"What we've got here is failure to communicate.
Some men you just can't reach...
So, you get what we had here last week,
which is the way he wants it!
Well, he gets it!
N' I don't like it any more than you men."
--Strother Martin
from "Cool Hand Luke"

So often the point is missed as we wander through the cornfields of questionable memory and embrace of the campaigns of the day. We concern ourselves with outside threats and unite ourselves behind empty promises and marketable slogans. You find yourself standing amidst a fever of the masses who can point out the enemy to you as they throw back another beer and talk about their own righteousness. There used to be this "evil empire" called the Soviet Union and that made it easy to hate. Are we really just citizens of countries or are we members of the human race? How can we be when so many enemies don't even have a human face? We don't let them. We see our point of view and rally blindly to the cause. No one even thinks about what it means anymore. We sacrifice freedom for the protection of umbrellas and hope there aren't too many holes...

Look at your young men fighting
Look at your women crying
Look at your young men dying
The way they've always done before

Guns N' Roses is a band that produced a catalog with too much mediocre material in an attempt to be prolific, and yet their core was solid. Their two albums, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II, could have been one of the great albums had they cut out the pointless rants and senseless regurgitations and made it one record. Then again, when Use You Illusion II opened with a track they called Civil War you knew there was something going on. They had brass balls, which was both a blessing and a curse. It caused them to think they could do anything they pleased and get away with it. At the same time it allowed them to give us a song like this. It pulled no punches.

Look at the hate we're breeding
Look at the fear we're feeding
Look at the lives we're leading
The way we've always done before

Is it human nature to need an enemy to hate? Is it important to draw a line in the sand and state your demands? Are nations what make us people? Are ideologies what define us? Do we need to stick to our guns to defend our "way of life?" Do any of us know what "way of life" means? How many of us take for granted what we have and ignore what we don't have? Do we swallow the black capsule when confronted with overwhelming odds or do we stand our ground? Do we know how to pick our battles? Do we know which ones are really worth killing, maiming and hating over?

My hands are tied
The billions shift from side to side
And the wars go on with brainwashed pride
For the love of God and our human rights
And all these things are swept aside
By bloody hands time can't deny
And are washed away by your genocide
And history hides the lies of our civil wars

I like to think that Axl Rose and associates knew what they were railing against when they wrote and produced this song. I like to think they were more than the complete fuck ups they liked to promote themselves as. There are those that see them as the last real rock and roll band to appear before we were overwhelmed with random angst and attempts to ride the wave of what was hot in the heat of the moment. Out of everything they ever did, this is one of a select few that never gets tiresome to my aging rock and roll ears. It was the natural rock and roll progression from the good old protest rock of the Sixties and Seventies and it meant something.

D'you wear a black armband
When they shot the man
Who said "Peace could last forever"
And in my first memories
They shot Kennedy
I went numb when I learned to see
So I never fell for Vietnam
We got the wall of D.C. to remind us all
That you can't trust freedom
When it's not in your hands
When everybody's fightin'
For their promised land

Have you ever sat down in the dark and wondered if you are supporting the goals of a nation because you truly believe in them? Or is it because you have been taught to believe and to accept? Have you ever wondered if your position in life has been built upon the suffering and loss of others? Have you ever wondered if maybe all the people of the world really don't want the kind of life you have? Have you ever wondered if maybe they don't believe in the goals of their nation? Have you ever wondered if they realize the suffering and loss the goals of their leaders are causing? Have you ever wondered if we are just fighting amongst ourselves to satisfy the pride and ego of leaders who draw a line in the sand figuring they will have the support of their willing peoples? Have you ever wondered if maybe we are just fighting for nothing?

