The Art of Dissent #5

"I ain't marching any more"
(Phil Ochs)
(Elektra; 1965)


Richard Gibson said...

I think this and 'All the News thats Fit to Sing' are great album covers.

I have what I thought was an original of this but its on Electra Records (US copy) so was Hannibal the re-issue label?

Tom Sutpen said...


Elektra was the label the LP went out on in '65.

If nothing else, this should illustrate to any youngfolk visiting us the pitfalls of pasting information into blog entries while inebriated.

Vanwall said...

This was three years after a young girl in my neighborhood gathered us all around her, hidden under a big lantana bush, and mercilessly blurted out what she'd overheard her older brother telling their father in confidence - the way people died in some far-off place called Vietnam he'd just returned from, and how her brother had to wipe off his best friend's brains from the sleeve of his uniform, and how the smell of that blood never seemed to come out of his brand new pair of boots, so he "swapped" 'em - he just couldn't wear those boots ever again.

We listened in absolute silence, silence that lasted after the stories were over - they were worse than any ghost story I'd heard before and since, because it was right in my suburban backyard, on a sunny summer day. We thought she'd have some gossipy fluff, like usual, but this blood and brains shit was like someone vomiting in your face. Frankly, I refused to believe such terrible things happened and said so after little bit. "Well, you don't know anything about anything anyway," she replied rather sadistically, "So you don't count." She always was a smug little bitch, but these stories threw my Dick & Jane world for a loop, and that was her intent - she walked regally off, secure in her implied superior knowledge, the evil little c**t.

My brother and I looked at each other, he was a year older than me - I was a little scared, and I could see that in his face, too. There were younger kids there, and they mercifully hadn't got the whole impact - they just thought it was yucky, but right then, I was never the same. I had already developed an interest in military history, and buried my fears in reading, reading, reading as much as I could, to find out some explanation for why that kid's brains ended up blown out of his head.

I sure learned about Nazis, Commies, battlegrounds, concentration camps, guns, ships, planes, and Jeeps, and not a goddamn one of helped explain things, not really. Yes, I enjoyed the mechanical relationships of weapons, and the brilliance of tactics, and still do, but in the back of my mind was a thirst for the "why?", and how this might help me from having to wipe somebody's brains or guts up, or worse, have some poor joe do that with my innards.

By my freshman year in high-school, I had no illusions about war and death - I was already wondering what I would do if my number came up - the war was all in the news, all the time - and Canada or an inside deal with the Air Force to end up in Europe looked real promising, although I didn't know at the time there weren't many white middle class boys in the line companies, 'cept as officers. Some idiots I knew wanted to go have the big adventure in 'Nam - I figured I missed getting my butt shot off, as Ross Thomas once said.

Phil Ochs was a voice that haunted me at night - how could the people running my country ignore the plain truth of what he and many others were singing, saying and writing - what the fuck was wrong with them? As I got older, I found out why that kid's brains ended up on his friend's sleeve, and why Phil and the others were ignored - the people running my country then, and sadly, now, don't really care about the average American unless they need something from them - like money for gas, labor for factories, or cannon fodder for foreign adventures - make no mistake, they are and were on a semi-religious crusade for the extermination of anyone who doesn't think like they do. They might give lip service to freedom, equality, and mercy, but they're just as determined in their own way as the gang that put "Arbeit Macht Frei" on a number of gates to final solutions.

I've heard that you've just lost the argument if you bring in the Nazis as comparisons, but turn this around - you would have to work pretty damn hard at avoiding being compared to Nazis, and the USSR, if you were trying to argue FOR them. I can't wish mercy for 'em, but I can hope for justice, I guess.

Tom Sutpen said...

Rob . . .

What can I say, but . . . amazing. Beautifully rendered. And thanks, on behalf of all three of us.

Anonymous said...

Utter bullshit vanwall.

Daniel Poeira said...

Phil Ochs' suicide is one of those things that time and again will pop back into my mind and make me stop whatever I'm doing and start reflecting about it. Bipolar disorder is not enough to explain it. There were many other factors that led them to that point, and they all matter and can be a huge lesson.

G said...

while I can not call vanwalls rant 'utter bullshit', and having had the vietnam experience 69 -70, I do hope she starts taking her meds again.