Hilary Clinton wants to send 100 00 more troops to Iraq, and when I was trying to formulate a response to this, i-tunes popped up with this song.

Its weird, it seems like i-tunes has replaced the goats stomach, tarot cards and dice as divination tool of choice. Its shuffling function provides a way of throwing the I Ching – connecting it to popular cultures ubiquitous search for meaning.

So, Waylon Jennings version of the song is on the stereo right now and though it is 25 years ago, the shock of familiarity stings. The first line that really comes thru is he chucking away the central point of the song, namely: “it wasn’t me who started that crazy Asian war/but I was proud to be my patriotic chore”.

It might be helpful here to get some context. His girl is cheating on him, and he cannot physically leave his room or his chair – and this isolation matches her loneliness; the actual suffering of an unjust war is made explicit. (I.e. “its hard to love a man whose legs are bent and paralyzed”).

In this gothic version of Coming Home makes one, of course think of the popular culture of resistance that provided a constant correction to the pentagons view of the war in Vietnam. But this song is more of a problem then the Hollywood lefts arrogance found in movies like Coming Home and the Deer Hunter, it gives the credit to the solider, as brave, as sad, as tragic, but as unwilling to be viewed as a hero.

I wonder what the implications of patriotic chore are in relation to the implications of this song. The man does not die but he has no legs and no useful cock and nothing but a sense of exhausted loneliness, which the person who was supposed to take care of him takes advantage of.

The work cannot even end as a proper Appalachian murder ballad, though it tries (“if I could move/I’d get my gun/and put her in the ground”)—violence begets violence, and the war across an ocean becomes a localized domestic fury and there is no solution, the song ends with ambiguity and exhaustion.

What needs to be said was this song was so popular that it became almost a country standard at the same time as the ballad of the green berets, for example. It was recorded and often a hit for Bobby Bare and Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. The version by Kenny Rogers is advertised in several late night ads for K-Tel comps for Christ’s sake.

My question is then, where is this now? The closest we have to someone with the personae of a Waylon is Toby Keith, and he has been in enough Iraqi hospitals plus Walter Reed to know that this pattern of boys and girls with their arms and legs blown off cannot work anymore. Then there is Chely Wright, and her refusal to brook any dissent on the war, in the chilling Bumper of My SUV, or Clint Blacks silly and opportunist Iraq and I Roll a dozen of examples, but not one recent one I can think about that have the dissenting power of Ruby and her vet lover.

Any one has any ideas?