Yesterday I posted about an essay written by the previously unheralded David Masciotra in which he excoriated American society for its penchant for calling soldiers (and I use this term generically to encompass sailors, airmen, and marines rather than the bureaucratic “servicemembers”) heroes rather than baby killers or something he’d prefer. I noted:
Masciotra’s subtext is simply garden variety anti-Americanism that was the state of affairs on American campuses during the Vietnam era and its aftermath. What he’s longing for are the good old days with nice little fascists, like himself, could verbally assault men and women in uniform and receive the plaudits of the low-forehead crowd they played to. It irks him greatly that military service is an honorable profession, in the way being a feminized hipster douchebag never will be. Because so long as a single American is willing to wear the nation’s uniform and to take that risk for the rest of us, everything Masciotra stands for will be for naught.
While Masciotra wants to relive the “Days of Rage” and anti-war protest era, though seemingly entirely too comfortable writing books about inconsequential musicians to actually do anything, there is another part of the American left that wants to relive its youth and the heady days marijuana, cheap wine, and sticking it to da’ man.
Enter Bruce Sprinsteen and the “Concert for Valor” concert on the National Mall held in conjunction with Veterans Day. What was the Concert for Valor?
This is a harmless enough mission statement until it collides with an aging leftist. One of Sprinsteen’s musical selections was Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Fortunate Son.”
Let me digress here for a moment. I’ve never had much use for Bruce Spingsteen, his talent has always escaped me. But as a southerner who was raised on country and western and bluegrass music, CCR has a special place in my heart. It was one of the first “cool” bands to adopt a lot of arrangements that were very familiar to a bluegrass listener and made them popular to a much larger audience. When older, it was hard to find a hard rock dive south of the Mason Dixon line that didn’t feature CCR, along with the Allman Brothers and Lynerd Skynerd on the juke box. Plus, CCR virtually created the Mondegreen genre, which are often much more fun to sing when drunk than the actual songs themselves.
Fortunate Son, as it turned out, was an unfortunate choice because it was a Vietnam War protest song.
Who would have thought that that Bruce Springsteen, Dave Grohl, and Zac Brown, accomplished musicians all, would be so, well, tone-deaf? But how else to explain their choice of song—Creedence Clearwater’s famously anti-war anthem “Fortunate Son”—at the ostensibly pro-military “Concert for Valor” this evening on the National Mall?
The song, not to put too fine a point on it, is an anti-war screed, taking shots at “the red white and blue.” It was a particularly terrible choice given that Fortunate Son is, moreover, an anti-draft song, and this concert was largely organized to honor those who volunteered to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.
What makes the irony of Fortunate Son’s lines:
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no Senator’s son
It ain’t me, it ain’t me
I ain’t no fortunate one
so intense is that they were written and originally performed by a band that included two members, John Fogerty and Cosmo Clifford, who were able to arrange cushy Army Reserve or Coast Guard Reserve assignments, of the kind that got Dan Quayle excoriated by the left, so they could avoid military service. In other words, they epitomized the “Fortunate Son” who was able to game the draft while others were not (via Instapundit):
The thing is, I love Creedence Clearwater Revival, but even in its original form the song Fortunate Son is a big steaming pile of hypocritical horseshit. John Fogerty wrote it after doing one-weekend-a-month Army Reserve duty designed to keep him away from Vietnam. It was the sort of deal a lot of people got, not just “Senator’s sons,” and his bandmate Doug “Cosmo” Clifford – the most underrated drummer of rock’s ascendancy – swung a similar Coast Guard gig.
Meanwhile, Fogerty says he wrote the song as “my confrontation with Richard Nixon,” but in fact Nixon refused the military exemption he was entitled to as a Quaker and served in the Pacific during World War Two.
Basically, whenever lefties go all moralistic, you can be pretty sure they’re being hypocritical. Because that’s just how they rock and roll.
In this case, it was performed by a Social Security recipient who was amazingly “fortunate” himself in evading the draft. Springsteen was born in 1949 and was eligible for induction in 1967 (quick, what else was going on in the world in 1967?). He enrolled in college, presumably for the deferment, but soon dropped out which should have been a huge flag for a draft board in 1968 or 1969. He wasn’t married. So how Springsteen evaded the draft and was able to play bad music while his contemporaries were tromping through rice paddies gives the hypocrisy of this particular song a certain poignancy.
