The song is in the appeal to reason album of the rock band appeal to reason. This song is written with specific reference to war, the time period when it was composed, in 2008, the United States was still involved in major wars around the world, specifically in the Middle East. The position enjoyed by the United States as a major economic and political leader in global affairs puts it in the position of increased responsibility and duty in maintaining peace in regions that it has no political jurisdiction. The involvement of the United States in regions other than its territorial land is motivated by the need t preserve ideals and human life, but of main importance is the protection of its commercial interests held without its borders.
The need for military equipment and personnel for the United States is therefore insatiable. This song is seen as addressing a scene where a military official is in the process of recruiting a young man into the military. The innocence of the man is apparent and the approach taken to recruit them is that of deception, or an economy with the truth. This is apparent as the promise of, "Son, have you seen the world? Well, what would you say if I said that you could?” (Rise Against, 2008) opens the first stanza. This rather innocent offer, of glory, adventure and heroism is used to lure the young man into war, expecting to come back home to the adulation of the society.
The idea of being a patriot to their country and defending the flag is the motivation and the young man is no exception. Further, as he is engaged into the war, the innocence is lost and real meaning of war starts to dawn on him. Participation in the activities of war is no longer a choice, towards becoming a hero, but a matter of command, and a fight for survival. The involvement of this officer in the beating up of a man is seen as an act of some external force. Initially, he starts by trying to stop his fellow soldiers from beating up the man, but inexplicably, finds himself enjoined in the act too. War is an industry on its own, with its own rules which must be followed for those who seek to survive it. The innocence of a young man seeking glory by fighting for his country is lost. War uses him up as its own vessel, through him, committing heinous atrocities. The victims of the war are no better either, war seeks them, and not even the good intention of the soldiers can save them when the insatiable appetite of war rears its head.
Beautiful symbolism of flags is played out in the song, capturing each side of the divide. The subjects of this war are in particular civilians as there is no mention of combat between soldiers. This mirrors largely the war waged in the Afghanistan and Iraq in pursuit of suspected extremists, while the real victims are civilians who have nothing to do with the war. People are extracted from their homes and beaten up. (Anderson, 2011) While peace is defeated, when the soldier tries to stop it, carrying a white flag, an olive branch, a symbol of peace, but shoots it down and its blood drains into the sad.
The return home is less heroic than the soldier had ever imagined, with nothing to hold on to other than the flag, which means nothing anymore and gathers dust in the shelf, the flag of death, the flag that defeated peace but never got the chance to taste glory. There only remains a shell of a man.
War goes on, and other young men seek glory, "Son, have you seen the world? Well, what would you say if I said that you could?” young men continue being subscribed into war, and with no doubt, will be destroyed for no cause like their veteran heroes before them. (Rosen Nir, 2010)
Anderson, Terry H. Bush's Wars. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011. Print.
Bouvard, Marguerite G. The Invisible Wounds of War: Coming Home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Amherst, N.Y: Prometheus Books, 2012. Print.
"Rise Against - Hero Of War." YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.
Rosen, Nir. Aftermath: Following the Bloodshed of America's Wars in the Muslim World. New York: Nation Books, 2010. Print.