In a recent post (Have we learned anything?,January 27, 2012) I recognized that it was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. I also acknowledged that up until seeing this particular reference in the multitude of headlines in Google News, I had no knowledge that this was a day of remembrance or that a day to recognize the atrocities of the Holocaust even existed. My visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum in Poland in the fall, my recent viewing of a number of new and older movies and reflection on both has raised a number of “big” questions for me to consider. These questions focus on the Holocaust and war in general but also get me into the consideration of other forms of violence in our society.
I have always been interested in what makes people tick. This period of history as well as our long and continued history of war and aggression is a definite contributor to our collective psyche.
I do not watch a lot of movies and do not watch television shows. I do not have a television in my home so only see television when I am in public places or in the homes of people who do have televisions and have them on when I am at their homes. I will go to a movie theater once in a while to see a particular film and once in a while we will rent movies that we watch on our computer.
I am not sure if it was the winter weather or a general tiredness that took us to the local video store in the last few weeks. We came home with a variety of movies that looked interesting. We thought they were each on different subjects only to find that each one of them had an element of war or aggression as key to the story line. After watching four movies and a documentary I felt that I needed a much deserved break. A break from observing the violence in every shape and form perpetrated by humans upon other humans. All of this done in the name of war, defending a country, attempting to implement a new regime to bring the country to a better standard, done at any cost.
I did not see the point of any of the wars depicted in these movies or see one side or another as more justified in their killing deeds. From my perspective they were all on the wrong path, a path of violence and aggression. Idealistic thinking has me questioning the necessity of any war.
I am fairly ignorant about war. I know little of the details on each of the particular wars in the history of man. I do know however that there have been many and that there has probably been at least one war going on somewhere in the world at all times throughout history. My ignorance is due partly to what I have been exposed to in my education but probably more so by my somewhat unconscious decision to avoid knowing about war and all the messy details. This form of denial has offered me some safety from the facts that I knew I would find difficult to fathom. Although ignorant about the history and the facts of war I have not been spared personal impact from war. My entire generation has been impacted by World War II as well as many other wars. There is plenty to say about that impact and I will do so in a future post.
The details of war came out loud and clear in the movies that I watched, so much so that by the end of one movie: Downfall I had seen so people killed and maimed and so much suffering because of the seemingly rational but totally irrational decisions made by people in power that I had been reduced to tears, actually to be honest, I was sobbing. I felt as if my heart would break. Here was a political group extraordinaire, Hitler’s Nazis, leaving no one untouched in their efforts to win their war. The very sad, unbelievable truth is that it did not matter who died: Jew or German; or whoever was in the countless paths of destruction created in the war. No matter children, elderly, women, men, soldiers, all alike were expendable for the leaders of the various parties in the war. The Russians and the military of all other countries were not any better and could not be called the good guys- there are no good guys in war – only people either duped or forced into doing the dirty work for those in power.
Another movie: Sunshine followed several generations of one family through various wars and targeted acts of violence focused on the Jewish people. The attempts of the different members of the family to be on the “right side” only highlighted that in war there is no “right side” only pain and suffering had by all. A newer movie The Debt further highlighted the absence of no “right side” no “good guy” and reinforced my premise that war is downright ridiculous. Why one act of aggression of one group is more acceptable than another’s is lost on me.
I thought I would be safe with the movie Seven Years in Tibet. World War II was underway in the course of the story but in the background, so far so good. This safe feeling was short-lived and gone with the start of the invasion of Tibet by the Chinese. More loss of life, injury and suffering by all involved and to what end?
We have returned the movies and did not pick up any others. I know that I now have more knowledge about the details of some parts of some of the wars. I am well aware of the suffering that rippled through the lives of people from all the countries involved in every war. I have been fortunate enough to have been shielded from being within any type of war zone nonetheless along with my expanded knowledge of the damage of war I am left with the feelings of a broken heart. Broken for all who have suffered and broken in realizing the damage that we as humans can do to each other.
Irene McDermott © 2012