Tag: war

My Country In Wartime

We Shall Overcome

I have felt this atmosphere in my country before.

In the wake of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, there was a palpable aura around the people who walked to and fro, doing their best to go about their daily lives. We fought back against a paralysis so gripping, it threatened to choke the life from us. We’d been knocked back on our heels. We’d taken a sucker punch to the gut. And we resolved, as a nation, not to let the fear rule our lives. We didn’t normalize what had happened. We fought back. We went to war.

I hate that word. War.

FDR hated it, too. He said as much in an address given at Chautauqua, N.Y. in 1936:

I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded. I have seen men coughing out their gassed lungs. I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen two hundred limping, exhausted men come out of line—the survivors of a regiment of one thousand that went forward forty-eight hours before. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.

I am seeing, and feeling, so many parallels, between those times and now, that I have to use a word and idea that may prove antithetical to what’s best for our society, but rings true no matter how I might deny it.

What has happened in the wake of this latest election in the United States is no less than a declaration of war.

I look at the rhetoric. I read between the lines. I see what’s been spewed from the deep places of the Internet. I hear tell of ambitious plans to continue shifting the global atmosphere to one of hatred and “cleansing”, from electing more radically prejudiced leaders to a delineation of in what order to “purge” those who are “lesser”. These are more than words. These are weapons. And they are aimed directly at a global heart of compassion and understanding just now beginning to emerge from the darkness.

In art, there is truth, and words from one of the authors who helped shape me ring true:

ARAGORN: Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not.

This is why it is so important that this behavior, this aggression, this warmongering, is not normalized. We cannot and must not accept it as the new zeitgeist. We must stand together against a tide of ignorance and smug notions of superiority. Our imperative, as a species that wishes to survive and prosper, is to stand together, in love and understanding, and declare that this venom will not kill us. Regardless of our colors, genders, orientations, creeds, and backgrounds, we owe it to ourselves and each other to work as one to overcome what threatens to undermine, belittle, divide, and destroy us.

We had a hand in how this came about. We ignored the warnings. We downplayed the severity of the potential consequences. Some of us fell into arrogant presumption, others savored the opportunity to say “we told you so”, still others took the proceedings as a joke, and as a whole, we failed to stand against a rising tide of darkness that now threatens, more than it ever has before, to engulf the world we are trying so hard to save.

The mistakes are ours. We made our decisions. We behold and are sickened by the consequences.

Blame does not matter. Being crippled by guilt is no better than being crippled by fear.

What matters is — what do we do now?

We stand. We plant our feet. We take one another’s hands. We look at one another to see the light we have to share, and foster that light to shine with our individual flames.

We meet the enemy on the field and declare that we do not and will never surrender.

This is not normal. This is not right.

It falls to us to protect the work we’ve already done and the potential we have to make our future better. Each of us, as individuals, has something to offer in what is to come. If we can come together, if we can stymie the growing threat of all-encompassing hatred, if we prove that love can, should, and must prevail — we can win this. We can protect ourselves and our future. And we can look back on this moment and say that, this time, this time, evil was not allowed to rule the day. We can prove that we can get, and be, better.

We shall overcome.

If my voice has any reach, any meaning, I use it to say this: join me. Not in accepting this as the new normal, but denying it power over us and our future. Join me in a community that shares love, strength, and truth. Join me in looking past one another’s flaws, mistakes, and prejudices, to the veracity and beauty of our inner Selves, and telling the darkness and hatred in the world that it cannot prevail, it cannot destroy or conquer us, and it cannot and shall not pass.

I will not be silent. I will not stand idle. I will not let this poison kill us.

I will stand with you, in this time of war.

Will you stand with me?

IT CAME FROM NETFLIX! The Hunt for Red October

Logo courtesy Netflix. No logos were harmed in the creation of this banner.


I’m aware that some of you may have been born around or after, say, 1995. That terms like ‘Soviet Union’ and ‘Cold War’ are entries on Wikipedia or chapters in a history book rather than memories of an ominous time. I’m not sure if public school still conduct ‘weather drills’, but when I was young we were herded into the hallways and taught to sit against the wall with our heads between our knees. We didn’t know for certain – well, some of us didn’t – but in later years it became clear that nuclear war was the most likely disaster for which we should be prepared. Doomsday weapons lurked in the imaginations of many writers of fiction, and it was Tom Clancy who showed us what a responsible person would do with such a weapon, in The Hunt For Red October.

