Wheelchairs as symbols

Posted October 18th, 2007 by Anthony

A friend and colleague has his antenna out for disability-related songs since we talked about our music explorations. (He’s fascinated by the use of anthems — both contemporary and historical — and how they connect.) He pointed me to an Alt-Country song, “We Can’t Make It Here Any More” by James McMurtry and a video on YouTube

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one’s paying much mind to him

I replied saying that songs like McMurty’s use the strong symbolism and verbal imagery of wheelchair users as a trope to bolster their polemics. In his case he does it well and doesn’t overly objectify the vet’s disability presence, but the lyrics and YouTube visuals still fit a [tired] familiar pattern.


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