Monday, May 26, 2008

The Hard Part

Yesterday some friends came by for a holiday weekend BBQ. The first of the season. It was a beautiful warm spring/early summer day and just perfect for relaxing outdoors and enjoying friends' company.

During the course of the day, we talked a little about recent films we had seen. Hubby and I had just finished watching The Kite Runner, and I talked about how although I knew the story from the book - and as always, the book is much better - it was well made and it had touched me deeply, and the last line had caused me to cry.

Our friends told me they had recently seen "No Country for Old Men" and "There Must Be Blood". Shaking my head emphatically I said, "those look too hard for me...a lot of violence and depression." Given that I had just watched a film about war-torn afghanistan, the rape of children, and the depravity of religious fanatics, this statement was a little off kilter. And as only good friends can, they called me on it.

How can I claim to be a film fan and avoid some of the best and most recognized films in recent history? Will I allow myself to be relegated to an audience of "chick flicks"? Even Kite Runner, if it had not been such a popular book among my girlfriends, would I have picked it up and read it? Would I have learned about the history, the sadness, and the horrors of living in Afghanistan over the last several decades?

As this was on my mind today, I ran across a column in the news entitled, Why Didn't We Listen To Their Stories? The columnist talks about the forgotten heroes of World War I and how, upon their return, they were discouraged from discussing their experiences and telling their stories. Americans, the columnist supposes, are only interested in tales of horror that have entertainment value. I'm not sure I agree with this as a total truth, but after yesterdays' discussion I fully admit to often selectively avoiding unpleasantness and the difficult subject of war, poverty, politics, except in their most elevated and clean hypothetical nature.

I have a nephew by marriage who continues to serve our country and has served in two actions that I know of. One recently in Iraq and prior to that in a tour of duty in Bosnia. I've never asked him about these tours, telling myself that he doesn't wish to talk about them. But do I really know he doesn't want to speak of them? I want to respect his sense of privacy, duty, honor, and I want to recognize them as well. How is it best to face the horrors that exist in this world? Through movies, books, and sanitized or dramatized entertainment? Or through the personal experiences of those we know and love?

According to the columnist, "Do we honor our veterans for all their sacrifices, or do we care only if they can tell us a good story? And who, then, is guilty of ingratitude?"

On this Memorial Day 2008 I will try to take a moment from the BBQs, picnics, sunbathing, and general enjoyment of a day off, and think about the hard part that makes the country - with all its many faults - still great. The people. And in particular the men and women of the armed forces who stand on a wall, or make ready on their ship, or guard us from the air, and make the tough choices every day. They will live and die by their honor and by their code. And regardless of whether you agree with any or every action in which they partake, they do it on our behalf.

Thank you to all active and inactive, living and deceased, who havedone, not just their part, but the hard part.