When The Rich Wage War Its The Poor Who Die: What Linkin Park and Archie Andrews Have In Common
‘What the hell are we fighting for over there if this is what happens to us when we come home?’
‘Another fat cat lining his pocket while gaming the system..Its now life always is. Guys like us are cannon fodder for scumbags like Hiram…another grunt who got chewed up and spit out by corporate greed’
The words of Archie’s friend and fellow soldier Eric Jackson in Riverdale Season 5 episode 7. Archie lies recovering in a hospital bed after seeking to rescue a homeless man from a burning man, who Archie discovers is an ex veteran, just like him and Eric. Archie seems more blindly accepting of their fate to the destructive whims of Hiram Lodge in building his new town and destroying Riverdale in the process, almost numb to his desire for profit that destroys their life. Eric is not so accepting of the situation as Archie; he sees the situation being played out again and again, of those like themselves serving in the military being pawns in the hands of the powerful and influential. Whether this is the leaders dispatching them to war or corporate figures like Hiram, he feels they have been used by those playing the system. Eric sees a system and a town in Riverdale that is broken and open to exploitation by the powerful and the corrupt, bemoaning the futility of their efforts in war. Usually going to war is doing your duty to protect the weak, to bring justice in situations of evil. But for Eric, those efforts are futile if they come home to be used and abused by corrupt leaders. Riverdale, a place for so long plagued by darkness, despair and control, is no escape from the horrors of war.
This kind of manipulation of everyday citizens by the rich and powerful is reflected in the lyrics of the Linkin Park song ‘Hands Held High’.
Healing the blind I promise to let the light in
Sick of the dark ways we march to the drumming
Jump when they tell us that they wanna see jumping
Fuck that, I wanna see some fists pumping
Mike Shinoda’s anger and frustration at the blind following of those in power is exemplified in these lyrics. Sick to his stomach of the way everyday citizens march to the beat of their leaders, of doing whatever it is that they tell us. He is done with that way of living, and his desire for some ‘fists pumping’ is a symbol of power and revolution, of a refusal to blindly obey.
Take back what’s yours
Say something that you know they might attack you for
Cause I’m sick of being treated like I had before
Like its stupid standing for what I’m standing for
Like this war’s just a different brand of war
Like it doesn’t cater to rich and abandon poor
Like they understand you in the back of their jet
When you can’t put gas in your tank
This verse is again a passionate request to stand up and say something that could be risky, that is out of step with what you’re told by those in power, and it expresses his obvious frustration at citizens being treated so badly. It picks up on the lies that leaders tell its citizens when they start a new war, that this war is different, that it has a noble purpose and has altriustic or good motivations. Every leader paints the war as having a heroic element, but this is a slap in the face to that way of thinking. Every war is the same, propagated by those in power to increase their wealth and protect their interests, and results in the poor on both sides being negatively affected. Whether it is the citizens or the lives of the people the wars destroy, it is the people on the ground who pay the price for it, not the wealthy leaders back home. He further emphasizes this divide by contrasting the leaders in their private jets with everyday citizens who can barely afford to fill their cars up.
When the rich wage war its the poor who die
This line is the crux of the message of the song, that it is the rich leaders who wage wars and therefore profit off wars. They seek wars to protect their own interests, and increase their corporate assets. But it is the poor citizens who fight those wars, who are traumitised by what they see and die in those wars.
Coming back to the experience of Archie and Eric in Riverdale, that is what they know of life both at war and back in Riverdale. Although fighting at war may seem a million miles away from Riverdale, the same story is being played out. Made to be pawns to be exploited by rich leaders with vested interests for profit and power, their lives are exploited for gain. So, like in this song, can they risk something take back what’s yours?