Growing up in the early 60s, we played “Cowboys and Native Americans” (yeah… right!!!) and we played “army”. Our concept of both was totally shaped by the movies especially “John Wayne movies”. We never questioned the validity of the clearly defined portrayal of “us = good guys” and “them = bad guys”.
I recall wondering whether, if I were a soldier in battle, would I rather fight the Germans or the “Japs”. Viewing “war” on the most superficially naive level imaginable, I chose Germans because they seemed “more like us”. I can’t recall the logic in that. It should be reversed.
With America now firmly engaged in an escalating war of a different sort for its survival as a representative republic, I find myself in that “an enemy most like us” quandary again. …….
NOTE: I have never served a day in the military. My coming of age overlapped with the draft lottery. My father was career Army and served in both WWI and WWII. He had retired before I was born. As with most veterans he never spoke of the grim reality of “war”.
Over this past weekend, I happened to catch three old movies on TV. I have seen each of them numerous times – The Alamo (Billy Bob Thornton version); The Green Berets w/ the aforementioned J. Wayne; and We Were Soldiers w/ Mel Gibson. These “war movies” were likely scheduled due to the Memorial Day timing.
Putting aside the directorial bias (subtle or otherwise) there may have been within the scripts, all three films dramatized the horrors of war and combat and the realities of life and death among soldiers on a battlefield. I can’t imagine anyone watching any of those and thinking – “wow, I wish I could do something exciting like that.”
With both The Alamo and We Were Soldiers there was cinematic effort to present the emotions of the front line combatants on both sides as they prepared for and engaged in mortal combat. The horrific chaos of D-Day is modern history’s most shocking evidence of the randomness of survival in battle.
We think of fictional characters like James Bond, Jack Bauer, Mitch Rapp etc as surviving over their adversaries because of their superior cleverness, guile and “good guys win” qualities. Those qualities were of no use at The Alamo or on Omaha Beach or in firefights in Viet Nam as depicted in We Were Soldiers.
The men inside The Alamo chose to be there for reasons we find difficult to comprehend…. as we would the fortitude of Leonidis’ Spartans at Thermopylae. Short of protecting your immediate family would you put your own life in the path of certain death?
The American GIs in We Were Soldiers were not sustained by the nobility of a Colonel Travis or a Leonidis. Those GIs simply wanted to survive the day and to return home.
The current “war” that is increasing in intensity across America with each day has not (yet) reached the level of mortal combat of these other historical struggles. Whether it will or not will eventually be chronicled by hindsight historians. Were these other “wars” predictable as to their inevitability? I am betting they were not in real time. America has become a tinderbox well beyond “just political squabbling”.
I’m “just a guy with a website” who would prefer, like the fictional Benjamin Martin in The Patriot, to be “left alone” to raise my family and to live our lives under the simple credo that “one man’s freedom ends where another man’s freedom begins”. History has never deferred to such men despite such men being, I believe, in the majority.
I have issues with both political parties and with politicians in general. But I concede that a nation of laws is subject to those laws being administered by men. The vagarities of the nature of “men” has never changed much over the centuries. I don’t expect it to now.
I cast my lot with what is defined as “Conservatives” (more so than Republican) though I do have my differences with elements of that credo…. and with some who expound it.
I have considerably stronger differences with the liberal / Democrat credos. I find their leadership and tactics beyond contemptible. They are “the enemy”. Their current 24/7 fusillade of insulting “names” will “never hurt me”; but, will, in time, escalate to deadlier forms of “sticks and stones”. History tells us it always does.
My personal experiences with “group process” have never been very satisfying but it is preferable to anarchy. I can accept the “lesser of two evils” concept. Some cannot.
I am not the noble freedom fighter at The Alamo or at Thermopylae. I am “just a guy with a website” but, like the combat soldiers in Viet Nam or wading thru the surf of Omaha Beach, I intend to do what I can to survive and to protect those “on my side”. That means to fight “the enemy” with the weapons at my disposal.
As I suspect was often the case in The War Between The States 150+ years ago, that “enemy” will, alas, be those I would prefer to simply co-exist along side.
So be it……