Monuments for the Victims

Original words copyright © 1995 by Karl‑Erik Paasonen
Additional words and music Creative Commons License 1995 by Jim Bearden

This started out as a poem, with the same title and slightly different words, written by an Australian, Karl-Eric Paasonen, and published in an Australian magazine, Greenleft. It was picked up by an electronic mailing list that I subscribed to, and I thought it would make a good song when I saw it. In addition to adding a melody and guitar chords, I changed some of the original words, usually to make them either more universal or more singable. When I was finally able to locate Karl-Eric, the original author (Greeenleft had no address for him, and I only found him through a fairly extensive search of Web resources), I’m glad to say he agreed with my original assessment of its potential as a song.

Verse 1:
Where are the statues for civilians killed?
I want monuments for the victims.
In Hanoi, in Baghdad, where so many graves were filled?
I want monuments for the victims.
And where are the statues for people with pride,
Who refused to take part in fratricide,
And who spent time in prison, spat on, vilified?
I want monuments for the victims.

Verse 2:
Don’t give me that crap about saving your land ‑‑
I want monuments for the victims.
Defending women, and your way of life, with a bloody hand ‑‑
I want monuments for the victims.
And don’t try to tell me that the land of your birth
Was threatened by people half-way ’round the earth
And that you had to go kill them to save your own turf ‑‑
I want monuments for the victims.

Verse 3:
Well, when we hear about needing to reconcile ‑‑
I want monuments for the victims.
With the soldiers who risked their lives, who went the extra mile —
I want monuments for the victims.
Well, yes, it was horror; and yes, it wrecked lives;
And yes, the men suffered: wars warp people’s lives.
But as for suffering? Just ask the Vietnamese who survived ‑‑
I want monuments for the victims.

Verse 4:
Because who did the hurting? Who were the hurt?
I want monuments for the victims.
And who were the tortured? The bombed? And the burnt?
I want monuments for the victims.
And who gave the orders? Whose was the voice
Who convinced so many men that they had no choice
But to kill, or be killed, for some political noise?
I want monuments for the victims.

Verse 5:
And who will we see next in the hero‑parade?
I want monuments for the victims.
The leaders of the Gulf War, or the widows that they made?
I want monuments for the victims.
I cry for the dead of Iraq and Kuwait,
Who died so we’d keep right on driving ’round in state.
Conquering heroes? Now, that’s an idea I could hate —
I want monuments for the victims.

Verse 6:
So give us the statues, give us them soon ‑‑
I want monuments for the victims.
For the dead of Vietnam, and Beirut, and Rangoon —
I want monuments for the victims.
It’s time the original people were paid all their dues
For all the years that we’ve treated them like Hitler treated Jews;
For those who resisted war, those who refused;
And for women and children, raped and abused;
But most of all, for all the dead, whatever their views —
I want monuments for the victims.
I want monuments … for all the victims.

 

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