Saturday, March 20, 2010

"the hurt locker" and mark twain

(Guernica by Pablo Picasso)

tonight i spent time with my friends (and some new soon-to-be-friends), watching The Hurt Locker and, on this 7th Anniversary of the Iraq Invasion and subsequent War, how we feel about war, about soldiers, about violence in general.

As I walked home tonight, I kept reflecting on whether there are places in the world safe from violence. Is there good in the world? Are we really going to make a difference? I also thought about how old, and how barbaric, this warrior mentality is.

The perspective of The Hurt Locker, for some reason, also reminded me of Mark Twain's The War Prayer - it can be found in it's entirety here but the part that particularly spoke to me was the following piece of satire:

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells;

help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead;

help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain;

help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire;

help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief;
help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet!

We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

This is what war asks of us (both soldiers and civilians)- this is what we sign off when we send troops to war. and, throughout the ages, in both words and images, people have tried to portray the true cost of this. Whether or not The Hurt Locker will succeed in making people think twice about our current wars is not yet known, but I would find it very difficult to finish that film without realizing that what we ask of our soldiers can be barbaric indeed.

it also helped me remember that, as a Christian, I have a special and beautiful call to use my faith to oppose the idea of a Warrior God, of a Killer Christ. These American ideas (which clearly were part of Mark Twain's time as well) seem to have taken root in our ideology. we use theological differences as an excuse for violence. we believe that a God of Love will forgive us, in the end, for this intense bloodshed. If we didn't think that, somehow, how could we support deaths by bombing, death by machine guns, death by the implicit and explicit costs of war? I don't think so, and now it's my job to figure out what that means for me. I guess what it means in the short-term is that tonight's dreams will be violent, terrifying, and profoundly sad. just like war...

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