Wednesday, April 25, 2012
"YOU WANT US ON THAT WALL!"
In the movie, "A Few Good Men" Jack Nicholson is being skewered by Tom Cruise on the witness stand of a Court Martial hearing. Cruise is trying to get Nicholson to admit he ordered a Code Red on a Marine who was allegedly "not getting with the program". In my mind this was one of the finest scenes ever staged in a movie. Why? Because, with both characters advocating for opposite points of views, the audience senses that both sides in the conflict are right. In the end, the only "loser" are those who take no position at all!
While Cruise represents the smooth talking lawyer, adept at all the social niceties, schooled in the absolute rule of law, he is painfully naive about the real life consequences, and the necessary "modus operandi" that the American soldier must employ to execute the orders given him by his political leadership.
In that mesmerizing scene we see Nicholson tell Cruise in the most basic terms what it means to "Stand the Wall". What Nicholson is telling us is that war isn't pretty, a soldier's life is more than the glorifying ideals that Americans wish them to be. War is confusion. War is ugly. War is a hell-fire that is never "extinguished", even when war has ended. And the participants in war, the soldier, will never be the same.
We also hear Nicholson say that the clever cynics like Cruise find it easy to speak glibly about the military mind, and hostile conflict at cocktail parties, while having the luxury of not knowing of the mechanistic horror of war.
And Nicholson is right! Now that Americans are no longer compelled, with the ending of the military draft, to participate in the fighting, we find a significant contingent of the American people who see the military as a "necessary evil". Unlike World War II, Americans are not asked to ration foods and material, are not asked to maintain air raid shelters, and are certainly not asked to enlist themselves in the fight.
And politicians, ever eager to commit our troops in ever-expanding world conflicts, find it easy to ignore the hardships of the soldier, and are uncaring about the effects those wars have on the minds and bodies of our military. Thus, George Bush and Barack Obama can opt to spend $3 trillion dollars of our treasury and commit our soldiers to four or five combat tours toward an idiotic effort to democratize 300 million Muslims.
Now, after ten years of war, we find breaches in the idealistic image of the American soldier. We find that a few of our troops who have gone off the deep end and savaged innocents in the combat area. We find that some soldiers are found to have urinated on the enemy dead. And we find photos of some soldiers hanging the carcasses of suicide bombers in total disrespect for those enemy dead.
Guess what America! Take that five percent of American men and women who volunteered to serve their country, put that five percent into a culture that savages men, women and children, give them experiences where they walk into a school and see 30 dead children, killed for the crime of wanting to learn and think, then ask, if that were you, whether it would have an effect on you!
Arm that five percent, outfit them with body armor, put a 60 pound pack on their back, ask them to endure 130 degree summers and 30 degree winters, force them to see their friends and teammates killed in firefights and IED's, and try to contemplate if those experiences might have an adverse effect on their psyche!
Nicholson is right! Americans want us on that wall! Sadly, you don't want to hear what happens to us while up there! After three tours in Vietnam I came back to face the verbal onslaught of 'baby killer' and having Americans spitting in our faces. Thank God our troops today don't have to face that. But what they do face today is American apathy; apathy about what one goes through in war.
Whether it is the cop patrolling in Watts, or taking down a meth-induced crazy, whether it is those Border Patrol troops guarding our border, or whether it is a soldier "Standing The Wall" in foreign lands, they are serving America! You want all of them "on the wall"....you just don't want to hear the nasty details.
So, the next time you hear of a breach of discipline in the military, the next time you hear that an illegal immigrant got beat up, or the next time you read that a cop over-reacted in a pressure-charged criminal incident, have some degree of empathy and sympathy....or go stand the damn wall yourself!