Whether you’re Christian or not, the Easter holiday brings with it a spirit of rebirth, a hope for redemption and a faith that our sacrifices in this life are not in vain. So, too, does the haunting seventh track of Bound for Glory’s 25th-anniversary album, Death and Defiance: Entitled”Once We Were,” the song painfully reflects on the two catastrophic global conflicts of the 20th century that took more than 80 million lives, reshaped borders across Europe, Africa, and the Far East, and ultimately ushered in the regimes, policies, legislation, and popular media that have all but doomed those of European descent to extinction.
As Joel, Bound for Glory’s lead vocalist, sorrowfully asks in the second quartet of the song’s chorus:
Once we were brothers
Side by side, we were family
Why did we ever fight over borders
When none of us are free?
The somber tone of the song is further enhanced by searing guitar leads performed by Drew and Goose, Bound for Glory’s two rhythm guitarists.
The true causes for each conflict are complex. Regrettably, World War II has been sold to generations as “The Good War,” with what Tom Brokaw described as “The Greatest Generation” leaving their homes in America to venture halfway across the world to vanquish the twin evils of Germany and Japan. Nevertheless, Americans have been left with countless questions–the answers to which exist, though often too unpleasantly for most to accept:
- When Germany and the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1939, why did Great Britain and France choose to declare war only on Germany?
- When informed of an impending attack from Japan at Pearl Harbor, why did President Franklin Roosevelt choose to allow the attack–which took the lives of 2,403 Americans–to continue without American military intervention?
- Why did the Allies choose to partner with Joseph Stalin’s Bolshevik regime, given that the USSR was responsible for far, far more civilian murders than Nazi Germany? (Conservative estimates range between 15-25 million killed by famine, deportation, gulags, purges, and other violence.)
The questions, indeed, are endless, the answers available–but the outcome of both wars cannot be undone. Ultimately, the only question that remains is the one asked by William Gayley Simpson as the title of his 758-page masterwork: Which Way, Western Man? Will we continue to blindly serve our democratic masters, fighting wars that benefit a chosen few? Or will we learn from the past, find the truth, and unite to ensure something so destructively tragic as World Wars I and II never happen again?
Which way, western man?