans is, I think, the other side of the coin of blind nationalism. In both cases, people fail to see their own country in a clear way as it relates to the rest of the world and to those who have come before us. And even this condition isn't uniquely American.

It only takes a cursory reading of history to realize that human empires/nations - like human beings - are a mixed lot. The U.S. has a lot of power right now, so it's good and bad aspects tend to affect more people. But in the past it was someone else. Assyria, Persia, Greece, Spain, England, Aztecs, whoever. We all have our time in the sun to prove how great and horrible we can be as people.

The Masters of War are neither new nor unique to any one country. Our current ones here in the U.S. are terrifylingly arrogant and incompetent, a deadly mixture, especially when we're facing the likes of Al-Qaeda.

Jeff said...

Good points, William.

On a lighter note, Liam thinks I might have committed heresy in Pope Cowboyangel I's book for preferring Cyd Charisse over Ginger Rogers on my blog, but maybe it's not so bad. After all, Cyd was a Texas gal, wasn't she?

crystal said...

I havbe trouble when I add YouTubes also - sometimes after I've pasted the code in, nothing else works and I have to start over.

I found an mp3 of My Back Pages with George Harrison, Roger McGuinn, Dylan, Eric Clapton and Tom Petty :-)

Lawrence said...

Thanks for celebrating his b-day. Lots of glowing candles on that cake.
I was listening to the radio when I heard it was his b-day but I didnt even put his CD in (I always have "Desire" close by).
And as two-dimensional as the video is I like it. I havent time for too much analysis. Just give me quick icons, images, emoticons or whatever :) I'll stick them on the brain somewhere for reference later and hopefully when its all done the many symbols will add up to wisdom and intelligence. But actually, as already becoming evident, they will probably just look more like the bumper of a hippie van.

Happy B-Day B-Dylan!

crystal said...

William, haven't seen you around. I hope everything's ok.

cowboyangel said...


Interesting, isn't that Desire holds up so damn well over time. It's one of my favorties, along with Blood on the Tracks and Blonde on Blonde.


Thanks for the message. I'm okay. We're having to look for a new place to live, which is stressful, and other thinigs have been going on, so I haven't had a lot of time, and haven't been in a great frame of mind to blog. Hope you're well.