MAJESTIC MEMORIES

Last night, my wife and I watched "The Majestic", one of Jim Carrey's efforts to break away from his comedy image. Normally, it isn't the sort of movie I would choose to watch. My tastes run to films with lots of visual effects. However, as we watched this film,  I felt myself drawn into the story. Yes, I have a certain identification with the plight of the film's main character at the start, and yes, I like films which accurately portray ambitious men in government willing to subvert that government to feed their ambitions, but the reason I connected with this movie was that long before my own Hollywood drama, long before NASA, and long before What Really Happened, I grew up in a town very much like that shown in the film.
The town I grew up in in New England farming country was even smaller than the film's fictional town of Lawson, California. Loudon, New Hampshire didn't have a movie theater open or closed, and still doesn't. However, like the fictional town of Lawson, the town I grew up in had lost many men in World War II. I was just a child in those post war years, one of the generation later called the baby boomers, but I recall the plaques, the flags, the ribbons, the special emphasis on memorial day, and the markers on the stones in the cemetery behind the church on the hill, identifying where the men had died, and where in some cases, their bodies were presumed to remain. Every family, including my own, had lost people. Parents grieved for lost sons, siblings for lost brothers, wives for lost husbands. Bedrooms were still kept pristine, filled with the artifacts of an innocent childhood, waiting for occupants who would never return. Those who had managed to return carried scars visible and invisible, and in some subtle way never really made it all the way back home.

Looking back on that time, while the US Government declared political victory in the war, and the "Captains of Industry" grew rich turning looted war material into corporations that could hardly fail in competing with nations whose industrial bases had been bombed into rubble, I recognize that the town I grew up in had been defeated in that war. It had been eviscerated. It had had its very heart cut out of it; a gaping hole that never healed, but could only in time be forgotten.

The government may declare victory in wars started in foreign lands, but for the people who live in small towns in this land the results are barely distinguishable from defeat. Lives are lost, families destroyed, futures shattered, hopes ruined; all this is the price paid by the people for the "foreign entanglements" we were long ago warned to avoid. The real price of war is paid not just by those who died in it, but by those who are left behind who bury their dead and pay the bills.

And now it may happen again. Having bred a new generation of soldiers far too young to know what their service in war costs their own families, the present administration is trying to start a war of conquest, to barter the surplus population of "useless eaters" for even more wealth and power. And if the leaders obtain that wealth and power they will declare victory, while the people of America who live in towns like the one I grew up in will salve their grief with cheap ribbons and plaques.

See also Mark Twain's THE WAR PRAYER

"Fighting in a city is probably the most complex environment for military operations. It has been compared to a knife-fight in a telephone booth. Casualties in the average rifle company can run as high as 30%." -- General William Kernan, head of the U.S. joint forces command


What Really Happened