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Executioner's Song -- When On V Disagrees -- Song Battle Pt. 2

(Today we present the dramatic conclusion to yesterday's epic song discussion. Also, we'd like to know what your favorite war/anti-war songs are, and any recommendations. Please post below.)

Rebuttal to “The General” by Eric

There are two types of “moral” war stories: pro-war and anti-war, and neither is as compelling as the truth. When Dispatch wrote “The General,” they consciously set out to write an “anti-war” song. Though I sympathize with this message, it is the message that dooms the song.

Listening to the song I have so many questions: Why did the General make this decision? Would the men walk away? If this were a true war story, it would feature what would actually happen: other officers and the soldiers would find the General’s action treasonous. Be it World War II, Vietnam or Iraq today, if a General did what “The General” did, he would be killed on the spot, especially on the “eve of a great battle.” The men would “not step back” and the war would continue. This song does not feel real to me; it feels too moral, pedantic.
One song observes the world, the other writes an essay. Though I, and my brother, agree with the song’s thesis, I prefer my essays in the opinion section (or on blogs) not in my songs.
Addendum: To avoid confusing our readers, I love “the General.” During a certain time in my life, it spoke to me (as it spoke to like a billion other college kids in the lead up to the Iraq war).

Rebuttal to “Daniel” by Michael

The article in support of “Daniel” makes a few trenchant insights and excellent points. I disagree that the idealism of “The General” ruins its effectiveness as storytelling; but, the ability to convey a story is the greatest distance between “Daniel” and “The General.”
“Daniel” is a pastiche of images. A man lost his sight in the war and the description of that man by his brother strikes us as tragic. This war story has no beginning, no end, merely a series of descriptions, no context. While the truth of those descriptions may repulse, it does not necessarily convince us of the true cost of war.

“The General” certainly does.

twelve comments

I agree, its a total dream world where the moral righteousness defeats War for once. I’m trying to think of some good recommendations… I mentioned Rage in a comment on the first post, how about starting there, you can kind of pick any one of their songs.

How about: Rage Against the Machine – Killing in the Name Of

With God on Our Side by Bob Dylan (with or without Joan Baez)

Or really any Rage song, but the theme of Rage isn’t sad and tragic as much as angry and rebellious. I also always liked buffalo springfield’s somethings happening and the rolling stones’ gimme shelter. As far as the debate, I think Daniel’s subtlty and vaguness gives the song some of its power because the listener must draw the conclusion and that realization is a powerful experience. As for the General, I must say Miguel is correct in the assertion that the idealism behind the song is a pro rather than a con. A general acting out of context in sacrifice and humility is a powerful image. Unrealistic sure, but no less poinient for its utopian view of military command.

@ Jenime – Yeah, I love rage. Bulls on Parade has to be my fav. song, but it is hard to choose.

@ Rehan – Adding it to my list.

@ Matty – Perhaps “The General” needs to be viewed as unrealistic, but maybe that is the point…

No offense guys, but your posts about this last topic are unnecessarily pretentious in their word choice. You don’t need to show off your vocabularies, at least certainly not with this topic.

Also, if you want a song that really captures a sobering side of war, try “If you’re reading this” by Tim McGraw.

@ Will – As far as my post the only SAT word choice I used was “pedantic” and well, there is no better word too convey my meaning. I think pedantic is used more in literary, criticism circles but yeah, it is a little high-brow. Myabe I should read the New Yorker less.

As far as “trenchant” in MC’s first paragraph, I’ve been trying to cut that word out of this article since draft 1, and clearly I lost every battle.

I used the word Utopian… That’s a good one too, right guys?

The General seems to me to be an allegory of Jesus, specifically when he was at the garden of Gesthemane. A leader on “the eve of a great battle” releases his disciples and goes to face his trials alone.

Stahlke, great point on the value of that song. That is part of the reason why I am a fan of it more than Daniel, though I like both. Thanks for commenting and reading the site.

Daniel also has religious overtones. Daniel from the bible was a seer, Daniel from the song is blind.

Let me just say, I am pleasantly surprised to see Mr. Stahlke making an appearance. I guess he doesn’t totally ignore all emails sent his way.

I always have a strong reaction to “The General,” whether it’s good or bad. Once in Iraq I listened to it and found it infuriating, and then I listened to it in Afstan a month ago and thought it was amazing. One of those songs I guess.