Guest poem sent in by Aseem
(Poem #1801) With God on our Side
Oh my name it is nothin' My age it means less The country I come from Is called the Midwest I's taught and brought up there The laws to abide And that land that I live in Has God on its side. Oh the history books tell it They tell it so well The cavalries charged The Indians fell The cavalries charged The Indians died Oh the country was young With God on its side. Oh the Spanish-American War had its day And the Civil War too Was soon laid away And the names of the heroes I's made to memorize With guns in their hands And God on their side. Oh the First World War, boys It closed out its fate The reason for fighting I never got straight But I learned to accept it Accept it with pride For you don't count the dead When God's on your side. When the Second World War Came to an end We forgave the Germans And we were friends Though they murdered six million In the ovens they fried The Germans now too Have God on their side. I've learned to hate Russians All through my whole life If another war starts It's them we must fight To hate them and fear them To run and to hide And accept it all bravely With God on my side. But now we got weapons Of the chemical dust If fire them we're forced to Then fire them we must One push of the button And a shot the world wide And you never ask questions When God's on your side. In a many dark hour I've been thinkin' about this That Jesus Christ Was betrayed by a kiss But I can't think for you You'll have to decide Whether Judas Iscariot Had God on his side. So now as I'm leavin' I'm weary as Hell The confusion I'm feelin' Ain't no tongue can tell The words fill my head And fall to the floor If God's on our side He'll stop the next war.
(from the album The Times they are a-changin') Reading the Star Spangled Banner [Poem #1730] on Minstrels made me think of another song - one that does more justice, IMHO, to the 'glorious' history of the United States. It's a song that's probably more chillingly apt today than it was in 1963, when it was first written, if only because of the increasing frequency with which religion is being invoked to justify acts of mindless violence against other human beings. I, personally have no use for religion, but I see how it can be a powerful force to unite and motivate great masses of people - that it should be used for this purpose by evil, power hungry men is at once one of the greatest ironies and one of the greatest tragedies of our time. 'With God on our Side' is a wonderful illustration of the way that a lifetime of indoctrination can make otherwise decent, clear-thinking people support the most henious crimes against humanity in the name of some imagined God. Dylan attacks the propaganda of God with conscious irony, exposing again and again the hypocrisy that lies at the heart of much of the history that a nation prides itself on. Going sequentially through war after war in US History , Dylan, shows us the terrible pointlessness and waste of war, forcing you to ask the question: Was it worth it? There are some truly memorable lines here, and the conscious caricatures of the justifications given for war would be hilarious if they were not both incredibly tragic and frighteningly close to the truth (if there's one point that both sides of the Iraq conflict would agree on, it's that "You don't count the dead / When God's on your side"). I admit this isn't by any means one of Dylan's greatest poems - without his flat, matter of fact delivery of the lines it may barely be a poem at all - but as we struggle to come to terms with the bombings in London and the continuing carnage in Iraq, I feel these are lines that are useful to remember. There may be many things that you can believe in to justify the West's intercession in Iraq (though I'm not sure I know what these might be), but God cannot and should not be one of them. As the democracies of the West prepare to face a determined assault from an enemy whose key weapon is a religious fanaticism, it would be tempting to follow the path of their opponents and sacrifice human life in the name of God, but that temptation is precisely what they must guard against. God, in the final analysis, is the one thing we should not trust in, because it is the one weapon and the one justification that both sides will always have equal access to. Besides, as Dylan so eloquently puts it "If God's on our side / he'll stop the next war". Aseem  The one glaring ommission is of course, the war in Vietnam, which took place largely after this song was written. Incidentally, the Star Spangled banner makes interesting reading in the light of that war, with some of the lines serving as a wonderful paean ("And where is that band who so vauntingly swore / That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion / A home and a country should leave us no more?" "Thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand / Between their loved homes and the war's desolation / Blest with victory and peace") to the eventual victory of the VietCong. Another apt reminder of why it's dangerous to believe your own propaganda.