Apr 20, 2006

Sir No Sir!

You must run to see this excellent and important documentary now showing at the IFC Center on 6th Ave and W3rd St. Sir no Sir! is a powerful film about the GI anti-war movement in Vietnam. It just makes one feel ashamed at the collective apathy and lack of balls we all have manifested in comparison.
Here's the little review that appeared in The New Yorker and made me pay attention:
The rise of protest against the Vietnam War is more than forty years in the past. This blunt, heartfelt documentary, directed by David Zeiger, revives those passionate days and restores the historical record with his account of widespread opposition to the war from within the U.S. military itself. Starting with the lonely voices of Donald Duncan, a Green Beret who resigned his commission in 1965, and Howard Levy, a dermatologist who accepted court-martial rather than train other Army doctors, Zeiger presents men and women who braved the stockade or worse to denounce the war from within. Jane Fonda is a character here, as she gives a moving account of her activities on behalf of the soldiers themselves. Along the way, myths are dispelled and dormant outrage reignited: Zeiger’s technique, though conventional, is eloquent, as are the interviewees, whose righteous energy burns as brightly now as in the evocative archival footage.—R.B. (IFC Center.)
True, it's a different era. These are not the sixties anymore, where there was so much revolution going on: the civil rights movement, the hippie movement, women's lib. Young people truly felt the world needed to be changed. And to their credit, they tried to change it. Now, when you hear about somebody changing the world it's usually Bill Gates or Google or some stupid phone company. Now we have lobotomized complacency all around.
As one of the original Vietnam Vets said yesterday after the opening screening, there are instances of resistance currently that have actually made a dent: the widespread protests in France about the new labor rules, and the mass mobilization of this country's immigrants. Then why is it that about this misbegotten war nobody seems to be doing anything?
It's a different coverage of the war: we never see the civilian injuries, the maimed soldiers, the draped coffins coming home. This war is kept as far away from our human consciences as possible. It's a distant, sanitized war about an enemy that perhaps Americans feel more justified in attacking, even though those poor Iraqis had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11.
Also, as Sydney Schanberg mentioned in a panel after one of the performances of Stuff Happens, this government has not asked us to sacrifice absolutely anything. The stock market is up, the President advises us to go shopping, and the only people making any sacrifices are the soldiers and their families... people don't care. Will they care now that gas prices are hitting an all time high? Will that finally push them to the brink of outrage? What if the finale of American Idol is bumped to show some important news about the war? Bummer? Or does something utterly monstruous need to happen to wake people up to the Irak disaster? Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, the illegal spying, and now our very scary nuclear pissing contest with Iran, none of this seems to bother most Americans.
A young woman stood up yesterday after the opening screening of Sir no Sir! and talked about how she was part of the anti-war movement. Perhaps she is. She and fifteen other cats. What anti-war movement? Where is it? As my dear moviegoing companion pointed out to me, every time we go to a film like this or an anti-war lecture, most of the people in the audience have white hair. It's the hippies from the sixties all over again. I can't imagine how they feel now, having been through that momentous era, to come all the way back to the worst national regression ever. It must be dismaying. Where are the young people now? Why aren't they demanding that their peers come back unharmed? Boy, I so wish there was a compulsory draft service. Then we'd see a righteous anti-war movement in an instant.
There are also Iraq Veterans against the war. One of them showed up yesterday. A young man with a Hispanic last name who has been a career soldier for 14 years. Last year he asked to change his status to a conscientious objector and says that his case is still pending, so he's still in service.

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