Suffice it to say, this song was something of a turd in this particular punchbowl.
Predictably, the Washington Post, after being utterly supine during the Obama administration, has again discovered that dissent, when directed at things it doesn’t like, is the highest form of patriotism. Even The Onion could not do this well:
So, starting right now, let’s agree: Songs like “Fortunate Son” and “Born in the U.S.A.,” while they criticize the armed forces, aren’t anti-American in the sense that, for example, the Islamic State is anti-American. By offering a critique of our nation’s policies, they celebrate its promise.
Or, as Mark Twain put it: “The true patriotism, the only rational patriotism, is loyalty to the Nation all the time, loyalty to the Government when it deserves it.”
The objection, at least in my view, is not that Fortunate Son and Born in the U.S.A are anti-American, because in their essence they are, but because Fortunate Son portrays soldiers as victims and this is totally inappropriate for a venue which is purporting to honor the valor of soldiers and veterans. The situation portrayed in the song was counterfactual during the Vietnam era when a clear majority of the House and Senate who made the decision to fight communism in Vietnam were veterans:
and all it took to avoid being drafted was to be married or to be enrolled in college.
It is even more bizarre to be trotting out this stupid meme in any year since 1972 when the last group of men were drafted. Since that time every single man and woman who have worn this nation’s colors have done so voluntarily and without compulsion. By 1982 it was a felony under the UCMJ for a recruiter to have any contact with a judge, probation officer, or police officer to arrange a suspension of a case in return for enlistment. More strikingly, every man and woman who have enlisted since 2003, here we’re talking on the order of some 280,000 recruits per year over a decade, have done so in full knowledge that their deployment to a combat zone was nearly guaranteed.
Predictably, there are those who are nominally on our side on occasion who defend the choice of song. For instance, there is the mandatory chickenhawking by Doug
The reality, of course, is that songs like Fortunate Son, as well as Springsteen’s own Born In The USA do a better job of speaking about the truths that many veterans of war face than all of the patriotic anthems that the Weekly Standard author likely prefers on a day like yesterday, especially when speaking about the Vietnam era vets that both songs speak to. The fact that some people can’t see that, and falsely paint the song as “anti-military,” says more about the mindset of the author than anything else…
Is there anything that more accurately portrays the reality of who fought in Vietnam, who sent them there, and who was able to get away with not fighting there? I can’t think of another example off the top of my head, but it certainly hits the nail on the head. Indeed, it seems like it could be said to be just as accurate a statement of the forces that were sent to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. How many of those men were the sons of Senators, Congressmen, or the members of the elite?
Soldiers are chumps. Soldiers are the dregs. Soldiers are victims of an unjust system. Sometimes one weeps for the Republic when you see this level of grotesque ignorance of the military and our Constitution trotted out. To portray them as some group of luckless chumps is not only a cheap shot but demeans the very men and women who this concert was supposed to honor. Especially when we are in an era of military recruiting where only 25% of the 17-21 year old population meets the mental, physical, and moral standards to enlist. In fact, if you can qualify to enlist you ARE the elite.
Be that as it may, the American left and its fellow travelers finds itself in a quandary. If the nation does honor its soldiers and veterans then everything the Left stood for during the Vietnam Era and after 2003 is up for grabs. Why should we honor a class of people who were so dumb that they were unable, unlike Fogerty and Springsteen, to evade the draft? Why should people who were, as a class, shunned and spat upon in the 1960s and early 1970s be honored by those who did the shunning and spitting? Or, worse still, why should we honor people who are borderline psychopaths as described in the Masciotra essay? Why should there be any honor accorded to members of the lowest socioeconomic classes that go off to fight wars not because the government of the United States decided that our collective best interests were so served, but in the service of plutocrats who have no skin in the game and apparently start wars willy-nilly to cull the lower classes and because they have no better option (like welfare and food stamps) than risking life and limb for their cup of gruel?
You can’t have it both ways. You can’t denigrate the nation and claim to honor the veterans who served her. You can’t malign veterans and hold any claim to having respect for our nation.