The Motion Sick: I Had A Dream: My Country

Skip down a bit past the “My Country” song lyrics if you want to read about a funny dream I had the other night and skip some political talk.

For those of you who are unaware, The Motion Sick has a song called “My Country.”  It was written in response to the extensive oppression of civil liberties that began in late 2001.  Without writing a lengthy essay on the subject, I had (and still have) concerns that measures taken in the name of protecting the populace (the Patriot Act in particular) are substantially detrimental. The song is really a reaction to the frustration of directly observing, perhaps for the first time in my life, the use of irrational fear to manipulate feelings. 

I will say that, without a doubt, I am nothing but thankful to be a U.S. citizen and to live in a country that is generally a great, free place with a lot of opportunities for a wide range of people.  That is not to say that it is a utopia nor that we should be complacent and satisfied with the levels of equality present in the U.S.  There are always improvements to be made. 

I will say that I am also grateful to those who have risked or sacrificed themselves in the name of preserving this country or oppressed or endangered peoples of other nations.  I do not always agree with military actions, but I do not find myself in a position to be knowledgeable enough regarding specific conflicts to make fair, unemotional judgments regarding the value of these wars.  It’s certainly easy to say that war is always bad.  It’s certainly easy to examine a single incident of death and declare that the cause was unjust and unworthy.  It’s extremely difficult for us to look at things with a wider scope and really understand the potential value and benefit.  No one likes war, but sometimes, perhaps, there is great value to conflict. 

Most people agree now that WWII was fought necessarily, and though we may regret the great many casualties, it is difficult to imagine a position of isolationism.  At the time, this approach was supported by many, many people including Charles Lindbergh (who later flew combat missions in the war).

My concern with more recent conflicts hinges on what I perceive as a dishonest presentation of the underlying motivation and immediacy.  With that in mind, the song “My Country” is really not about the value (or lack thereof) of any specific conflict, but rather the idea that I am not willing to succumb to what I perceive as pure scare tactics. 

I do not even remotely mean any of the song as disrespect to anyone who has ever, or is presently serving in the armed forces.  The song is, however, often misinterpreted as either that or as a peace/anti-war anthem of sorts.  I consider it an anti-fear anthem.  

The lyrics are as follows:

I’ll line up in order of rank or of stature
if you’ll paint me a rainbow to hide my true colors
don’t ship me to front lines, don’t ask me to bother
to lace up my boots or to wear something leather
don’t buy me some clothing to impress all the HRs
don’t tell me that it will look good on my CV
don’t put me up, clean me up, sell my bad habits
sit me down to relax in front of a TV
’cause I, I will not die for my country

So I’ll put up a scarecrow to scare off my neighbors
and to have something for birds to light down upon
’cause in school I learned not to talk to strangers
and that’s why I’m scared now to meet anyone
so forget my name like a tied up and knotted string
it’s just my way, you know it’s how I’m grappling
with hurtling through space in an orbit unending
thinking I matter, yeah I know it’s pretending
but I, I will not die for my country
no I, I will not die for my country

So I put up a colored cloth that represents borders
so the angel of death knows not to deport me
my neighbor’s the enemy cause he can’t afford one
they’ve slaughtered his family, now they’re taking his first born
You can scare me with smart bombs
And scare me with anthrax
And scare me with vague threats of foreign attacks
mandate allegiance and increase income tax
but I, I will not die for my country
no I, I will not die for my country

You can download the song at: http://www.neilyoung.com/lwwtoday/songslinks/songlink_2027.html

With this explanation of the song’s meaning and the prevalence of misinterpretation, you hopefully understand why I am hesitant to play the song in many live settings without an opportunity for providing context.  This is the basis for the following dream that I recently had:

The Motion Sick had a performance somewhere in a roadhouse sort of bar in the South.  We were playing through our set successfully when Travis declared that we should play “My Country.”  I declined given the environment.  He ignored my declination and counted off the song.  The whole band began playing the song.  I approached the microphone unsure of what to do when I had an idea.  I said:

This is a poem written by our drummer Travis.  It’s called, ‘The Monkey and the Mouse.’  It goes like this:

A mouse and a monkey lived in a tree
One large, one small, but each of them free
The monkey said to the mouse, ‘you are so tiny, yet you live in a tree.’
The mouse said back, ‘yes, I live in this tree.’
The monkey swung high and the monkey swung low.
The mouse climbed up and down, went where he wanted to go.

That was a poem written by our drummer Travis, let’s give him a round of applause.