Wednesday, February 9, 2011
HOW I BECAME A PACIFIST
Not long ago I found a 2dvd set for $5 of the early 1950s tv show Victory At Sea, one of my favorite things on tv when I was 10, 11 and 12. Victory At Sea was video footage of the Navy on the stormy sea of war. I liked both of them, You Are There of the Army, but preferred Victory At Sea, because I loved looking at the ocean. I watch an episode or two at a time, times when there was no movie in the mail that day, or time I just want to sit and watch something that's not very long. Every one of them takes me back to childhood in that time. This is where I developed my anti-war attitude toward life. I think they were on every day during the summer, or maybe every Saturday, and I saw probably all of them several times. Watching submarines blow up ships, the glorification goes to the submarine and the enemy is a cloud of smoke. They leave out the several hundred young guys that were just like the guys shooting the torpedo, just the other side of the us and them divide, though not always.
I see dead guys on the beach, dead guys floating in the surf, guys getting shot, especially the ones doing the shooting. These were made in 1952, so the sanitizing of war footage for public viewing had not yet begun. Seeing them now, a bit more consciously than seeing them at age 11, I see what I saw then and have forgotten completely, except for the vastness of what I see over and over, European and Asian cities looking like Richmond after the Civil War. Dead people everywhere, desolate people everywhere, the horrors of war captured live on film, edited into half hour documentaries with music composed by Richard Rodgers. They were serious productions. They were the writing of history by the victors and taken very seriously as not only the big war we won, but the ugliness of war in your face to make an impression, to say enough of this. Seeing them now, I see anti-war films in the earliest years of the Military-Industrial-Congressional-Complex, just before the message became perpetual war to keep the economy going. Therefore, only the glory of war to be shown. No more pictures of our boys dead.
I watch these films now amazed at what I saw at age 11. All I remembered are billows of smoke, broken, burned out cities, planes bombing railroad lines, fighters shooting at each other, ships shooting cannons, and kamikazes, of course. There are no moments I remember, but the general impression of the whole is what I've carried unconsciously through time. I know now exactly where I got my anti-war attitudes. These films made war the worst thing I could imagine. Did I want to jump into that and get burned alive on a sinking ship? Did I want to get shot on a beach? Just because I was a boy? I didn't want to kill anybody, especially not some bozo like me on the other side who just wanted to live his life. I see the ships blow up into a cloud of smoke and while everybody on board the sub is shouting hooray, I'm thinking about the guys on the sinking ship, what they're feeling and thinking while the ground goes out from under them. Just because they're Japs wasn't a problem for me. They couldn't help where they were born any more than I could. They got caught up in a shit-happens moment just like me.
I believe these films were put together for the early years of television, 1952, seven years after the end of the war, with the intent to show us what "our boys" had been through, the horror of it, so we could appreciate the war effort, because the German element needed stopping, as did the Japanese. Both powers got out of control. This is the message. Get out of control and the whole world comes down on you. I watch these films seeing what I learned watching them, finding this is the source of some of my major attitudes toward life. The glory part passed me by. I never got that one. They show parades and people waving flags on liberation day, which is a great thing, but what a shame it was to need liberation. They show quite a lot of German and Japanese war footage too, perhaps captured film. Born too late for the propaganda before the war, I saw it all post-war when the Germans and Japs were not our enemies. I had 1/4 German blood, which I was ashamed of for a long time, until I got to Germany in my 40s and saw it was people just like us, a different culture, different language, but ultimately just folks getting by the best they know how.
What got me completely over blaming the German people for the Nazis was seeing the Bush-Cheney-Rummy takeover and how the American public fell for obvious propaganda, how well propaganda works. I watched my own country take the same path. I saw how popular fascism is everywhere, and now I am able to see fascism is not Germany specific. I watch these films made in an America that was very different from the America I live in now. Like I noticed when Obama won the election, after the week of being briefed on all the secrets the President needs to know, he has looked like a deer in the headlights ever since. Then, 1952, a working man could support a wife and kids, house payments, car payments, utilities, insurance, working in a factory, and even put away savings. Now a working man and his wife both have to work full time to keep a trailer rented. Forget savings. 30 years of inflation in what everything costs us, and wages have remained the same for the working people, while CEOs rake in many multiple millions, now billions. Our standard of living is gradually being brought down to that of Malaysia, Honduras, Nigeria, India, and will keep on going downward until we're willing to accept the wages of Indonesian sweatshops. The big wheel keeps on rolling.