The Definition of A Noble Cause
Posted by David Adesnik
There's about a forty mile stretch of US-29 that runs from Opal to Ruckersville in central Virginia. In my mind, those forty miles are the graveyard of rock 'n roll. From Washington DC down to Opal, you can listen to DC101. One you make it down to Ruckersville, you can pick up 91.9 WNRN coming out of Charlottesville.
The only station I've found that comes in clearly from Opal down to Ruckersville is 93.3 WFLS, "Virginia's Best Country". Living in a red state for the past twelve months, I've often thought that I should try my best to develop an appreciation for red state music. To be honest, it hasn't worked out that well. Often, I just turn off the radio and enjoy the scenery from Opal down to Ruckersville.
But this time I was driving after dark and really needed some music to keep my energy levels up. And what I heard blew my mind. First I heard Trace Adkins sing Arlington. It's a wonderful song. It's a story told by a soldier killed in Iraq who discovers that he is being buried in Arlington National Cemetery. He tells us not to cry for him because:
I'm proud to be on this peaceful piece of property,
I'm on sacred ground and I'm in the best of company,
I'm thankful for those things I've done,
I can rest in peace, I'm one of the chosen ones, I made it to Arlington.
I often wonder about the Red States' support for the war in Iraq. Conservatives have always distinguished themselves by their readiness to use force in order to protect the United States from those who threaten it.
But now that Saddam's cache of chemical and biological has been exposed as a phantom, why do Red State voters support the war? Is it because they support the president, full stop? Is it because they support the soliders, full stop? Or have a good number of them actually converted to George Bush's crusading democratic faith, which has so little in common with conservatives' traditional definition of the national interest?
In the second verse of Arlington, the narrator recalls that:
I remember Daddy brought me here when I was eight,
We searched all day to find out where my Granddad lay,
And when we finally found that cross,
He said, "Son this is what it cost to keep us free".
The narrator this implies that Iraq is also a war "to keep us free". But how many Americans buy that? Although I adamantly support the war on the grounds that only the democratization of the Middle East can ensure our ultimate victory in the War on Terror, there is only a distant and complex relationship between my personal freedom and the war in Iraq. If conservatives' support for the war derives its strength from a sense of America being threatened, how long can that support truly last?
And then I heard Luke Stricklin sing American By God's Amazing Grace. Luke Stricklin (photo above) is a National Guardsman who returned this past March from a twelve month tour of duty in Iraq. There is no description that can do justice to his song, so I will simply reprint the lyrics, which even without the music are compelling and inspirational:
Bottom of my boots sure are gettin' worn
There's a lot of holes in this faded uniform
My hands are black with dirt and so is my face
I ain't never been to hell
But it couldn't be any worse than this place.
Tell my wife don't worry 'cause I know what to do
It makes you feel better sometimes, but don't know if it's true.
I know if I die it's just my time to go
But I pray to God every day that I may get back home.
Chorus: Well when you've seen what I've seen
Things don't seem so bad
Quit worrying 'bout what you ain't got, thank God for what you have
'Cause I could be raising my family in this place
But I was born an American
By God's Amazing Grace.
For the last twelve months I've had a new address
The neighborhood smells like sewage and the streets are lined with trash.
You never know what's gonna be the next thing to explode
But unlike these people, I have another home.
It breaks my heart to see these kids out on the streets
Walking barefoot through the trash, diggin' for something to eat.
I give them what I got, just to let them know I care
And I thank God it's not my son that's standing there.
You want to talk about it, you better keep it short
'Cause I got a lot of lost time I gotta make up for.
Really don't care why Bush went in to Iraq
I know what I done there and I'm damn sure proud of that.
You got somethin' bad to say about the USA
You better save it for different ears 'less you want to crawl away.
And I laugh in your face when you say you've got it bad
Until you've spent some time on the streets of Baghdad.
After recovering from my initial shock, I began to wonder if Karl Rove had written that song. (You can listen to some of it here.) How could an actual Guardsman from Arksanas, just 23 years old, who suffered through twelve months in Iraq, feel that way about the war? Of course, I feel that way about the war. But it isn't my life on the line. I haven't had to test my ideology against the actual experience of democracy promotion.
I seriously did wonder if the song was some sort of hoax. But for what it's worth, the Associated Press did a story on Luke Stricklin, so I'm going to assume that he really is the real thing. It turns out that Stricklin first recorded the song in Iraq using a $25 guitar that an Iraqi boy found for him at a street market. With the help of laptop and microphone, he went to work. Once again, it's a story almost impossible to believe.
This is the definition of a noble cause. This is the answer to Cindy Sheehan's question. Luke Stricklin doesn't have a team of speechwriters or a degree in international relations. Nor does he describe America as threatened, like Trace Adkins does. He is simply proud of what he and his country have been able to do on behalf of others.
In contrast to Bush, Stricklin openly acknowledges that there are serious questions to be asked about why the United States invaded Iraq. But now our mission is clear. (See boldface above. Emphasis added.) Surely it is noble to defend one's homeland from foreign attack. But how much more noble is it to risk one's life in order to protect a nation of strangers from deprivation and terrorism?
Perhaps it is not wise for the United States to commit so much blood and treasure to the struggle for democracy in Iraq. Perhaps. But it most certainly is noble.