Courtesy Paramount Pictures

The weapon is the largest ballistic missile submarine ever built, the Soviet Typhoon-class. The Red October is the newest of that line, equipped with a new propulsion system that renders it silent. Let me repeat that: it’s a submarine roughly the size of a World War 2 aircraft carrier armed with hundreds of nuclear warheads to be showered on a major metropolitan center, and nobody would see it coming. Taking her out on her maiden voyage is Captain Marko Ramius, a haunted man with years of experience, a loyal crew and a fresh grudge to nurse. When he takes Red October away from her planned course, everybody assumes the worst. Everybody, that is, except for a slightly nerdy CIA analyst specialized in fighting sailors like Ramius: Doctor Jack Ryan.

Tom Clancy wrote the book in ’84, and this film adaptation came to us in 1990. Most of the narrative remains intact, and the characters behave as described. A few were cut along with a couple superfluous sub-plots, but you wouldn’t know it given the pace and tension of this fim. It moves smoothly, delivers memorable characters and goes to some interesting places, a journey unhindered by the minutae of submarine warfare.

Courtesy Paramount Pictures
Trust me, there is nothing “minute” about a Typhoon-class submarine.

Oh, there’s plenty of warfare to be had. Hunts through underwater canyons, games of chicken deep underwater with torpedoes, sabotage and intrigue; everything you need to make a good submarine war film is here. The film wisely dispenses with some of the technical details, however, which Clancy used to make his novel nice and thick. By using these volumes of text as a reference and information for visual stylization rather than as a means to directly inform the audience of the goings-on, director John McTiernan makes pehaps the nerdiest form of modern warfare an exciting thing to watch.

This is the same John McTiernan, after all, who brought us the seminal action movie Die Hard. He shows his skill and diversity in Red October, directing a taut Cold War thriller with the same adeptness and wisdom as he does a run-and-gun action flick. He gives the characters time to breathe and grow, then contracts the scene into a tight, tense atmosphere perfectly. The score of Basil Poulidorus and the presence of actors like Sean Connery, Alec Baldwin, Scott Glenn, Sam Neill, Stellan Skarsgaard and the late Robert Jordan deepen and empower the experience, coming together to make a great thriller. He also executes a very clever transition from subtitles to spoken English, helping underscore a message the film conveys which I’ll touch upon in a moment.

Courtesy Paramount Pictures
“Sean, you’re not even going to try and do an accent, are you?”
“I’m Sean Connery, Sam. I don’t
need to do an accent.”

Red October does have a few rough patches here and there. The speaking members of Red October’s crew don’t necessarily pull off convincing Russian accents. Sean Connery in particular clearly remains a Scotsman even when he’s speaking Russian. This doesn’t take that much away from his performance, other than perhaps a little good-natured chuckling at the fact that he’s not even bothering with an accent. The plot isn’t necessarily all that complex, relying less upon screenplay slight-of-hand and more upon smart dialogue and canny scene construction to keep the audience interested. And it’s highly likely you won’t just be interested. I’ve seen this movie several times, and re-watching it recently still had me on the edge of my seat in some scenes despite me knowing the outcome.

It’s doubtful that The Hunt For Red October would be made today the way it was in 1990. While it might still have a good plot and good characters, there was an atmosphere to it in the early 90s that was undeniable, that lent additional weight to its message and meaning. In the course of the film, the message comes across that Americans and Russians, despite an ocean of both seawater and cultural disparity between them, are not so different. In the days when the Soviet Union was barely staying together and the Berlin Wall was coming down, it was important for Americans to not just be given this message but also to embrace it, to help those in Russia seeking a new way of life stay on their feet as the regime that had caused so much suspicion and oppression began to crumble around them. Both the Americans and the Soviets had so many other things to which they could have applied their energies, rather than spending it on pointless arguments, hyperbolic hate and decades-long dick-measuring contests. Thank the Maker we’re so much more enlightened in this day and age, eh?

Courtesy Paramount Pictures
This photo is nowhere near as impressive as the actual shot in the scene this is taken from.

Sarcastic soapboxing aside, I think this is definitely a film worth your time. It belongs on your Netflix queue if you enjoy a gripping thriller, Sean Connery or Sam Neill in snappy black uniforms, some very nerdy in-jokes, great use of several tropes or submarine warfare. It works on a lot of levels, builds atmosphere extremely well and remembers that levity and touching moments are just as important as explosions and military jargon. Even if just for hisorical study and reference, I highly recommend The Hunt for Red October. And no, it’s not just because I have half the lines memorized.

It’s not my fault some of them are so damn memorable.

Josh Loomis can’t always make it to the local megaplex, and thus must turn to alternative forms of cinematic entertainment. There might not be overpriced soda pop & over-buttered popcorn, and it’s unclear if this week’s film came in the mail or was delivered via the dark & mysterious tubes of the Internet. Only one thing is certain… IT CAME FROM NETFLIX.

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