Monday, May 14, 2007

Flags of our Fathers

I was extremely sore yesterday from a workout the previous day, but still wanted to get some exercise in. I agreed to play volleyball with some of the guys from the squad after we finished our shift. I'm a reasonably agressive volleyball player, and not bad. Watching me play the net must be interesting, since I have no vertical jump capability, but will not hesitate to dive for a ball or charge the net.

We played five games in the sweltering afternoon sun before I called it a day, and went inside to get cool. I was drained from playing outside for hours (as everyone else was, though they didn't have the sense to pack it in after a reasonable time- most people felt weak today), and didn't feel motivated to so much as eat.

I eventually found myself in the movie shack with Stirling's The Peshawar Lancers, half an hour before the movie started. The petty officer showing the movies told me it would be Flags of our Fathers. Oh, great. An emotionally taxing movie when I was already low-energy, but I didn't feel like doing anything else, including the remaining packing I still need to do before I leave. So, I relaxed on a sofa with my book, and enjoyed some good jazz while I waited for the movie.

I lowered the book when John Legend's "Coming Home" played.

We fight to stay alive
But somebody's got to die
It's so strange to me
A new year, a new enemy
Another soldier gone to war
Another story told before
Now it's told again

Appropriate, I thought.

Flags of our Fathers is quite a story, beautifully shot, well written, perfectly acted, and accompanied with a score that couldn't be better. At first, I was disgusted at the shallowness of some people during the World War II era, who could think a single picture could tell the entire story of something as complicated as most conflicts-

(and, I don't understand how anyone who looks at the picture of the flag raising at Iwo Jima could think from the picture alone that the battle had been won. I've never thought that at any age- those boys look like they're still in a fight- and, after some time in uniform, I know at a glance either the picture's staged, or they're still in a dangerous area, because they still have their helmets on)

but after a while, I thought that perhaps the big message was the value of symbols. Symbols are important, though it's a tragedy when one mistakes the symbol of a thing for the reality, instead of viewing it correctly, as a kind of visual or mental shorthand for something much more complex.

Who is a hero? I suppose almost anyone could be a hero, if you catch them at the right time, but some folks are just more disposed towards it. (Fortunately, I haven't had to be one.) I will say that I've found few scenes more moving than Ryan Phillippe as Corpman "Doc" Bradley with shrapnel protruding from his useless leg, crawling to help a wounded Marine while waiting for his own stretchermen to arrive.

(This is not factually correct, but if you'll go to the link for Doc Bradley, you'll see this is entirely in keeping with his character. What he actually DID to earn the Navy Cross was more dangerous than the fictional scene from the movie.)

I don't enjoy being in this crappy country. I hate being long seperated from those I love- but compared to many soldiers in the World Wars, Korea and even Vietnam, we have it damn easy.

1 comment:

S.M. Stirling said...

Glad you enjoyed "Lancers", and the best of luck to you.

-- Steve Stirling