Monday, October 13, 2008

Civics Lessons: Fortunate Son

Creedence Clearwater Revival: Fortunate Son


Does civic responsibility include the idea of putting one's very body in service to the country? Some cultures believe so; nations from Israel to Iraq, and from Mexico to Mongolia, mandate military service for young people as a basis for citizenship (though each defines eligibility distinctly -- Israel is relatively rare, for example, in conscripting both men and women).

In cultures where drafting is historically normative, military service is seen as natural and unquestioned, a matter of civic pride. But in countries where a draft is not normative, creating one does not suddenly create an accompanying cultural buy-in. Rather, drafts in special circumstances cause special problems, especially when the culture is ideologically divided about the reason for such a draft, or in situations where the perception in culture is that the rubric for eligibility is either inherently unfair, or not being applied fairly.

The best and most recent example of this latter case in United States history is surely Vietnam. Where the previous World Wars had established a sense that the draft was necessary, because our enemies were perceived as a direct threat to us, the United States had trouble justifying what appeared to be a civil war in an uncivilized country as an imminent threat worthy of conscription. It didn't help that such service, especially in the midst of the unpopular war of Vietnam, was seen as something which was not being applied as an equal standard to all members of all classes in the culture.

Many popular songs of the sixties and seventies would speak to the various complex of perceived injustices that followed from US involvement in Vietnam, but few as eloquently or as angrily addressed this issue of civic injustice as Fortunate Son, a 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival hit written in the voice of a draftee who -- being neither the son of a Senator, a millionaire, or a military leader -- is no "fortunate son", and thus has no choice but to head off to war to protect those fortunate ones. Also included: three very recent covers, all released within the last year or so, which strip the song down into something more plaintive and reflective. In fact, the Todd Snider cover just came out this week; if you like it, act now, because like the rest of his new 8-song EP Peace Queer, it's only going to be available as a freebie until the end of the month.

Todd Snider w/ Patty Griffin: Fortunate Son


Donavon Frankenreiter: Fortunate Son


Tony Furtado: Fortunate Son


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