The Universal Soldier

He is five feet two, and he’s six feet four
He fights with missiles and with spears
He is all of thirty-one, and he’s only seventeen
He’s been a soldier for a thousand years
— Buffy Sainte Marie

Donovan sang the song well, probably had the largest audience for it, but I liked Buffy’s version of “The Universal Soldier” better. The Public Affairs Office (PAO) onboard the USS Ranger (CVA-61) played the Donovan version while on station off the coast of Vietnam during that waste of time, money, and life war. We loved the irony of that song aboard a warship.

The folk singers–Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Eric Bogle–have always told the truth straight about war and other injustices. We play their songs and sometimes we protest the war of the day, but I think we worship the Universal Soldier because s/he makes damn sure we are always fighting somewhere and extolling the patriotism and glory of it and keeping that defense budget high enough to create the expensive toys of war that war profitable and necessary for the economy to such a large extent that weall have blood on our hands.

Come you masters of war
You that build the big guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your mask”

–Bob Dylan

In a few days, a lot of folks will Blog4Peace like children going up against monsters with sticks and posters and songs. Will these bloggers defeat the military industrial establishment. I doubt it. Will they raise our consciouness and or belief that some day, somewhere we will find better ways of conflict resolution that break the chains typing us to the universal soldier. Yes. Meanwhile, how many lifetimes will it take until we know that too many people have died, until we seriously look around and ask where have all the flowers gone and why are the graveyards full to overflowing.

Did they Beat the drum slowly, did the play the pipes lowly?
Did the rifles fir o’er you as they lowered you down?
Did the bugles sound The Last Post in chorus?
Did the pipes play the Flowers of the Forest?

–Eric Bogle

Those who march away, at once tin soldiers (canon fodder) and the best and the brightest (flowers of the forest) pay with their lives (and more) for the country’s love of the universal soldier. When it comes to fixing the problem, Presidents promise while allowing the cycle of war to turn again and again. They’re powerless, aren’t they? Our love of battle is our universal need even though it’s fool’s gold.

–Malcolm

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3 thoughts on “The Universal Soldier

  1. The saddest thing of all is that war is largely an economic activity, and as such is fostered by governments of every stamp. But somehow citizens still believe that the soldier (and soldier) is a hero. And insofar as they can all come home broken and with PTSD, I guess that is, sort of, true.

    Sometimes I think there are wars that had to be fought. And sometimes I know better.

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