sand is overrated

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

letters from iwo jima

letters from iwo jima, clint eastwood's companion piece to flags of our fathers, finally arrived at my local independent theater and i could not run fast enough to see it. it's a devastating condemnation of the futility of war, made all the more poignant by the current global atmosphere and president bush's address to the nation this past wednesday.

being of japanese ancestry, i am uncomfortably familiar with the reputation of the world war ii era japanese as a viciously ferocious enemy, capable of committing outrageous war-time atrocities. given the historical evidence, how much of this reputation is based on patent truth versus propagandizing is probably not even up for debate. it is a behavior that is a product of a historically intense cultural and civic pride, and one that favors suicide as death with honor over the humiliation of defeat. it is a result of the dehumanization that must occur, to varying extent, for ordinary civilians to become soldiers, willing to kill and be killed in the name of reasons they may not truly understand. and it is not a condition restricted only to those we fight against, as evidenced by the events committed at iraq's abu ghraib prison. letters from iwo jima raises one of the most important truths about war--that despite the dehumanization forced upon ourselves, and the demonization of our enemies, humanity still lies beneath the cloak and uniform of the men on both sides. and all is most certainly lost, no matter the military outcome, when that humanity is lost altogether. that is a lesson that men in all corners of the world would do well to remember in times like these. from kenneth turan of the l.a. times:
it's not that we want the japanese to win the war; it's that we absolutely do not want these men we've come to know intimately to lose their lives. the laconic, pitiless way eastwood shot the violence of battle underscores what a waste it all is, underlines the futility that so many have to die because of the misguided ideology of a few in leadership positions.

that notion is summarized beautifully in, of all places, a short story by sholem aleichem, the great yiddish writer. he tells of a naive young man drafted into a european army in world war i who is commanded to shoot when the enemy attacks. the attack comes, the recruit doesn't shoot and the enraged officer points at the enemy and repeats the order. "over there?" the man asks, confused. "but there are people over there."

just so.
"masters of war" is a song released in 1963, and yet it remains strikingly relevant today. who else could write it but bob dylan himself.

bob dylan : "masters of war" mp3
from the lp the freewheelin' bob dylan (columbia, 1963)
come you masters of war
you that build all the guns
you that build the death planes
you that build the big bombs
you that hide behind walls
you that hide behind desks
i just want you to know
i can see through your masks

you that never done nothin'
but build to destroy
you play with my world
like it's your little toy
you put a gun in my hand
and you hide from my eyes
and you turn and run farther
when the fast bullets fly

like judas of old
you lie and deceive
a world war can be won
you want me to believe
but i see through your eyes
and i see through your brain
like i see through the water
that runs down my drain

you fasten the triggers
for the others to fire
then you set back and watch
when the death count gets higher
you hide in your mansion
as young people's blood
flows out of their bodies
and is buried in the mud

you've thrown the worst fear
that can ever be hurled
fear to bring children
into the world
for threatening my baby
unborn and unnamed
you ain't worth the blood
that runs in your veins

how much do i know
to talk out of turn
you might say that i'm young
you might say i'm unlearned
but there's one thing i know
though i'm younger than you
even jesus would never
forgive what you do

let me ask you one question
is your money that good
will it buy you forgiveness
do you think that it could
i think you will find
when your death takes its toll
all the money you made
will never buy back your soul

and i hope that you die
and your death'll come soon
i will follow your casket
in the pale afternoon
and i'll watch while you're lowered
down to your deathbed
and i'll stand o'er your grave
'til i'm sure that you're dead

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

That story quote is fantastic. A very well thought out and well written piece all round.

January 15, 2007 at 1:31 AM  
Blogger Comandante Agí said...

Sounds like an amazing example of filmmaking. Reading your piece made me want to see it even more.

January 19, 2007 at 12:55 PM  

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all songs posted are for evaluation only. if you hear something you like and would like to hear more, please go ahead and support the artists by buying their music--i will always include links for you to do so. copyright holders: if anything on my site needs to be taken down, please email me and it will be removed immediately.

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