"If we lock on to a sense that the foot soldier possesses an inherent
nobility, then what? What comes out of that?"
It is not difficult to attach ideas of glory and well earned recognition to the fighting men and women of the armed forces, especially if they happened to have fought during something I consider the "Golden Age" of wars. This term refers to those wars and battles that were as brutal as any other war, but yet from our cultural memory harken back to a more noble time of clear cut distinctions of good and evil. Memory isn't always reliable.
Society is comprised of war widows and soldiers who may not return to their life before the war, who never truly forget what war has shown and done to them. These individuals have lost friends, lost battles, lost sanity, lost youth, remain lost to those they return to. These people go to remembrance day ceremonies and silently contemplate meaning in their lives, shaken and torn and hastily re-constructed as they were with the help of people who were not there and some who were. They talk amongst other survivors to piece together and re-tell their stories to find some sense in all of it. Water runs from their eyes freely, turning to vapour upon pyres that no tear may quench.
Society is comprised of ambitious young men and women, bolstered by tales of courage and valour, a willingness to prove oneself and live up to past glories. Some of these people will see war films and quote lines and refer to then enemies of the Allied Forces insofar as racial indignations will reach. They go to remembrance day ceremonies and see respect, perceived hero-worship, and settle for hardships paid by their grandfathers for a favourable cause: a clear cut battle between good and evil. Water runs from their eyes freely, a flood of pride and awe washing their faces clean from doubt of war's nobility.
Young men and women favour their culture's mainstream perception of battle and war, remembering the good fight against a clearly defined evil. The young do not seek out veterans to hear their stories - those stories come to them through a variety of entertainment media. Alongside gameplay in EA's Pacific Assault of 2004 come shaking and real interviews from men who were there and serve to add authenticity to the experience. Juxtaposed with a product of entertainment, their experiences become a product of entertainment too. Choice sound bytes are captured and presented to the player, when presented in the context of an enjoyable action game, leaving a strange and skewed impression of what war is. Burdens of war equate carrying a cross for the betterment of all. Their pain becomes our pleasure.
Let us be clear then, that war is an ineffable evil that destroys lives and damns us all. War is also a tradition of the human species, carving out the world that we currently live in and regarded as such in the culture. Good and evil become abstract appendments depending on what country won and lost. We are always on the side of good when we win, regardless of who we are or what we've done to win.
When I ask my step-father about our current war, he thinks it's foolish, without purpose. Nothing to rally behind. Certainly not defending our country. He looks at the Second World War with reverance. His father served as a war photographer and his brother Donald stormed the beaches, lasting a short while in the European campaign before being mortally wounded and dying later in a military field hospital. My grandfather served in the Navy during that same war and my mother's uncle was a British commando who never talked openly about his work. My half-brother Peter currently serves in the Canadian Armed Forces, and has served, will serve, for longer than I know. In memory or in action. Despite a heritage of military tradition, my family remains anti-war. They honour the dead as lost family members.
". . . these are the times of dreamy quietude, when beholding the tranquil beauty and brilliancy of the ocean's skin, one forgets the tiger heart that pants beneath it; and would not willingly remember, that this velvet paw but conceals a remorseless fang."