e_legs

I’ll be Home for Christmas, If Only in My Dreams

In Culture jamming, Freedom of Speech, Global War On Terror, International politics, Iraq War, Media Criticism, Misc., Music, US Politics on December 10, 2006 at 3:40 pm

I’ll be home for Christmas, you can count on me.
So please have snow, and mistletoe, and presents on the tree.
I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.

Back at my parents’ house for the weekend dog-sitting, I ran into a kid I grew up with yesterday. Because of stupid crap that happens between kids in junior high, we hadn’t spoken for more than 12 years. He recently got back from Iraq, and as he was talking about his time in Fallujah as a Marine a passing thought I had a few weeks ago sunk back into my head.

I was being subjected to my father’s annual and earliest-yet addiction to Christmas music when”I’ll Be Home for Christmas” came on. It wasn’t until hearing the slow, methodical, depressing Frank Sinatra version of the song last December that I understood that this song is about a soldier fighting overseas, facing the Axis Powers, yearning to spend time with his family.

This thought in mind, while sharing a beer with my childhood friend yesterday, I came to wonder if an artist as popular as Bing Crosby, who had originally recorded the song, would be able to end a song on such a somber note if the song had been recorded today. Would it be distributed as widely? Would it be bashed on conservative talk radio as anti-American? Would it be said that the morale of the boys fighting for democracy overseas was being damaged by those detractors expressing a soldier’s desire to be, not fighting a war thousands of miles from home, but unwrapping presents with the ones he loves?

At the time, it seems, this was certainly not the case for the Irving Berlin song. The Patriotic Melodies project of the Library of Congress says:

Within about a month of its being copyrighted the song hit the music charts and remained there for eleven weeks, peaking at number three. The following year, the song reached number nineteen on the charts. It touched a tender place in the hearts of Americans, both soldiers and civilians, who were then in the depths of World War II, and it earned Crosby his fifth gold record. ‘I’ll Be Home for Christmas’ became the most requested song at Christmas U.S.O. shows in both Europe and the Pacific and Yank, the GI magazine, said Crosby accomplished more for military morale than anyone else of that era.

In an era where “liberals” are too often accused of being paternalistic in the push for regulation of the markets, I can only imagine the backlash from stores like Wal-Mart, talking heads like Rush Limbaugh, or Judeo-Christo-fascists like Pat Robertson if an artist with Bing Crosby’s status tried to release a song for the troops in Iraq or Afghanistan that is as deeply moving as “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” can be.

I have no doubt in my mind that these folks would drop the paternalistic anvil on the CD presses, in order to continue “supporting the troops” and to protect patriotic sentiment as much as possible. Nevermind they claim that it was Muhammed Atta, et al, who had showed disrespect even for their own lives by killing themselves in an attack on the US — if Americans, whether in the armed forces or not, express love of life and fear of death, these Americans would, I believe, be subjected to harsh accusations of being “anti-American” and “anti-troops.”

Discussing soldiers overseas, facing death, is, I suppose, simply too reality based. Are there songs discussing these isses, reaching those heights on the charts that I’ve missed?

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