Ok, so I’m guessing you’ve all seen the video by now – I’ll post it here with this article for those tiny few who might have missed it. Everybody’s been commenting on how uncomfortable Bob looked, which is a giant understatement, of course. He’s got on his aviator shades just to prove how separate he is from the whole thing, though if you asked him afterward he might say something like, “Well, I just had ’em on when I got there and I didn’t really think to take ’em off… somebody really should have reminded me, but I guess they were afraid to… I get that a lot, people being afraid to tell me somethin’…” Then there’s the business of him being the last one to get his award, and everyone before him goes up beside the president to get it. When they call his name, he just sits there, and the pres has to coax him up to his spot. Finally there, but fidgets exactly like a twelve year old kid at a wedding reception having to stand still while his aunt says what a handsome boy he is. If he could jump out of his skin at that moment, you can see that he would.
Now, here’s the thing. He’s awarded the medal, it’s a very big deal, he knows he has to go or it’ll be a big insult to the president and the country, so he’s gonna go. But every day of his life, every time he faces the public, either on stage or in a more everyday situation, he gets the BIG ADORATION. Every time. And has for nearly the last fifty years. He walks out onto stage many many nights of his life, and people greet him with a kind of heartfelt outpouring of love and respect that borders on idol worship and he’s just gonna come out and sing songs. There’s a quote from him from somewhere way back, I can’t find it on the internet, but paraphrasing from my faulty memory, he said something like ‘I look in at people through a window having dinner, enjoying themselves and acting normal, and I know as soon as I walk in there, everything is gonna change.’ It’s hard to imagine the burden of that, especially for someone who treasures nothing more than truth and reality and people being real.
So, I think when he got the Medal of Freedom, it was just another time like a million other times when people bestow lauditory praise on Bob Dylan, and he knows he’s gotta go through it, and he knows that in the end, all that will really last are the songs, which will indeed last. And what will also last is what people feel from the songs, and that’s enough for him, I’m sure. The rest, he knows, doesn’t really mean much of anything over time.
If you watch the end of the video, it looks like he’s trying to head out past his seat, looking for the exit. Apparently, he did sit back down. So Bob gets the Medal of Freedom, an irony, considering how trapped he seemed.