Happy, and so singing on the way home in the car, that song
“The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” by Joan Baez –
Or The Band, or Dylan – or now me for that matter,
I read about it on Wikipedia on the ‘net when I get home
And a reviewer of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine in 1969 had
Written: “Nothing I have read ….has brought home
The overwhelming human sense of history that this song
Does” – and for sure, it’s the year ‘1865’ that the “winter
Of ’65’ refers to – and indeed it would have been cold:
It’s about enduring the last days of the American Civil War
And the suffering of the white Southerners – and I was
Really struck again by that third line at the beginning:
“Virgil Caine is the name, and I served on the Danville train.
‘Till Stoneman’s cavalry came and tore up the tracks again.
In the winter of ’65, we were hungry, just barely alive.”
And then the song lyric goes on: “By May the tenth, Richmond
Had fell, it’s a time I remember, oh so well!”….Chorus: “The
Night they drove old Dixie down, and all the bells were…”
So now I look for more references, and “the Danville – Richmond
Supply train was the lifeblood of the Confederate capital” – til
Cut off by the Union cavalry, led by a General ‘Stoneman’,
So when the town of Richmond “fell”, the Confederate capital
Had to be moved to Danville. So this song then is all about
Defeat. Being trampled into the dirt, just “barely alive.”
The “bells” were ringing out an emergency: “The night they
Drove old Dixie down” wasn’t only one night – that’s poetic
Licence. But if Yankees capture your capital, it’s all over.
And the thought struck me that a basic fear still today is that
Of finding oneself suddenly “destitute”. Of having nothing –
Or dropping far – say, not enough to keep a home or fed.
And that that basic fear is what seems to keep the whole ball
Of wax – the whole system – going. All measuring oneself
By ‘stuff’ – ‘having’ – how far we are away from that fear.
And another verse of the song goes “Like my father before me,
I will work the land – and like my brother before me, who took
A rebel stand / He was just eighteen, proud and brave
But a Yankee laid him in his grave.” – and I think there it is:
Who are they that promote this game, this terrible and
Terrorful distraction of acquisition and competition?
And we are now again the “rebels” and there is indeed a civil war
Happening in our time – and truly people are suffering and
Some are ransacking and reaping most of the rewards.
And the whole ‘system’ is being supported in this way to have
Some – and all – suffering the background fear of destitution
And others – and all – so entirely distracted by this game.
So now good men don’t provide good role models for younger
Men, because they see their elders just distracted by the
Same game, and they then become part of this too.
“Now I don’t mind choppin’ wood, and I don’t care if the money’s
No good – Ya take what ya need and ya leave the rest
But they should never have taken the very best.”
So in the end Virgil doesn’t mind leading a rough, hard, even poor
Life; everyone takes what they need – but no one should take
More than that, and no one should ruin it all for everyone.
And so we’re “rebels” because we rebel against that presumption.
We object that some are fucking it up for everyone in ‘the game’
On this planet – but more than that: this Civil War and strife
Is one great tragic distraction from the ‘real game’ – that of
Attraction and offering, relating and sharing, growing and
Comparing and sharing and gifting/receiving and living.