Band of Brothers

This past Thursday I had the opportunity to watch the 2001 HBO series Band of Brothers with a few of my Northwestern Intercultural Studies friends. This piece by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks chronicles the experiences of Easy Company of the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army, fighting in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Austria. It centers around some of the major events of the WWII in Europe; the D-Day landings in Normandy, Operation Market Garden, and the Battle of Bastogne. We only made it to the 7th hour.

This post has taken longer than usual to write. I was not quite sure how to phrase my thoughts without sounding trite...

I have never seen that much gore in my whole life. I do not voluntarily watch horror movies for that very reason; it is something I try to avoid. But now that I think of it, horror is the word I would use to describe this war mini-series. Not the kind of horror one finds in "Saw", however (not that I actually know, I've never seen it). I'd go more along the lines of “shocked astonishment" or "I wanted to throw up" or "half-furious, half-weeping". It was a mixed bag of emotions.

Now, I've seen war movies: historical and Hollywood (Pearl Harbor, the Patriot, Cold Mountain, aka romances with battle scenes) and I have two veteran grandfathers and one German (step) great uncle who lived in Germany during WWII. I've heard stories, read books, and shed a few tears. But I didn't understand war. I don't understand war.

Its unreal. Literally, un (not) - real (a reality). Let me just say this now so you may follow me: watching this mini-series helped me understand a piece of what war (particularly WWII) means. Don't mistake me, I fully recognize that it was just a movie, but it was so much more than blood and guts.

There were 9 (I think) of us in front of the television, and I had missed the first two episodes; 5 men, 4 women. At every crack or whiz of the gun or shell, my girl friends and I sunk deeper behind the next person's shoulder. Bones stuck out of shins, throats were blown open, blood pouring out the gaping holes. Hopelessness, helplessness. I have never met with that sort of fear and chaos, it hurt my heart.

To the credit of the film, we actually started crying (well, I can only verify my own tears, yet I'm pretty sure I wasn't the only one), but no orchestrated ceremony was given to the dead. Their compatriots were thrown into piles. Not for cruelty, but necessity. I was so angry at this relentless mutilation and loss of life. I found myself whispering under my breathe, "stop, please stop". "Why can't they get along, Why are they doing this??"

I know that sounds naive, foolish even, but I believe that witnessing this sort of grotesque display of death and desperate aggression can bring even the most sophisticated mind and detached heart to brink of childlike pleading. Since I, of course, possess neither, it is not difficult to understand my thoughts.

Then, out of the darkness of the living room, someone answered my soft whispers, "the Holocaust".

..... ..... .....

Oh. Yeah.

It would be silly to assert that that acrimonious, perverse campaign of persecution propelled (alliteration) us into the conflict, but it was a monstrous oversight that I had forgotten it.

But the point of my story is not the horrors of the Holocaust, nor is this is a discourse for or against use of arms in international persuasion, but rather the realization that I have grown up in the a world where war means brief news updates and a few friends with buzzed hair.

Have you noticed that bravery many times equals insanity? Just a thought.

In a break, we asked ourselves (the girls) if we would have volunteered as medics, nurses? Watching their work during the film challenged our once determined heroism. Would you really stick your hand in a torn chest cavity? But repairing the physical damage is not the worst. Could you have coped with the eventual deaths of the hundreds of men you sought to save? Work so hard to save so many, only to have them die, again and again.

Yes, yes, we know that war is a bit different now days, but we would be remiss to forget that so many of our fellow humans beings are caught in warfare everyday:

If this proves depressing and you are in want of some cheering up, I have thought of that .