Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"If I don't see a yellow ribbon...

...round the old oak tree." --Yellow Ribbon by Tony Orlando.

So, I just watched Saving Private Ryan for the first time, and I watched it alone. Oh, me.

My first thoughts during the opening scene were something as follows,

"Oh, God, how can those boys put themselves through that? Is anything worth that?" and then, as it progressed to more and more bloodshed and pain, I would catch myself falling back on the little mantra my daddy taught me whenever I was scared watching Aladdin as a kid, and Jafar turned into that scary snake, or when the witch in Sleeping Beauty became a dragon and nearly killed the prince, "It's not real, it didn't happen, it's not real..." but that escape could not be, because that horror, those atrocities--are not the result of someone's imagination, or something so far back in history that the very names of the people are forgotten. This was real, recent, and very, very personal.

The problem with a movie like that is that it did happen. It is real. But it's so bloody, so filthy, and so...awful. And to film, gore like that--! But this is not a review to whine about violence on film, but to defend it, horrid thought it is. Indeed, I would say that it is crucial for those of us who grew up in a comfy, safe, protected home in middle-class America to see such gore and horror, to realize what price people have paid for us to live our little lives, and to see the effects of our decisions.

What headlines do we see in the papers about any of our military involvement overseas? Deaths, when we can pull out, who's fault the newest scandal is, and which of our allies has most lately deserted us. And then those lovely people who are running for president for next year's election all pitch in and start slinging accusations around like the newest slang.

I understand the importance of this war, and military action on our politics in America, but it struck home to me while I was watching Saving Private Ryan that we tend to leave it at that, and forget exactly what our boys--yes, OUR BOYS--are doing over there for us. Of course there are mistakes, and of course there are pros and cons to this conflict. For better or worse, we're in this deal, and while we continue to try to straighten out any political messes we can, please, please, remember the people involved.

That is--similar to the plight in V for Vendetta, people remember someone for his ideas, perhaps his actions--but Natalie Portman's character remembers the man himself. I suppose I am thinking along those lines, as Saving Private Ryan emphasizes the effect of the individual even in the midst of a grand conflict. (Grand is not the proper word here--it should be "greater" perhaps, or "larger")

Another movie which brings up this line of thought. I don't remember which exact movie it was, but in the Original Star Trek movies with Captain Kirk, they create "Genesis Project" during which many people die to save Spock. In The Voyage Home, Spock's mother asks him, "Is the good of the one outweighed by the good of the many, or the few?" Spock replies that logic makes it clear that, yes, the good of the many outweighs the good of the one. His mother replies, "Then you stand here as the result of a mistake in reasoning, made by your human, feeling friends."

Similar in Ryan, they question all along, why they are laying their lives on the line for this unknown and unimportant Private? Perhaps the movie doesn't answer this satisfactorily. We are left with Tom Hank's character telling Ryan to deserve their sacrifice, and we see Ryan as an old man, begging for affirmation that he did, indeed, live up to that. But the audience sees him with a wife, a son, even grandkids. Is that worth the sacrifice?

As I sit in a coffee shop writing this blog, I see a little boy, probably under five years old, wandering around playing with furniture and decorations. His momma calls him back to keep him from breaking anything. That little guy has no idea what has happened to allow him to live a (so far) untroubled life of plenty. But is that not the reason for the wars we fight? We want our children to not be bothered by the problems we had to face, we want to take care of the problems so they can live "tranquil and quiet lives."

Yet it seems that when that happens--when there is a generation virtually untroubled by war, untouched by need or pain, and with nothing but themselves to trouble them, the result is a country of selfish, self-absorbed, silly people, who lack common sense or decency. Or so it would seem--why else do we have so much trouble making up our mind to defend our own people, even in the face of such evil as the people who would hijack four airplanes full of innocent civilians and direct them at buildings that are also full of innocent civilians? Even in such a case as that, we can't think beyond our own little soap operas, and the latest celebrity scandal, and how we can spend more money on more ridiculous things.

Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair here--and hypocritical. Obviously I spend my time writing on a blog, sitting in a coffee shop, drinking iced chai and typing at a laptop in reasonably stylish clothes, wearing makeup and having used all kinds of unnecessary gadgets and products today to get where I am right now. But here is my point, after all this rambling. Saving Private Ryan fills a very necessary need, a need to remember the cost of our freedom and comfort. After that, we may, perhaps, take them less for granted, enjoy them more, and work to deserve and keep them.

If we fail to maintain our privileges, not only will we not be passing on a better place to live to our children, but we will pass on a worse world--a world where they have to fight to survive, much less have time to enjoy life. Perhaps I a feeling pressure for this from the powers that be now--the people who flip-flop around in policy and decision-making, solving problems short term, but causing damage long-term that I know someone--perhaps me, perhaps a friend--will have to deal with later, and perhaps die for. Perhaps lead to a huge European conflict again, where our boys (or by then, thanks to our feminist movement, the girls too) will have to suffer horrendous deaths and suffering to establish some form of peace and stability again.

It's a vicious cycle, and I hope I can help to stop or slow it--to turn it around and keep the people I love from suffering from my mistakes.

Ironic--it's a good movie--I highly recommend it, but don't forget our boys who ARE fighting and giving up their comfort and safety for ours--even me, in this coffee shop, typing a blog.

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