Monday, May 30, 2016

On Kris Kristofferson's "Vietnam Blues"

Listen to "Vietnam Blues". It's a talking country song, about a soldier who returns home and encounters hippie protesters who care more about the North Vietnamese than his fallen comrades. Kris Kristofferson, a combat veteran but no war monger, wrote it. He later disowned it. He discusses the song in a documentary clip from the early 1990s. He tries to play the song, but he stops. He says that it reflected an anger he felt at the time, an anger which he now feels was misdirected.

I think it's a brilliant song. It forces you inside the mind of a man  who has suffered severe traumas that you have not suffered. He lives in pain, for himself and for his lost friends. He meets people from a different social class who don't understand and don't seem to much care for his pain. The hero of the song may believe in a war you don't believe in, but surely, if you give your self five seconds, you can relate to his rage and his contempt for people who don't understand him. "All I mean to say is, I don't like dying either. But man, I ain't gonna crawl." I can be a sucker for right-wing kitsch, but this isn't kitsch. This is raw storytelling.

Sometimes I connect to a great work of art in part if not wholly because it comports with my political worldview. Like a lot of people, I forgave a lot of problems in The Wire because it understood Baltimore. I like stories because they tell me a little about myself. I like stories because they tell me about people I don't know and who might have more in common with myself than I know or would like to know.

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