I am on an airplane and everyone, including my daughter is asleep, and this means I can watch movies. I have committed myself to almost five hours of Clint Eastwood’s sorrow filled genius. I am bathed in various shades of defused grays, a void empty of color, charged with emotion; I am glued to the tiny screen in front of me.
I have decided to watch Letters from Iwo Jima followed by Flags of Our Fathers. I know nothing of this island, this story, this battle, this sadness accept for this photograph.
The films themselves are brilliant. The first, Letter from Iwo Jima, portrays the Battle of Iwo Jima from the perspective of the Japanese soldiers and is a companion piece to Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers, which depicts the same battle from the American viewpoint. You can read more about each film on the wikipedia pages, but I highly recommend you carve out five hours one night and watch them together. I cannot say which I would recommend seeing first, but they should be viewed tandem.
I couldn't help but sit in the darkness contemplating the needless, pathetic human violence we so often honor. Rethinking words like glory, honor, freedom, and bravery. How long will we allow our young men to be manipulated by the few men in power who long to spill so much unnecessary blood?
Despite Eastwood’s poignant and intertwining stories, I couldn’t help but think how ridiculous it all seems. This propaganda wrapped in dogma that we mistake for truth. These constant wars for freedom and country and god. All sides blinded by self-righteous nationalism. What is it about our countries that so many men feel the need to kill and die for them? How long till they see that they are mere pawns in a game they were never meant to play? How ling before we see the other soldier as the friend and the governments as enemies?
The story of Ira Hayes is one of the saddest things I have ever heard. I encourage you to read the wikipedi page here.
I leave you with a few clips. Do yourself a favor and watch these two films. They will stay with you for some time.