“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” The statement has been attributed most frequently to Winston Churchill, who may never actually have said it; but in these days of calls to “Defund the Police” and antifa thugs running wild in cities where there are no rough men, it is more important that it is true than it is who said it. Recently, an affirmation of the wisdom of this saying came from what many might consider an unlikely corner: Bob Dylan.
Dylan, 79, is the hero of the Sixties counterculture, which makes him revered among today’s mainstream Left. Obama gave him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and not too long after that he won the Nobel Prize for Literature, for which he never would have been considered at all if he weren’t an idol of Leftists worldwide. But on his new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, Dylan sings a curious stanza that should have his Leftist followers, if they’re listening to the words, wondering if the grand old man is losing his grip. Conservatives, by contrast, should be cheering.
The lines come in a song entitled Mother of Muses, which begins by sending out a series of pleas to the spirits of inspiration. The speaker calls on the “mother of muses” to “sing of the mountains and the deep dark sea,” and to “sing of the lakes and the nymphs in the forest,” that sort of thing.
So far, that’s fairly conventional: the man wants to write a song, and he needs some help to do it. Poets going back to Homer and before that have asked the muses to visit them with something worthwhile to say, or sing, or write. But then Dylan shifts the tone slightly, asking this “mother of muses” to “sing of the Heroes who stood alone / Whose names are engraved on tablets of stone / Who struggled with pain so the world could go free.”
Who might those heroes be? Bob Dylan is glad you asked. The song continues:
Sing of Sherman, Montgomery and Scott
Sing of Zhukov and Patton and the battles they fought
Who cleared the path for Presley to sing
Who carved out the path for Martin Luther King
Who did what they did and then went on their way
Man, I could tell their stories all day
That’s right: Mr. Dylan is celebrating the memory of Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman; Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, the World War II British commander; Mexican War hero General Winfield Scott, who conceived the “Anaconda Plan” to defeat the South during the Civil War; World War II Soviet General Georgy Zhukov; and the renowned American general during the same conflict, George “Blood and Guts” Patton.
Not only that, but the speaker in Mother of Muses then asserts that these generals “cleared the path for Presley to sing,” and “carved out the path for Martin Luther King.” That is, these generals (including Montgomery and Zhukov, who commanded troops for American allies) fought wars to protect the freedoms that allowed our society to flourish in peacetime – to flourish both artistically (Presley) and in working toward racial justice (King). The implication is that without those generals, those rough men who stood ready to do violence on our behalf, there would not and could not have been the American society that most of us have taken for granted for so long, and that the Left is so deeply committed today to denigrating and ultimately destroying.
Mother of Muses is thus the polar opposite of any movement to “Defund the Police” or to work otherwise to make the rough men who protect us stand down from doing so because of “systemic racism” or whatever the lie du jour may be. Can Nobel Prizes be rescinded? It is unlikely that Dylan, who is lionized today by nearly everyone, will suffer any fallout from this departure from today’s Leftist orthodoxy, but if anyone other than he had written and sung those lines, the cancel culture would be out in force. Defending one’s people, one’s city and one’s society is so out of fashion these days that any young Antifa member who picks up Rough and Rowdy Ways will be in for a rude shock – just the sort of shock, that is, that he or she or xe needs.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 21 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look at Who Is Best, Who Is Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.