Recently VW wrote a post about freedom, using two lines taken from a Kris Kristofferson song, and he invited the rest of us to write our thoughts in our own posts. Now, I may not be an authority on freedom, or America…but Bobby, Kris and me, we go back a lot of years and a lot of road miles. I figure I’ve probably sung this song, oh, thirty-six-thousand, nine hundred and forty-twelve times, give or take a few. Most folks remember only the Janis Joplin version…and therein we have the misunderstanding of this song’s lyrics. I thought I could talk about how the lifting of two lines from a chorus was an excellent example of words being taken (with all good intent) and made into something other than what was intended by the writer, how words that were meant to teach can also be used disparagingly, and how different our perspectives can be. Freedom may look different from either side of the barbed wire or wall…or from the many facets within our understanding of language.
“Me and Bobby McGee,” is a story about a man hungrily looking for his freedom, somewhere just beyond the next bend, the next song. He’s even looking beyond a relationship he has with a woman, who loves him enough to ride that road of freedom’s servitude too. This is a story reflected in so many veterans. Kris was born a nomadic USAF brat, earned a Rhodes Scholarship and became an Army pilot, before songwriting pulled him onto the musical road.
Eventually, back in the song, Bobby makes the choice to reach for her dreams of home and family…
“…I let her slip away…she’s lookin’ for a home…and I hope she finds it…well, I’d trade all my tomorrows for one single yesterday…holding Bobby’s body next to mine…”
The storyteller still has the freedom he chose but comes to his epiphany with the chorus. Tell me if these two lines reach for a deeper conversation about the moving perception of freedom, now that you know what leads Kris to say…
“Freedom’s just another word for nuthin’ left to lose…nuthin’ ain’t worth nuthin…but it’s free…”
Kris Kristofferson is one of my muses for his rich storytelling and self-searching honesty. I too, felt pulled to walk in servitude on this road of music, self-exploration and yes, freedom. You see, in my herstory, the hero who saved freedom for the world…oppressed, abused and denied freedom to the family that was his to command. As Kahlil Gibran said, I unfettered myself from one thing…and fettered myself to something greater.
I cannot talk about freedom as an American, I can only speak of it as a human being. Our individual understanding of freedom, like everything else in the universe, is in constant movement. There’s a great freedom in allowing ourselves to be wrong sometimes, to make different choices. There’s a great freedom in submitting to our purpose. Experience has taught me that self-responsibility is not only my journey to freedom, it is the only way I may serve freedom’s movement in the world.
Sing us out, Kris…
“Feelin’ good was easy Lord, when Bobby sang the blues…feelin’ good was good enough for me…good enough for me and Bobby McGee”