Monday, July 09, 2007

watching war

I have been watching war movies a great deal lately. It might be about the United States Independence Day celebration, it might be about what is available to watch, it is definitely about what I have the patience to sit through.



Why do I have the patience to sit through the particular selections I have seen? I think it is about being in foxholes: when human beings experience very difficult conditions, they experience a connection or tie with those around them.. Recently having posted about this "connection" experience, maybe the connections I see in the movies are important to me right now....


Most specifically, I have watched the majority of the segments of "The Revolution." One of the connections that touched me was how did these men come up with the idea of this new country? How did they put it together to make it work. I know there was some trial and error, but still, how did this come to pass?


Additionally, how did they dare? There was no governmental superstructure that compelled them to join an army and rebel...Once the army was formed, what made people join; and amidst all the deprivation, what made people stay?


I forget that the war lasted for as long as it did: The Boston Tea Party was in 1773, the actual armed conflict began in April, 1775, with the final real battle at Yorktown in 1781. It took two more years before the peace negotiations were finalized, and the British finally left New York City in 1783. Of course, some of the elongation of these events had to do with the distances involved and the time it took to travel those distances...And the seasonality of conflict. But six years of armed hostilities is a long, long time....


The second series I saw, for not the first time, was "Band of Brothers," based on the European theater during World War II... As you recall, although the hostilities began in 1939, the United States did not actually enter the war until late 1941. The fighting in Europe was horrendous, and many people, soldiers and civiilian survivors, returned from war deeply scarred. As I grew up, I recall not always hearing about the horrors of war, but about the commraderie that was present between the troops. There was much made of the lasting bonds, if not lasting friendships, between soldiers. We know, from psychological studies, that sharing times of privation can cement, if not actually create, those bonds.... Those bonds were celebrated, not as positives about the war, but positives about the human spirit.


And, most recently, I watched "Letters from Iwo Jima." It is said that it is a better movie than "Flags of Our Fathers," and I would agree. While "Flags" was a good story, well told, it was not as gripping nor personal as "Letters from Iwo Jima." Nor did the "heros" have quite the depth and quality of character that the Japanese soldiers portrayed. "Flags" is a good reminder that our country sometimes makes heros and then tosses them aside, ready for the next hero. And, good reminder that what this country values in its heros is not always the stuff of a prolonged admiration.

The characters portrayed in "Letters" however, were portrayed as much more thoughtful about their role and duty. Not every soldier wanted to be present. Not every person was violent for violence sake. But they were engaged in a solemn, patriotic duty no matter the prospect for the outcome. Sometimes, when I see stories about Americans, it seems they enter into the thick of things only when they have an almost false sense of unreal optimism about the outcome.


There was no such false optimism during The American Revolution. There was no such false optimism during The War Between the North and the South, another war of bitter privation and tribulation, pitting families against each other, as well as governing entities of one nation....



I am troubled, however, by some of the more recent undertakings by the United States government: War seems to be initiated for reasons of a dubious nature. Leaders show little moral character. Troops are not expected to behave with moral character... There is no apparent plan for completion and peace except what appears to be a plan for total destruction of a way of life, and oh, by the way, we need to reinstate the natives and we can not totally destroy them, their country and their way of life...


And, we do not take care of our heroes: the fighting soldiers are not as well equipped as they need to be, and the returning soldiers, especially the wounded, are sometimes having to struggle to be tended to... Is the gratitude of a country, in the form of "GI" benefits, a thing of the past? Apparently, so....


I do appreciate the stories of connectedness, camaraderie, character.


So, why do I watch war... I think we learn from our history and our past, and I am trying to find some sense about why hostilities.... what makes heroes.... what is our destiny? But, why do I watch war?



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