Received an email from kind reader Jörgen taking me to task for my post regarding Tom Waits’ song, Road to Peace. He wonders about my
attitude to the fact that Tom Waits has decided to put his views on that situation in song. For that, which is his right, (wouldn’t you agree???) you call him: ‘genuinely insane”, “checked out of his senses” and “psychotic”.
I mean … if I was as “naive” as Tom Waits, I could say that that’s exactly the kind of attitude to one’s opponents that ensure that conflicts are never solved.
Well, I think my comments, which can be re-read, were not to the effect that I thought was making a clinical diagnosis of Waits’ mental condition, but rather that I preferred to think that he was crazy when he wrote, recorded and released Road to Peace (I think you can still get an mp3 of the song via this link). In the song, he effectively calls for a U.S. arms embargo against Israel. To me, that is indicative either of a warped anti-Jewish malignancy, incredible stupidity, or insanity. I preferred to think the latter. Admittedly, it’s hard to support my theory, since Tom would have had to be crazy not only during the twenty minutes it took him to write the song (with the New York Times spread out on the table in front of him) but also during the considerably longer recording process and the subsequent decision to release it to the record buying public.
I certainly agree that it is Tom Waits’ right to compose and release Road to Peace. He has the right, in the United States, to make an entire album of songs advocating the demise of Israel. However, as I know all too well, if you make public pronouncements of a political nature you have to be prepared to take the criticisms that come with it. I’ve been called much worse things than “crazy.” Another major reason for questioning Waits’ mental equilibrium is the mere fact that he’s risking all the criticism that could come his way over this. He’s had a long and fruitful career making non-political music; why mess it up this way? And, if you feel like you want to write some kind of political protest song, why begin by writing one that specifically targets Israel? If Waits had a long history of tackling political issues and writing anti-war songs, then the import of this one would be somewhat diluted. As it is, it raises the question as to where the desire to write a song that ultimately prescribes an action against Israel comes from. There’s plenty of violence in the world. Darfur, Thailand, Somalia, Indonesia … the Paris suburbs. I mentioned in the original post that it seems to me to be less like a song and more like a Mel Gibson/Michael Richards moment, and it can’t help but make me wonder who Tom Waits has been hanging out with lately. Does he think that the Jews are the cause of all the wars in the world?
As to my attitude being “exactly the kind of attitude to one’s opponents that ensure that conflicts are never solved,” well, it’s true that if Tom Waits and I just sat around calling eachother crazy, there would be no resolution to our conflict. All I have to respond to is his song, however, and I have to stand by my reaction to it. On the whole, I think it’s nuts. I suppose it might be kinder to just let it go by, or give Waits a complete pass on it, considering that I’ve loved his music for a long time, but giving people passes when they’re saying dangerous things tends to make it easier for those dangerous things to become accepted and to be taken as the premise for actions.
The bottom line is this: Waits may think of his song as an even-handed lament about violence, and as a plea for peace, but if his kind of prescription for peace were ever followed, the result would be more and not less bloodshed. Sentimentality can be fatal. Targeting Israel with an arms embargo would embolden its enemies to the point where they would be far more likely to seriously attempt the extermination of its people.
Tom Waits, of-course, would be safe in California. Maybe he could write a song about the whole sad episode, one that everyone could listen to while they get all mournful and weepy about the Jews, for five, six or even seven minutes. That would sure be nice.
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