Walking with Tom – Refugee

This is where it started for me with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. When I heard Refugee on the radio way back when, I immediately wanted the whole album. I talked about Louisiana Rain in an earlier post, but Refugee has always been the anchor of Damn the Torpedoes. I can talk about that album for hours, so let’s just get into it shall we.

Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have kicked you around some…

I could make an argument this should be the opening line of the song. But upon reflection, I understand this was a look back. The great thing about this line is that it can be what you want it to be. Is it about physical abuse, emotional abuse, or something else altogehter? For me, it was about emotional abandonment, which Tom sort of sums up in the line that follows:

Tell me why you want to lay there, revel in your abandon…

The word “abandon” really hit home because at that point in my life I felt I had been abandoned. Additionally, this conveys the thought that people often choose to stay in a bad situation because it is what they know; it is what they are comfortable with. Which is an awful place to be.

Later in the song, Tom captures the same feeling, but in a different way:

Somewhere, somehow, somebody must have kicked you around some
Who knows maybe you were kidnapped, tied up
Taken away and held for ransom

Again, for me, Tom walks the fine line between physical and mental. I think a challenge that many folks have is we look to the physical first because it is something we can see and understand. But this passage can just as easily be about the mental side of things. Anxiety, depression and other mental conditions can kidnap your brain and hold you hostage.

But throughout the song, Tom does offer hope:

Honey, it don’t really matter to me, baby
Everybody’s had to fight to be free, you see

This is super important on multiple levels. First, I always wonder if there is a person out there for me that feels this way. Second, and probably most importantly, Tom is conveying empathy versus sympathy. Sympathy will not sustain a relationship, but empathy will sustain lives.

And finally,

Don’t have to live like a refugee
(Don’t have to live like a refugee)
No you don’t have to live like a refugee
(Don’t have to live like a refugee)
You don’t have to live like a refugee
(Don’t have to live like a refugee)

And there it is. That bit of hope that can apply to nearly any situation. You don’t have to live like a refugee. If you have anxiety, you do not have to be a prisoner. There are people who empathize and can help. There is therapy and other treatments. It is up to you to determine whether you want to live like a refugee or not.