“AWOL” (dedicated to Victor & the others)

Seeing the aftermath of war, and a very poignant “All In The Family” Episode, inspired me to write “AWOL“.  Which was on my latest “Emotional Jukebox” album.

In this particular episode, Archie Bunker and the gang was gathered around a Thanksgiving table, including his neighbor.  I can’t remember his name.  But he did the Ajax commercials.

Alive for Thanksgiving

Archie was giving shit to Meathead for dodging the draft and fleeing to Canada.  The neighbor interjected to Michael’s defense, with a very emotional speech.

I got unlazy... Eugene Roche and Carol O'Connor Gotta Love google.

I am paraphrasing, but he explained how his son went to Vietnam.  And now he wasn’t here to share the Thanksgiving Dinner.  And he cried.  He said that he wished his son had done the same thing as Meathead.

I’m tearing up right now, as I recall the powerful scene.

Why don’t they make shows like that anymore?

Well, here is the song I wrote.


I love my country just like anyone else loves their’s

And I thank those whose intentions have been to protect

But if I was to be asked or ordered to go to war, I would defect

Call me a deserter, call me unpatriotic and all sorts of names

But at least I could hear you just the same

While I still have my ears and eyes and arms and legs

I won’t be put in a position to take a life or be dead

No I don’t want to have to kill

And I don’t want to take a fall

I’d kiss the flag good-by and go AWOL

There has to be a better solution

Can there be no peaceful revolutions

If you take what’s not yours without asking

Somebody’s gonna slap your hand

And you’re gonna slap back even harder

And then it escalates to using a gun

Then you find more efficient ways to kill

Mothers, Fathers, Daughters and Sons

No I don’t want to have to kill

And I don’t want to take a fall

I’d kiss the flag good-bye and go AWOL

There has to be a better way

I wish I could take away all the pain

Of the brave who tried to do the right thing

Sweet land of liberty of thee I sing

If the decision man actually had to get his hands

More dirty than he did when he signed the papers

And the ink turned to blood

Would he throw away the pen, and think again

And think again, and think again

No I don’t think you want to kill

And I don’t believe you want to take a fall

I wonder what you’d do if you were in the same position

When are we gonna get it right

Will our species ever figure out how not to fight

So the whole world could sleep peacefully through the night

Respect to all, whether you went or not.  Peace & Love, Linda Chorney


1 Response to ““AWOL” (dedicated to Victor & the others)”

  1. October 8, 2011 at 11:36 PM

    “Will our species ever figure out how not to fight?” I was about to express a hope that we would but I stopped and thought about whether there was anything for which I would fight. I would be truly reluctant to fight for ‘my country’ (for flag, for Queen, for a government I might not have elected, for a Commander-in-Chief, or for any of the other conceits to which the powerful rally us with declarations of patriotism) because to do so would be to negate my principle that there are more important things than lines on a map, our common humanity and inter-dependence to name the chiefest. I might fight against foreign domination but only as a part of a struggle against the concept of domination in its entirety. I might fight in a revolution but not to hand over power from one ruler to another. I might fight in a war of liberation but not if the result was to be the forging of chains to a different pattern. To me there is only one struggle and that is for the liberation of humanity, and that liberation is inclusive and total.

    My guess is that I would fight if my back was to the wall. It would only be to the wall if power reacted against what would be my first step in a revolution – the changing of minds – and against its consequence – the changing of behaviour.

    I have just cited (in a comment to someone else’s blog) a book which, although dated now, has a kernel of wisdom which I believe we must rediscover and re-embrace. That book is Peter Kropotkin’s ‘Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution’ from 1902. In it he postulates that species that are highly societal, inter- and intra-dependent, and cooperative survive times of extreme hardship better than those species that are competitive. In a dog-eat-dog world it is better not to be a dog. It is sad to watch the last dog standing and to realise that he has nothing to eat and is the last of his species. Humankind must have been, for most of its (pre)history, one of those cooperative species, or it would never have survived. Its current dominant competitive mind-set and behaviour therefore must be an aberration forced upon it at some time during its civilising* stage. My hope is to counter and reverse this mind-set and behaviour. I intend to do it by small steps, by word and deed, by example. My first attack will be on the principle of ‘reward’ for work, the principle which puts a commercial value (or more properly a ‘price’) upon human effort. It is demeaning and it leads to all the inequalities which plague us in the world. It is why America is rich and powerful** while some African or Asian countries are impoverished and disenfranchised.

    In its place I wish to inculcate the principle of mutual aid and the social value of work. I wish people to work less and less for reward and more for the concept of paying-it-forward. When I see someone struggling with heavy shopping bags and I help carry them, that activity is definitely ‘work’ but its value is not the equivalent in a porter’s wages for the time expended, its value is social. Mutual aid moves more and more (and finally all) work into this area, making it a communal activity. The logical extension of this is that our flags and national boundaries will become obsolete, as will our corporate business structures. That is the point at which it becomes difficult, because those whose power depends on our national and corporate institutions will resist the change. (As I say in my second footnote below, once power is consolidated it gives nothing away thereafter by philanthropy).

    Forgive me for hi-jacking this thread when perhaps I should have been complimenting your poem or reminiscing about Archie Bunker (or his English prototype Alf Garnett). You stimulated my thought-processes, for which I thank you greatly.

    Marie Marshall

    * Meaning the stage in our history in which we became city-dwellers. I recall the quote attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “When we get piled upon one another in cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.” Jefferson is one of my favourite sources of politically radical quotations and I particularly love quoting him to Americans.

    ** I often say that the American Revolution was a failure. My statement is frequently greeted with incredulity – people point out that the USA is powerful and wealthy and ask how that can be counted a failure. I answer it is a failure because those who fought in the Revolution were not fighting for wealth and power but for liberty. I ask people to stop and think and look around, and to define the extent of their liberty. I ask my African-American friends, for example, to reflect on whether the American Revolution purchased for them such liberty as they now enjoy. No it did not. It took a further internecine war – the greatest slaughter of the 19c – to purchase a nominal freedom. It took a campaign of passive resistance by ordinary, grass-roots people a century later to wrest civil rights. 45 years later the country has a President with a black face and all kinds of slanders are levelled at him. My point being that the American Revolution was never seen through, it failed, power was concentrated and consolidated. Once power is consolidated it gives nothing away thereafter by philanthropy – freedom has to be torn from its grasping fingers.

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