Under the Green Desk Lamp…
I’ve never had any real talent when it comes to music, which might cause one to think that music class in elementary school was a squandered opportunity for this particular writer. Not so.
I always appreciated the opportunity to learn more about the creation of music—and had the opportunity to experience a great deal of fresh sounds and bands, which fed more naturally into my deeper passion for story-telling and metaphor.
I recall one moment in particular, likely around grade 2, which stood out to me as an exciting introduction to the incredible narrative potential of music. My small class had filed into the music room, and sat in a semi-circle upon the cold, carpeted floor. There, we waited in silence as our teacher played us an old song, ‘One Tin Soldier’, by ‘The Original Caste’ (Link).
The song tells the story of two different kingdoms—one on a mountain, and one in the valley below. The people of the valley have heard legends about the glorious treasure kept by the mountain people, and demand the mountain kingdom surrender their riches immediately. The mountain folk welcome the valley people, and offer to share all they have. Needless to say, this proves insufficient for the violent valley tribe—who slaughter the mountain people and take the prize all for themselves.
When the battle has ended and the mountain people all dead, the warriors from the valley turn over the stone to reveal their prize—a simple proclamation of ‘Peace on Earth’.
The chorus of the song—repeated throughout—brings home the terribly apt message for us kids who may still lack the nuances of literary interpretation. It says:
‘Go ahead and hate your neighbor
Go ahead and cheat a friend
Do it in the name of heaven
You can justify it in the end
There won’t be any trumpets blowing
Come the judgment day
On the bloody morning after
One tin soldier rides away’
These lines reverberated loudly through my child-mind, and continue to do so to this day. They are a poignant reflection on the folly of using God to justify atrocity, and seemed a sacrosanct truth to my youthful and naïve little brain.
I admit, it still feels like it should be as self-evident now as it was then, and I should expect to look around and find the lesson here to be well and thoroughly applied all around the world.
Sadly, this certainly isn’t the case. To the right and the left, every side of the political debate calls upon the name of God to justify their vitriol and hatred—encouraging increased violence and tighter control to continue their war against the dreaded ‘other’.
This ‘other’ of course, is on a holy and justified-from-on-high mission of their own.
It’s a strange situation—that the entire world stands ready to tear the throats from one another all over the assumed intentions of a God who has up to this point made no clear endorsement of any of this childish bullshit.
Where does this leave us? A sorry state, to say the least. With everyone feeling justified for every vile thing they do, and trumpeting the name of God about as if that undoes the sin of their actions, there is little room for somber reflection or moral consideration. When we self-justify by appealing to a greater power, we thusly strip ourselves of the responsibility of our actions.
God is never an excuse to act unjustly—and it is an especially cowardly and desperately ironic excuse to attempt.
Again, the lyrics come to mind.
‘You can justify it in the end…’
Good luck with that.
We will, before this age ends, be faced with many more bloody mornings no doubt. But at the least, let us face them with self-certainty and personal empowerment. Let us act for ourselves and our own values—with consideration and compassion for all others. That—and that alone—is acting in the name of God, no matter what name you choose for him.
All else is the purview of Tin Soldiers—hollow and blood-soaked—who ride away with hopes despoiled and fates long-sealed.
-Brad OH Inc.