For this Sunday on the International Weekend of Peace
Seems like a simple enough truth — peace means no war. Still, war persists while people profess to love peace. Perhaps if we can move past talk to action, we can end war. I believe so. And while you may say I’m a dreamer…well, you know the rest.
I came of age during the Vietnam War the draft, and the resulting movement against the war. My prior religious learnings had already seeded my pacifism, and it only grew deeper as the horrors of war unfolded while I watched so many people pretend this was somehow okay.
With that in mind, here are a few song & movie selections about an end to war.
Sky Pilot — Eric Burdon & the Animals
Released in 1968, this song sought to speak to the split conscience of a young man serving as a military chaplain, as he tries to reconcile his work with his beliefs.
In the morning they return
With tears in their eyes.
The stench of death drifts up to the skies.
A soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot
Remembers the words,
“Thou shalt not kill.”
Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag — Country Joe MacDonald
Probably the most notorious anti-Vietnam-War song, this was first released in 1965 but gained more attention upon re-release in 1967 due to the expansion of the war and the draft: a grim, satiric swipe at the military-industrial complex President Eisenhower had warned against.
And it’s one, two, three —
What are we fighting for?
Don’t ask me, I don’t give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it’s five, six, seven —
Open up the pearly gates.
Well, there ain’t no time to wonder why —
Whoopee! we’re all gonna die!
Peacemaker — Hoyt Axton
Draft resisters put their lives on the line to stand against the war. Some were jailed, some fled the country — all striving for peace, rather than succumbing to society’s demand they became warriors.
When the man said surrender,
He kept right on a’goin’ —
He could see his brother Jesus by his side.
And they knew he wasn’t fakin’
When the bullet started breakin’
Through the body of a peacemaker who tried.And he died for his country and he was not mistaken…
Takin’ his body back home.
He wasn’t going to that far eastern jungle…
Takin’ his body back home.
Born on the 4th of July
Ron Kovic wrote of his personal journey from joining the Marines and serving two tours in Vietnam to vocal anti-war activist with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War. His autobiography was adapted in an Oscar-winning movie in 1989 by Oliver Stone.
I’m a Vietnam veteran, I’m here tonight to say, this war is wrong, this government lied to me, lied to my brothers, the people in this country tricked us into going thirteen thousand miles to fight a war against poor peasant people who have a proud history of resistance who have been struggling for their own independence for one thousand years, the Vietnamese people, I can’t find the words to express how the leadership of this country sickens me, people say “if you don’t love America, then get the hell out,” well I love America we love the people of America very much but when it comes to the government it stops right there, the government are a bunch of corrupt thieves, they are rapists and robbers, and we are here to say “we don’t have to take it anymore”, we are here to tell the truth, they are killing our brothers in Vietnam, this wheelchair, our wheelchairs, this steel, our steel is your Memorial Day on wheels, we are your Yankee Doodle Dandy come home.
Universal Soldier — written by Buffy Sainte-Marie, performed by Donovan
An important aspect of the anit-war movement of the late 60s-early 70s was an emphasis on personal responsibility for one’s actions. For many of us, this meant a moral imperative to resist not just the war and not just the draft, but the over-militarization we were witnessing worldwide. This song powerfully puts the spotlight on the individual by addressing “The Universal Soldier.”
He’s a Catholic, a Hindu, an athiest, a Jain,
a Buddhist and a Baptist and a Jew —
And he knows he shouldn’t kill
And he knows he always will.
Kill you for me my friend and me for you…
War Racket — Buffy Sainte-Marie
All these years later, peace activist Buffy Sainte-Marie continues to write scathing attacks on our militaristic leaders with their infernal and incessant machinations of war.
And that’s how it’s done war after war:
You old feudal parasites, you just sacrifice the poor.
You’ve got the cutting edge weapons
but your scam’s still the same
as it’s been since the Romans:
It’s the “patriot” game —
That’s the war racket.
Finally — a step back from the abyss with the song that asks us all to dream of a world of peace — since the dreams we share can remake our world.
Imagine there’s no countries —
It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for,
And no religion too.
Imagine all the people living life in peace —You may say I’m a dreamer…
…I’m not the only one.
Peace be with you and with us all — some day. Some day soon, I hope.