Monday, January 19, 2015

Gott mit uns

Not that I'm in a big hurry to see this (loathing 99% of all "war films" as I do...) but can someone explain how making a 2015 flick about the occupation of Iraq glorifying a dude who is a stone killer, who is working as a sniper with an invading army fighting an aggressive war ginned up by lies and propaganda, who considers his targets subhuman "savages", is different in any meaningful way from remaking the 2001 Stalingrad film Enemy At The Gates but only making the German sniper the hero..?
I mean...I get it. I get that we think of ourselves, of the U.S. troopers we send to do our dirty work, as "the good guys" regardless of where and why we (or in this case, "they") fight. After all, millions of Germans thought they were the "good guys" in 1943, just like Romans thought they were the "good guys" against the Carthginians and the Stone Tribe thought they were the "good guys" against the Clam Clan - that shit's as old as human nature.

Still. I marvel at the human capacity for looking at bloody facts and seeing pretty lies. I think it comes from our natural desire to be the hero of our own stories.

We don't want to think of ourselves as cruel, or vicious, or wrong, because we've learned that "evil people do evil things". So if we admit we've done evil then we have to admit we are evil. And we hate that.

We're NOT evil. We love our kids, we give alms, we go to church, we help the needy, we're kind and loving, decent, humane people. Right?

You'd think that we would have learned that all sorts of lovely, decent, otherwise-humane people can do the most apalling evil when properly prepared, usually through a combination of innocence, ignorance, prejudice, and a carefully decanted mixture of bullshit and praise from people they respect.

But, no.

So lacking that we have to keep screwing our eyes shut tighter and our fingers deeper into our own ears to keep out the thought that we and all our yellow-ribbon magnets might just have been accomplices in a horrible, unspeakable evil.

12 comments:

jim hruska said...

Chief,
Kyle hated all people believing in the koran.he also said it is fun to kill people, and he liked "fucking"with iraqis.
he sounds exactly the same as a isis type wielding a knife.
how do we differ?
that is the question.
jim

FDChief said...

We differ in the we are US and they are them, Jim. And that's pretty much that.

Like I said; I get that's how people are. But you'd think that after seeing the mess we made that'd we'd at least have the shame to STFU. Germans no longer boast of their grandfather's victories in 1941. It seems that we here in the Home of the Brave aren't that smart...

experientialpagan said...

I often wonder if it is a matter of "smart" or a matter of time and perspective. Every sniper I've met (not a large number) was really rather crazy. Every German I met who was in WWII was older and wiser and said things like "War makes savages of us all, all of us are alike and do the same good things and the same bad things."

A recent discussion along these lines was had recently when the bride-to-be had a reaction to my veteran sons discussing Afghans in less than glowing terms. I tried to explain that while humane terms and actions are the ideal, it is one most men are not going to reach for when people they love are still in harms way; the context is the game changer.

FDChief said...

You kinda have to be a little mad and a little savage to deliberately pick out another human being and kill them. But...and I think this is what your Germans meant by this...there's a little of that mad savage in all of us. One of the most rotten things about war is that it invites that mad brute out to play.

That the crazy fucker helps keep us alive is one thing. That some people embrace that sonofabitch? That's a whole 'nother thing.

And I'm VERY lucky in that I never had to spend more than a moment or two thinking that some other sonofabitch wanted me dead. Because I know myself enough to know that I'd hate and fear that bastard enough that long after I was safe and home I'd still hate and fear him. I totally get how some old WW2 Pacific vets won't buy Japanese cars...

But I think I mean "smart" in the sense of "smart about ourselves", "smart" in the experience that taught your Germans that there is no "good" war or "bad" peace because of what we become in war.

Lisa said...

Yes Chief, this it:

I marvel at the human capacity for looking at bloody facts and seeing pretty lies.

"It's pretty to think so" was one of the better lines from Am. Lit.

Per "E.Pagan's" Every German I met who was in WWII was older and wiser -- I'm glad you've had such a happy experience, but that's sure not to say, "every German".

Also, per your Every sniper I've met (not a large number) was really rather crazy", I'll heartily disagree with you on that one. I HAVE met several snipers from past wars, and their humility and warmth seemed intact. "Rather crazy" is not a term that fits.

Terms like "every" and "none" don't work so well when speaking of humans. I would think a pagan would get that.

FDChief said...

Dunno about crazy, Lisa, but it does seem to take a certain amount of...cold-bloodedness? Callousness?...to calmly single out an individual and shoot them dead, above and beyond the level of hardiness it takes to be a good soldier.

And in this particular case, as Jim points out, this Kyle joker was anything but humble and warm. He comes off as kind of an asshole, kind of a braggart, and kind of a psycho; he does indeed talk about how killing is fun and how he enjoyed looting and generally fucking with the locals. So in this case Labrys' characterization seems more right than wrong...

experientialpagan said...

Yeah, Chief -- I've always said we each have a monster. And that savage being is damned handy when you HAVE to stay alive because someone else's savage is trying to kill you.

I've always said you have to be on good relations with that monster, so that when you say "Ok, Pal...time for you to get back in the basement." --it WILL go.

As for WWII? Hell, just READING "Unbroken" in places made me want to walk out front and sledge-hammer the Toyota...irrational, but profoundly THERE all the same.

experientialpagan said...

Lisa -- really, the "pagan" card? I said every one I had met...not every one absolutely that ANYone had met.

I'd think YOU could get that. Apparently not.

Anonymous said...

I find it very hard to reconcile what Eastwood did in Sniper with his 2 Iwo Jima movies.

See those Chief?

Meanwhile on the home front, the local theater is showing AS, but not Selma.

Go with what sells I guess.

bb

Podunk Paul said...

Crazy comes with the territory. Ship’s radio operators have a tendency to jump over the side, or so seaman say. North Sea oil platform divers would come out after maybe a week in a hyperbaric chamber laughing inappropriately and with eyes that skittered about like billiard balls. And pensioners, many of them anyway, pass their days in a slough of despond.

FDChief said...

basil: Like I said, I loathe most war flicks. They're either ridiculously hokey and piss me off or they're vile in making popcorn entertainment out of human misery and death (like this one, and don't get me fucking started on Blackhawk Down...).

But I understand that they were pretty grievous, so there's that.

The only war flicks I can take are the openly-goofy ones like Kelly's Heroes or Three Kings or the ones that are wretchedly unsparing, like The Beast.

FDChief said...

Paul: good point...