Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The case for pacifism

When I was 16 and a half, I lied to get into "Saving Private Ryan."
I actually had permission from my parents, and I was so close it hardly mattered, and I've seen it since, so I don't think it's that big of a deal. That was my first introduction to the genre of war movies. I'd heard such things about the movie.
Oy.
Everyone's heard about the first 20 minutes of that movie. It it even more gruesome, more violent, more ugly than can be described. And to make it worse, it had happened. The story of Private Ryan was fiction, but World War 2 sure isn't.
Thus followed my new interest in historical fiction, and sometimes nonfiction, flicks: "The Patriot," "Gladiator," "We Were Soldiers," "Black Hawk Down." They never got better. I never got desensitized either; how I reacted to the blood and guts and hatred and violence of the war zones seemed to amplify the more of these I watched. It was horrifying, knowing this actually had happened or was happening somewhere in the world. I couldn't understand why this was entertainment.
"These movies glorify a situation that has no real glory in it." Michael Jernigan
It's been a while since I've seen any of these, but I thought about them all, especially "Black Hawk Down," while reading this column in the New York Times. As you read it, scroll down to the bottom to see the veteran Michael Jernigan's picture. He gave up his eyes for this war, and he makes it sound like he got off easy because he was able to write that column. And he watches those same movies that horrified my soul. They were intended to be entertainment, he said. Some of them even were entertaining.
These movies, the stories, the video games — the entertainment that comes from them — is why people love war.
And yet, look at them through hypersensitive eyes, or perhaps through where one's eyes used to be, and the case for pacifism comes into sharper focus.

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