Archive for May, 2010

Fun With Mommy

May 31st, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from Austro-Athenian Empire.

Last night I watched, on and off, most of a 1928 John Ford silent movie called Four Sons. It wasn’t a great movie (it’s gaggingly sentimental, for one thing), but it was surprisingly anti-war and anti-government for a Memorial Day movie.

Four Sons (well, two of them)

It’s about an elderly Bavarian woman whose four sons all go off to fight in World War I, three on the German side and one, who has emigrated to America, on the American side. The three who fight for Germany are all killed one after another (the third dying in the arms of the fourth), but despite this the mother is bullied and treated as a pariah by the local military authorities (played with entertaining villainy) because the fourth son is a “traitor.”

After the war her only surviving son invites her to come live with him in America, but the u.s. immigration authorities refuse to let her in because the bereaved and traumatised woman can’t pass the literacy test.

The ending doesn’t make much sense – panicked and bewildered, she wanders away from Ellis Island and onto the streets of Manhattan (how she “wanders” across New York Harbor is never explained, unless she is even more saintly than she appears), and when a policeman learns her story he implausibly delivers her to her son rather than back to Ellis Island; cue happy-ish ending.

The German military brass are portrayed as treating civilians with contempt and taking petty revenge on them for tiny slights; the American authorities seem nicer, but try to keep the woman from her surviving son anyway, explaining that they’re just following orders. The war is portrayed as utterly pointless. So, all in all, not a bad Memorial Day movie.

[Read the original at Austro-Athenian Empire (2010-05-31)...]

Revisionist History Day, 2010

May 31st, 2010

This is a syndicated post, originally from Free Association.


Today is Revisionist History Day, what others call Memorial Day. Americans are supposed to remember the country's war dead while being thankful that they protected our freedom and served our country. However, reading revisionist history (see a sampling at the link above) or alternative news sites (start with Antiwar.com and Antiwar Radio with Scott Horton) teaches that the fallen were doing no such thing. Rather they were and are today serving cynical politicians and the "private" component of the military-industrial complex in the service of the American Empire.

In that spirit, I again quote a passage from the great antiwar movie The Americanization of Emily. You'll find a video of the scene below. This AP photo is a perfect illustration of what "Charlie Madison" is talking about.
I don't trust people who make bitter reflections about war, Mrs. Barham. It's always the generals with the bloodiest records who are the first to shout what a Hell it is. And it's always the widows who lead the Memorial Day parades . . . we shall never end wars, Mrs. Barham, by blaming it on ministers and generals or warmongering imperialists or all the other banal bogies. It's the rest of us who build statues to those generals and name boulevards after those ministers; the rest of us who make heroes of our dead and shrines of our battlefields. We wear our widows' weeds like nuns and perpetuate war by exalting its sacrifices....

My brother died at Anzio – an everyday soldier’s death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . [N]ow my other brother can’t wait to reach enlistment age. That’ll be in September. May be ministers and generals who blunder us into wars, but the least the rest of us can do is to resist honoring the institution. What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She’s under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave. [Emphasis added.]
Enjoy the day. I'll spend some of it reading revisionist history and watching Emily.

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[Read the original at Free Association ()...]