On That Day

Leonard Cohen's recent albums - share your views with others!
Beccka
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On That Day

Postby Beccka » Sun Feb 25, 2007 5:58 pm

Hi everyone -

I was listening to "On That Day" yesterday, and it struck me that Cohen keeps using 'we' -

Some people say
It's what we deserve
For sins against g-d
For crimes in the world


I'm wondering who is included in that 'we' - Americans? Westerners? Everyone in the world who felt affected by 9/11? Because if it's people in general, the next verse doesn't make sense:

They hate us of old
Our women unveiled
Our slaves and our gold


It would surprise me to think that Cohen was speaking as an American. That is, I didn't think Cohen considered himself an American or held American citizenship.

And I'm also wondering about another line:

Did you go crazy, or did you report -

I kind of take the last three words to be a question about reporting for military duty. I asked that question of some of my friends on 9/11, the ones who were talking about needing to go do something about 'them.' But I keep reading about Cohen being a pacifist, so it doesn't seem right that he'd be asking/encouraging people to join up, especially for a campaign like the so-called "War on Terror."

Oh, and I'm new here!

Beccka
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Sun Feb 25, 2007 6:15 pm

Greetings, Beccka :D ~ Welcome to the Forum!

You'll be interested in reading some of the discussions we [the worldwide citizens :wink: ] had regarding this song and these lines when the album was first being heard. This song, in particular, had a fair share of controversy surrounding it, with people questioning Leonard's stance regarding the whole tragedy. Some felt he didn't make a strong enough statement... and others felt he intentionally was non-judgemental with whatever people chose to do, that he was merely posing the questions. I'll try to use the Search engine to bring the link here... if I can't, someone who's adept at that will come along and provide it for you.

Have you determined for yourself, yet, what "I'm just holding the fort" means?

Well, I'm off to Search for you. No guarantees.


~ Lizzy
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Sun Feb 25, 2007 6:18 pm

Okay... I hand-searched and I think this will get you there...
viewtopic.php?t=3188 ~ at least try it... if it doesn't, go to the Dear Heather, etc. section and then scroll down the threads until you find the one titled "On That Day."


~ Lizzy
Last edited by lizzytysh on Sun Feb 25, 2007 6:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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lightning
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Postby lightning » Sun Feb 25, 2007 6:18 pm

Cohen has said in interview he's not a pacifist, particularly after WW2 things have gotten too bad for pacifism. Listen to the Partisan Song among others. It seems he does identify as an American, a Canadian is a North American and part of our Western Culture. We speak the same language,have similar cultures.
Beccka
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Postby Beccka » Sun Feb 25, 2007 7:00 pm

Thanks for the link and the welcome, Lizzy!

I relate the line "I wouldn't know, I'm just holding the fort" to the line from "Democracy":

And I'm neither left or right
I'm just staying home tonight,
getting lost in that hopeless little screen.


I think both lines express a sort of distress and confusion that is easily mistaken for apathy. People know something needs to be done, they want to do something, but the 'something' is so ambiguous and broad that no one is sure about what to do. After the first rush of anger is over, all you've got left is fear and possibly shame, so you keep your head down, maybe do some small things in your immeadiate area, and otherwise pretend it's not your problem.

Which is why I am wondering about the "did you report" line. I hadn't thought of "report" in the broader sense of 'asking if help was needed.' That's an interesting idea. Military help wasn't the only help that was needed on that day. (If it was at all.) To me it sounds like Cohen is offering a gentle but strong rebuke: you're all sitting there saying that "they" are the source of all evil, but what exactly are you doing about it?
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lizzytysh
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Postby lizzytysh » Sun Feb 25, 2007 7:16 pm

To me it sounds like Cohen is offering a gentle but strong rebuke: you're all sitting there saying that "they" are the source of all evil, but what exactly are you doing about it?
I like this perspective, Beccka. Leonard's subtle manner of understatement and indirect questioning is not to be ignored when considering the perspectives of this song.


~ Lizzy
Beccka
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Postby Beccka » Mon Feb 26, 2007 7:15 pm

I really like this song, and keep listening to it. Right now I have it in a playlist of other songs about 9/11, and it's really weird to contrast Cohen to, oh, Toby Keith's "Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue."

Even though I do think Cohen's trying to make a point about expecting others to do things for you, he also seems to be acknowledging just how hard it is to do anything. Even he's just "holding the fort," although I take that as meaning he's doing his best to hold things together rather than just being apathetic.

I'm not sure what people mean by Cohen no taking a 'strong enough' sance on 9/11. Usually when I hear people say that they mean that the person isn't taking the stand they want them to. The song's ambiuous, but it's certainly not an endorsement, nor is it a strident call for revenge.

Lightning, I guess I concieve of American as referring specifically to having United States citizenship. I think what bothers me about the song is the creation of an 'us' and a 'them,' and I'm trying to figure out who Cohen is including in the 'us.'

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