And
I don't need your civil war
It feeds the rich while it buries the poor
Your power hungry sellin' soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain't that fresh
I don't need your civil war

In the 1860s there was a war in America, the last war fought on American soil pitting brother against brother. It was a war between states who had differences of opinions on a number of topics and couldn't resolve them politically. Southern states withdrew from the union of states and the northern states declared war on them over it. Preservation of the union was the original cause of the war. Preserving freedom through forced compliance was a concept not many ever considered relevant. The death toll piled up as more and more reasons were found to justify the organized murder of the campaign. Ulysses S. Grant drank himself sober as he found a way to bring it to an end through tremendous sacrifice of life. Did anyone really want to fight? Not really. They did it because everyone convinced themselves they were on the right side. We kill each other because we become convinced it is the right thing to do.

Look at the shoes your filling
Look at the blood we're spilling
Look at the world we're killing
The way we've always done before
Look in the doubt we've wallowed
Look at the leaders we've followed
Look at the lies we've swallowed
And I don't want to hear no more

We become students of the past but it means little to us outside of words on a printed page. I majored in Political Science and History. Countless readings that always spiralled towards war as the turning point that created or forced change. As the dead were counted I wondered how many of them even knew what they were fighting for. Nationalism and Patriotism are dangerous games. We are taught to believe we are right. I remember people chanting about how the United States had to "kick ass" in the Gulf War of the early 1990s in order to make up for "failing" in Vietnam. We would get our balls back and be able to feel good about ourselves again. Bring it on, motherfucker, we've got the shiniest new weapons available and the technology to use them and we'll disarm anyone, through force, who doesn't comply with our version of right and wrong.

My hands are tied
For all I've seen has changed my mind
But still the wars go on as the years go by
With no love of God or human rights
'Cause all these dreams are swept aside
By bloody hands of the hypnotized
Who carry the cross of homicide
And history bears the scars of our civil wars

A true civil war occurs within a specific population of a nation in order to resolve differences that cannot otherwise be reconciled. The haves and have nots fight an ongoing civil war that isn't much recognized as such. Yet, if you consider the human race as one population of one world, then it is all civil war. We've been taught to follow the leader and do what it best for our homeland. It is so ingrained into the human consciousness that you can have millions following in step with Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union. It becomes worse in smaller nations we often disregard. The Cold War had larger powers funnelling guns and money to regimes in smaller countries in exchange for a promise of loyalty. Millions died in Central America as the communists and capitalists fought for a foothold. Take a look at photos of the human garbage dumps of El Salvador sometime.

"We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials
for example to create a vacuum
then we fill that vacuum
as popular war advances
peace is closer"

There are those who believe a popularly supported war of righteousness can bring peace by quickly changing things to fit the popular mold. Yet, these ideals are often shaped by leaders who have the charisma to sell them to a majority of their followers. Soldiers have a license to kill and they may kill someone in their path who had similar hopes and dreams as they have. They turn it off. If you shoot the bastard that slept with your girlfriend and laughed as he ran over your dog you will go to jail. Kill a hundred men like yourself who are doing their "patriotic duty" and you'll get a medal. If you think too much about it you'll have trouble sleeping. I know quite a few men who do.

I don't need your civil war
It feeds the rich while it buries the poor
Your power hungry sellin' soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain't that fresh
And I don't need your civil war
I don't need your civil war
I don't need your civil war
Your power hungry sellin' soldiers
In a human grocery store
Ain't that fresh
I don't need your civil war
I don't need one more war

I never registered for the draft. I wrote "NO" on the back of the card and mailed it to my congressperson. Several years later I was offered a job with the Internal Revenue Service making seven dollars an hour. I needed the job. When I reported for work I was taken into a room by the IRS branch manager. There were two federal agents there and they didn't look like they wanted to buy me a beer. They handed me a document to sign. They had handcuffs and guns on their belts, so I shrugged, smiled and signed. I was almost past draft age anyway, so what did it really matter? That was the moment I realized what freedom really was.

I'm not a patriot. I'm a human being. We miss the point all too often. We apply band-aids to limbs that have been severed. We cut off the whole hand to cure paper cuts. We have so much forest we don't even know what trees are anymore.

I don't need one more war
Whaz so civil 'bout war anyway


Lyrics by Guns N' Roses
1990 Guns N' Roses Music (ASCAP)
From the 1991 album Use Your Illusion II
Used without permission

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