John Prine – The Great Compromise

Mail carrier John Prine probably sang his folky, often humorous songs on his route. This one, from 1972, is an anti-war song. Prine served during the Vietnam War times, albeit posted in Germany.

Well, on the face of it, the tune sounds more like an Everly Brothers, Wake Up, Little Susie ditty about a guy and girl at the drive-in movie. Except, that the girl, representing America, was born on the 4th of July, and at the flick she’s not faithful. Instead of confronting the actual object of the girl’s affections, the narrator exits. He loves his country, but feels he has to do what’s right: not fight.

The concept of pacifism is just that: opposing war and violence in all its forms. This can take the practical manifestations of supporting talking things through and calling for military disarmament. Pacifism has been criticized for being weak when real aggressions are faced, and for  violence deterring greater harms. Prine addresses such levelled cowardice, that his moral beliefs are more important to him than looking like a wimp.

A compromise, of course, is when two people or groups give up something to reach an agreement. Would it make more sense for Prine’s “Great Compromise” to be about betrayal?


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