Tuesday, January 25, 2011

my only social commentary on war

The other day I watched Full Metal Jacket, which is an extremely well-made film by Stanley Kubrick about soldiers in the Vietnam War. This was one of the most intense movies I've ever seen, not because the story was engaging or because I was on the edge of my seat, but because these things actually happened.

Full Metal Jacket was disgusting. For those who haven't seen it, the film depicts many of the horrors of war. Merciless killing in completely fictional movies like Die Hard or 28 Days Later are gruesome, but at the end of the day there's no such thing as zombies or John McClane. The thought passing through my consciousness throughout the film was that these boys really did this. The drill sergeant making his Marines feel like nothing more than killing machines; the Vietnamese women selling their bodies for a few American dollars; the decision to leave behind fallen soldiers whose real names were not common knowledge, but were rather known by pseudonyms. On top of all that, so many of these men did not know why they were in Vietnam besides to kill "gooks". Those who had the best non-homicidal response thought that they were there to fight for freedom, which is still argued today. Would we all be Communist today if it weren't for the American forces in Vietnam; a "war" which many believe the Americans lost?

This film depicts the horrors that have become far too common in regard to war. Not only that, there are too many similarities between 1960s Vietnam and 2000s Middle East to overlook this film as a social commentary almost 25 years later. Today, men are enlisting for service for many reasons; reasons which I do not know or understand because I am among the last Americans who would ever enlist. In the film, and possibly today, they are ridiculed into believing the only good they serve is as killing machines. Their personalities are erased by their nicknames and the identity they take in their new lives. Soldiers come home with PTSD struggling to remember what life was like before battle.

Whether you believe in the United States' involvement in wars or not is a subject that could be discussed up and down, side to side, and still not resolved. Some believe that there is no cause worth going to war over. Some believe that for evil to be halted the United States must take this action. I can see both sides of the argument.

Regardless, this movie helped to show me what has happened. Innocent people were being killed like they are in a video game. Soldiers were looking for any way to be numbed about what they were experiencing. People often fought without knowing what they were fighting for.

This still happens today and it has to stop. As a Christian, I am called to love my neighbor. Is Kim Jong-Il my neighbor? Was Saddam Hussein my neighbor? Are you my neighbor? Yes to all. We are also called to not kill, but we're told that this extreme form of pacifism is not possible in today's society if evil dictators are to be stopped. The voice of reason is a quiet one when there are nuclear weapons involved.

I support our troops and our government as an American. I do not, however, support killing our fellow man for any reason. How do I blend the two together?

Speak softly and carry a big stick. - Theodore Roosevelt

Love your neighbor as yourself. - Jesus Christ


  1. Hi Jake! Nice blog! Interesting article you've written. Perhaps some time we can meet and talk about it... While I don't share your sentiment fully, I really appreciate your heart and passion regarding the subject.

    Remember: There is always a reality beyond the one that you perceive... and the better part of wisdom is knowing what all of those realities might be... Everyone wants you to own their version and non other... no matter what they would say otherwise...

    Take care brother!


  2. Jake this is a very thoughtful and interesting entry. I have tended to agree with this in the last few years. It's a conflict. I find myself arguing against both sides.

    I don't think there's an easy answer. I do not think we would 'all be Communist' without the war, but hindsight is 20/20. I also wonder how Christians ought to function in a broken world.

    Jesus would say we should give the shirt off our back. Should we give our nation, too? Does it make sense to protect religious freedom with violence?

    I encourage you to pursue this further, Jake. Consider the old and new covenants God made with His people.

    I'd love to talk to you more about this.