Literary Response to War

Masters of War- Bob Dylan

The “Masters of War” was written in 1963 by the 22 year old Bob Dylan.  1963 was a tumultuous time in American history.  It is marked by the increased American presence in Vietnam, a military action not supported by all.  Civil unrest was high, with minorities attempting to obtain civil rights and the arrest of many civil rights leaders including Martin Luthur King Jr.  Also, a major counterculture to the American mainstream was developing, what we may now refer to as the Hippies, Yippies, and feminists.  There was a huge outcry of these countercultures during the 1960’s against the fighting in Vietnam.

When listening to Dylan’s “Masters of War”, I am overcome by emotion.  The “Masters of War” that he is refering to are the politicians, big buisness owners, and anyone who profits or benifits from wars without having to really fight them, the war profiteers.  He sings of the blood of the young being spilled and that the Masters just turn their heads and hide their eyes.  The most moving line in the song is “Let me ask you one question is your money that good Will it buy you forgiveness”.  What is a human life worth?

I see many parallels in today’s war in Iraq. The individuals fighting this war stand to gain very little.  But the politicians and war profiteers stand to gain millions possibly billions, Halliburton among the biggest.  Halliburton was headed by Dick Cheny until 2000, I’m sure he has become very rich with the blood of soildiers and 9/11 victims.  I am in total support of our troops, my father was a career soldier, and one of my best friends is currently deployed but I can not fathom what is being lost.  Is money really that important?  When I heard this song I was deeply moved, missed my friend, and cried for all the dead soldiers of today and yesterday.  I could not say it better than Dylan when he said “But there’s one thing I know, Though I’m younger than you,That even Jesus would never forgive what you do”.

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build all the bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks.

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly.

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain.

You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion’
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins.

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
That even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do.

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul.

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand over your grave
‘Til I’m sure that you’re dead.