This speech has stuck in my mind for 57 years, since I first saw this movie at a theater on Long Island, NY. It has stuck in my mind because it’s a point of view we don’t look at, maybe because it’s so unsettling.
Do we exalt war by exalting its fighters? I don’t have a clear answer and I have thought about this for many years. I agree, to a point. I don’t 100% agree, but the point is very real, that the exaltation of generals and soldiers turns them into near-godlike imaged. I don’t think that is what they want and I don’t think that is what we intend. I think we don’t entirely know how to think about war and those who fight them. Honoring them, but not idolizing them.
I suppose Armistice Day does that to me. I get to thinking about how we have been forever at war and we always have good reasons for the wars we fight, yet we inevitably claim we never intended war. Except obviously, we did want war or why would we have sent men to fight, generals to lead, and spent billions of dollars to support a war and warriors?
I find this thinking complicated. There are many “right” points of view. On some level every point of view is right — and similarly, also wrong. For me, why we fight and why we talk about war so much is a question for which I’ve never found an answer.
I remember being in history classes and realizing that “history” as we present it to kids is memorizing which wars we fought, when, and why. It’s easy to get the first two, but the “why” eludes me. Why do we allow our best and brightest to die — and then rewrite the story because everyone knows the war failed. In my very humble opinion, wars always fail, even if we fight because we have no choice. Every war is a setup for the next.
If you have not seen this movie:
You absolutely should see this movie. It’s witty, sometimes hilarious, the acting is superb as is the direction. The script — by Paddy Chayefsky who may have been the best scriptwriter to ever grace Hollywood was truly at his peak when he wrote this one. And this was Julie Andrews first serious (non-singing) role.
How do we banish war if we can’t let it go? If we can’t stop looking for reasons to fight rather than seeking ways to find peace?