Blog Post #1
Uncommon Valor was written in 2006 following the passing of Maxx Thorburn the brother of “R.A. the Rugged Man.” The unprecedented rap song is a true story about R.A.’s father SSgt. John A. Thorburn, whom was a highly decorated war officer who, as the poetic verse explains, brought the Vietnam War back home with him. R.A. grew up with his father who was affected by Agent Orange; this caused 2 handicaps to arise in R.A.’s family. These handicaps led to the very short lives of his two siblings. The song is full of critiques of the Vietnam War that ultimately questions the legitimacy of our involvement.
In the opening verse to Uncommon Valor there is a line where R.A. says “my mother said, the president he doesn’t care. He’s trying to leave the footprints of America there.” This line comes from a 1966 president Johnson speech where he was quoted as saying “I wanted to leave the footprints of America there.” This reference has to do with the blunt arrogant demeanor the U.S. has when handling foreign affairs. This quote also gives us insight into how undermined the North Vietnamese as a military force was. The song is filled with these references that reveal the mind state that SSgt Thorburn possessed. The following four lines talk about how the government explained that they were attempting to stop Chinese expansion, and the song states this sarcastically. The song’s beginning verse also touches on Thorburn’s distaste with the massacring of children and women who would fight against the soldiers, then quickly absolve back into the civilian population. Finally the verse ends referencing the seven million tons of bombs we dropped, booby traps in the jungles, as well as the claimed 6 to 1 civilian to enemy death ratio.
The second verse that is in this song takes the alternative perspective, where the soldier embraces the war and the killing. The soldier asks another scarred soldier if he doesn’t like his country, upon hearing the soldiers cries he then says, “I like being here, I’m ready.” This line sets the tone for the final portion of the song. This portion notes that Vietnam wasn’t a war, rather a military conflict, due to the guerrilla warfare the Vietnamese used. The song also talks about the killing of elephants for ivory, the raping and pillaging of villages, the drugs, and prostitution that went on in efforts to distract the soldier from the atrocities of war. The conflict arguably changes some of these men forever as they live in a “harbinger of death.”
The way that R.A. The Rugged Man takes so much information and lays it out in this very fast paced, in your face manor is probably grounded in his anger with his family life that was impacted by Vietnam. He also does an excellent job of showing both sides of the war. On one side you have the patriotic person who believes strongly in stopping the spread of communism, and secondly you have the man who can’t handle the pressures of this war who may use prostitutes, drugs, or become indefinitely mentally unstable. Arguably the problems we brought home from Vietnam were more damning then the potential spread of communism even was, and to that matter maybe our involvement in Vietnam sparked a David vs Goliath like respect from other nations and colonies around the globe towards communism.