I was doing the dishes this morning and I could see my husband was watching what I think was When We Were Soldiers on Netflix. This is a film about the battle of Ia Drang in Vietnam in 1965.
It was the closing scenes showing a helicopter flying over the battlefield with all guns blazing. Men were being torn apart by the bullets and there were slow motion shots filled with blood and horror. The scene changed and they were irreverently piling up the bodies of “the enemy” and then gathering their own dead, showing sorrow and respect. I couldn’t hear the film but it was clearly a commentary on the brutality of war.
Years ago I was taken to see Enemy at the Gates, another war film this time about the Battle of Stalingrad in 1942. It opens with a scene where hundreds of men are told to storm the city gates. Only 1 in 3 have rifles and those without are told to pick up the first one they see dropped as a fellow soldier dies. I was horrified but somehow I could distance myself from it, 1942 was a long time ago… and yet, seeing the scenes from When We Were Soldiers it felt so much more modern, so much more recent.
My initial response is, as always, to recoil from the horror, but from where I was standing there was little I could do but see it. It then dawned on me that this highlights just how much humanity has changed. Yeah, we still have wars, there is still brutality and horror, but it feels now as if each soldier actually matters. At the Battle of Stalingrad and further back it was just a case of numbers; throw enough men at the flying bullets and some will survive to get there. The idea of the Forlorn Hope was still alive and well in the second world war. I don’t believe this happens any more in modern warfare, we are more strategic and our soldiers are real people. I will never support war, but if we can make it less heartless then we are a step closer to ending it all together. When the souls matter we will work to protect them.
I realise I’m rambling here, it’s been a while since I blogged and I haven’t had my coffee yet, but I wanted to just share this sign of hope. Things do change. We are progressing as a race. Not as fast as many of us want, and the signs of progress are often hidden by the all negative media, but there is hope and we need that as much now as we ever have.