I think of Phil Ochs on July 4. Phil was a cult contemporary of Bob Dylan from the 60s and 70s (and with full disclosure I reveal was a friend and client of mine when I practiced law). And Phil wrote a song called "Another Country."* The lyric reads as follows:
Oh, a rifle took its aim/
And a man fell to the ground./
A time of terror when the bullet pierced the air/
I know that couldn't happen here./
Oh, it must have been another country --
Yes, it must have been another land./
That couldn't happen in the U.S.A./
We'd never treat a man that way.
On another day of Independence and another year, Phil sang outside on the streets leading a protest to the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968.
Phil's "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore" is the ultimate anti-war song:
It's always the old to lead us to the war
It's always the young to fall
Now look at all we've won
With the saber and the gun
Tell me is it worth it all.
For I stole California from the Mexican land
Fought in the bloody Civil War
Yes I even killed my brother
And so many others
And I ain't marchin' anymore.
For I marched to the battles
Of the German trench
In a war that was bound to end all wars
Oh I must have killed a million men
And now they want me back again
But I ain't marchin' anymore.
For I flew the final mission
In the Japanese sky
Set off the mighty mushroom roar
When I saw the cities burning
I knew that I was learning
That I ain't marchin' anymore.
Phil didn't live long enough to know about Iraq and Afghanistan.
The anger, the rage, the frustration of the revolutionaries of the 60s and 70s in the second half of the 20th Century is interesting when contrasted to George M. Cohan who, with justifiable genuine American pride, wrote "Over There."
Every son of Liberty
Hurry right away, no delay, go today,
Make your daddy glad to have had such a lad
Tell your sweetheart not to pine,
To be proud her boy's in line.
Over there, Over there
Send the world, send the word
That the Yanks are coming,
The Yanks are coming,
The drums rum tumming everywhere
Say a Prayer
Send the word,
Send the word to beware
We'll be over, we're coming over.
And we won't be back till it's over over there!
Will it ever be over there? Will there ever be changing? Will we always be going over somewhere and if we do, will we listen to George M. Cohan and keep our eye on that grand old flag?
Indeed, the rockets still glare and bombs still burst in air and we're still marchin'. Sorry, Phil, nothing has changed. It's always the old who lead us to the wars and it's always the young who die.
My 4th of July flag will be flying, but now it's flying at half mast.
*Phil Ochs copyrighted his lyrics with Appleseed Music.