If dirt were dollars, We’d all be in the black

Listening to Don Henley’s album The End of Innocence in hindsight you almost begin to wonder if he isn’t prophetic. The fact that an album named The End of Innocence should feature a song entitled “In a New York Minute” with the lines

In a New York Minute
Everything can change
In a New York Minute
Things can get pretty strange

is a little scary. It’s certainly hard to deny that a few moments in New York have changed the politics of America, and the world. If you don’t believe that, consider that Bush’s sole campaign seems to boil down to a commercial called “Wolves” that once again falsely claims that Kerry is soft on defense, as pointed out at FactCheck.org. In fact, if I didn’t know better, I could almost swear that “If Dirt Were Dollars” was describing Bush and his administration:

If Dirt Were Dollars

Walkin’ like a millionaire
Smilin’ like a king
He leaned his shopping cart against the wall
He said, I been a lot of places
And I seen a lot of things
But, sonny, I seen one thing that beats ’em all
I was flyin’ back from Lubbock
I saw Jesus on the plane
…or maybe it was Elvis
You know, they kind of look the same
Hey, look out, Junior, you’re steppin’ on my bed
I said, I don’t see nothin’
He just glared at me and said,

If dirt were dollars
If dirt were dollars
If dirt were dollars
I wouldn’t worry anymore

Lookin’ like a beauty queen
Loyal as a wife
She raised her little voice and testified,
I am a good girl
I’ve been one all my life
But her virtue was as swollen as her pride

She should’ve had the Oscar
She must have been miscast
Her fifteen minutes went by so fast
I said, Now, baby, have you got no shame?
She just looked at me uncomprehendingly
Like cows at a passing train

If dirt were dollars
If dirt were dollars
If dirt were dollars
I wouldn’t worry anymore

We got the bully pulpit
And the poisoned pen
We got a press no better
Than the public men
This brave new world
Gone bad again

God’s finest little creatures
Looking brave and strong
Whistling past the graveyard
Nothing can go wrong

Quoting from the scriptures
With patriotic tears
We got the same old men
With the same old fears

Standing at attention
Wrapped in stars and stripes
They hear the phantom drummers
And the nonexistent pipes

These days the buck stops nowhere
No one takes the blame
But evil is still evil
In anybody’s name

If dirt were dollars
If dirt were dollars
If dirt were dollars
We’d all be in the black

No, I didn’t mean to imply that Bush is a bum from Lubbock sleeping on the streets, though that glare at the end of the first stanza does remind me of someone when another of his lies has been pointed out.

I’m not even suggesting that Bush is the lady of suspect virtue, though Michael Moore’s Farenheit 9/11 did raise some questions about that.

No, it’s the stanzas after those two that most remind me of our current political scene. Although I’d concede that Jon Stewart was rude on Crossfire, he certainly wasn’t far from right when he accused the press of being “no better than the public men.” Who could argue that the “poisoned pen” has not become the weapon of choice in an election that has become the most bitterly contested political battle that I can remember in sixty years.

Like Henley, I also find it hypocritical to invoke Christ’s name while wrapping yourself in the flag and declaring war on the world. Having read The New Testament several times, I’ve yet to find a single line that seems to advocate war. It always amazes me that those who are advocating war can do so while simultaneously asking the blessing of The Lord of Peace.

It’s certainly not hard to see why Henley supports Kerry, not Bush, is it? It’s hard to imagine how anyone who wrote this song during the Reagan era could turn around and end up supporting Bush, especially when many of the “same old men/ With the same old fears” from Reagan’s administration are serving similar roles in Bush’s administration.

If the “dirt” thrown around in this election were dollars, we’d all be in the “black” instead of a nation further in the “red” than we’ve ever been in history. Unfortunately, neither party seems content to rely on the Truth to get them elected.

4 thoughts on “If dirt were dollars, We’d all be in the black”

  1. Loren, what about this little ditty from Radiohead’s first album, 1993, Pablo Honey:

    How Do You?

    He’s bitter and twisted, he knows what he wants.
    He wants to be loved and he wants to belong.
    He wants you to listen, he wants us to weep.
    And he was a stupid baby who turned into a powerful freak.

    But how do you?
    How do you?
    How do you?

    He lives with his mother, but we show him respect.
    He’s a dangerous bigot, but we always forget.
    And he’s just like his daddy, ’cause he cheats on his friends.
    And he steals and he bullies, any way that he can.

    But how do you?
    How do you?
    How do you?

    Rock lyrics are like Nostradamus…


  2. Or like old tea leaves?

    Dregs at the bottom of the cup where you can read anything you want to?

    Maybe, like poetry, we read ourselves in what we find meaningful.

    Reading Bookninja somehow I thought it was only Waits and Bjrk that revealed poetic truth, now you throw in Radiohead?

  3. Ha!

    Did I say poetic truth, though? Political truth, maybe. Poetic truth is best left to poets, but poets, rock stars and the average slackjawed Hollywood star/let can all have a shot at political truth, each bringing their own power to bear on it.

    Don Henley and Radiohead, two of my favourites, both sound good, but don’t really resemble poetry in any fashion other than the line breaks and stretched rhyme.

    Glad to hear you’re still reading! We miss your commentary.


  4. It’s interesting, but kind of creepy to hear those Henley lyrics again. I used to hear it a lot, probably more because I liked how it sounded than due to any full notion of the lyrics. Now I wonder if Henley’s not a prophet. Eeeg!

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