Sunday, January 25, 2015

I Finally Saw That War Movie Everyone's Been Talking About #AmericanSniper

I figured I needed to see it. I've written about its subject, the real story behind the movie. Or that's what I thought. But something happened.

I hadn't been to a theater in a long time. I hate to say it, I hate what it makes me sound like, but people are awful now. They don't just stay quiet. I could hear murmuring, some conversation in the back like whoever sat there was bored and had seen the whole thing before. (Why are you here then? I wondered.) Restlessness.

Soon I was aware of all the sounds. You probably know the feeling, right? An older man behind me had something wrong with his nose - every time he took a breath he gave out a horrific whistle. It wasn't his fault, but I couldn't concentrate. The hero was trying to explain himself - it was the most important scene of the film, and instead of watching it I noticed a woman, a few seats down, who'd brought a baby with her. I couldn't believe it. A baby. At a war movie.

When she felt my stare she looked at me, and I saw the far half of her face had a savage bruise. But that wasn't nearly as bad as someone on the other side. He was hairless. His features were flat, his skin papery with burns. The old man behind me whistled again, but I looked, and his nose was fine. No, the sound was coming from beneath his shirt. Then the hero said something else, and three people with black bags over their heads chuckled and nudged each other. An old lady tried to join them, but only made gravel sounds that seemed like they would never stop. Two others near her shook their heads, their faces white and wet. A teenage kid without arms snickered at me. They were all snickering now.

"I'm willing to meet my Creator and answer for every shot that I took," the hero intoned. And that's when they broke out into a roar like it was the funniest thing they'd ever heard. The only one who didn't was that child. He lay completely still.

I got up to leave. I had to get out of that place, and the mother looked at me.

"What do you expect?" she asked. "You don't show us on that white screen."

"We sit here," she called out as I shut the door.

"We can do nothing else. We watch you from the dark."

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  1. You write true horror, Paul. It's the horror of us, of everyday life, of the things we try desperately to ignore.

    It reminds me of a radio piece by Sarah Vowel wherein she gets a goth makeover. The goths who are working with her ask her to pick a goth name. Rather than pick a Teutonic, slashy sort of name, she picks "Becky." For her, the horror of those normal girls in high school is beyond anything that Stephen King might imagine. Her makeover goths approve. They say, "Beyond black is pink."


    "The war may have killed thousands but completely spared the lives and even the public careers of the wretched, greedy, cowardly liars that summoned it from the depths of the Eblis of national fear, violence, and hubris. And we have chosen to accept that without demur. That is our shame. That is our crime; not that we committed the wrong but that we did not punish it when we saw that it was wrong.

    The persistence of these Tin Gods in the public life of our nation is, and should be, a great enduring unbearable shame to us, all of us, us the We the People who were entrusted with the honor and truth of this nation. We have chosen to be a nation of Men rather than a nation of Law, chosen comfortable dishonor above painful rectitude, chosen the deaths of others rather than to sacrifice ourselves.

    When our generation is remembered it should be for that, and for that above all. Whatever good we have done, whatever kindnesses we may do, the crimes for which we hung the defeated leaders of Nazi Germany, the crime of making aggressive war, the "crimes against peace" of Nuremberg; the crimes of others that by our acceptance and indifference we have made our own, will remain with us always. Like the unquiet ghosts of the dead of Baghdad, Ramadi, and Basra, like the mournful fragments of the GIs flown home inside plastic sacks, and like the cries of the headscarved women, weeping for sons and fathers and lovers vanished in the morning mists that rise above the Tigris as the merciless dawn floods the watermeadows with light as red as blood."

  3. Something about your website makes it damned near impossible to tell you what a good writer you are. The website just frigging won't allow some of us to comment.

    1. Thanks so much! I had comment moderation on because of spam, but you convinced me to turn it off.

    2. Thanks. I couldn't figure out why it wouldn't post. Here's what I was trying to say.

      Your writing comes into a reader's awareness slowly, like a shadowy object in a dark room. At first, the mind isn't even aware its there, or perhaps dismisses it as a familiar object. But then, the thought occurs that something isn't quite right. Did it just move? Or did I imagine that? What IS that thing? It turns out to be a complete surprise.

      This short article got my attention so effectively, and so concisely captured the horror lurking beneath the marching-band mentality of religious nationalism, that I bought a book.

      So... well done. And good luck.


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