“It’s about time for you to take down your flags, don’t you think?”
That was my dad’s question a couple weeks ago on our way to church – the response? “Um… no not until the end of August. And besides it’s GOOD to be patriotic!” Every summer in late June early July, my mom and I deck the house out in red, white and blue and it remains so until the end of August – at least. What this inconsequential exchange begs of us Americans is to ask: have we forgotten? Have we forgotten what it means to be patriotic? Have we forgotten how to display patriotism – to just be proud Americans? In the hustle-bustle of daily lives, yes, I believe we have. It has been ten years since one event changed how many of us see terrorism – 9/11.
My guess is that for the majority of us it alters how we think of war on the home front. I don’t remember exactly what went through my young teenage mind but do recollect my mom getting a phone call about 9/11. September eleventh changed many, many lives but even for those of us not directly affected, I do not think there were many among us who weren’t emotionally touched. My memories are not as vivid as they would be if it only happened five years ago, but I still remember where I was when hearing the radio announcement that we had declared war – as a young girl, it made quite an impression.
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At the movies, there’s countless stories that recount the heroism from that day or centers on war. Nicholas Sparks wrote the tender romance Dear John which was later appears on-screen in the 2010 drama of the same name. Unfortunately most movies – especially those of recent years take a jaded approach. Their goal is to convince us to hate principles of conflict. Several entertainment outlets during times of war have explored the heart of romance in a time when luxuries were rare and every fleeting moment was precious… but another thing that some adaptations have done is paint a false picture of just what war is really like. It isn’t or wasn’t “exciting” – with exception to certain iconic battles, it is… boring. Most writers have to create a false image of warfare otherwise the better population wouldn’t buy the latest bestseller or put a Hollywood creation on top at the box office. Dear John doesn’t relay on 9/11 for its basis, but it does have something to say about war in general.
The story follows John, a soldier home on leave who meets the vibrant, pretty college student Savannah and is smitten. Every waking moment they are together during his brief leave but all it takes are two weeks for something akin to love to develop between the pair. After John’s return, the two keep in contact through letters… but what neither of them foresaw was the test their relationship would expose with a letter that changes everything. The movie is part drama/romance and part negative commentary on war protest (perhaps, this portion is what many of us are blind too). Since the story does briefly include the 9/11 tragedy, this is one of those movies that tries to besmirch war for everything. From Savannah’s weak self-control to coercing John into re-upping, it quickly becomes an easy target to lay blame on. It is kind of difficult to pick out because the romantic gestures conceal the disrespect towards war. Almost as if on auto-pilot, they use war as reason for tearing apart people’s lives, upsetting the delicate balance that we have in a world rocked by so many sin-driven scandals. Constants in life — whether they be persons or effects or headline news drive people into upheaval (emotional habits) the results of which “allow” us safe culpability towards anything, even where it does not necessarily belong.
In-between all the political correctness and propaganda, there is a lovely story; it’s the “getting there” part that makes for an unhappy reality. Hollywood clouds the idea of war; it’s romanticized. But much like Savannah’s love for John, it isn’t given without condition. Savannah’s excuses for leaving John were petty: physical separation. John is selfless in how he loves Savannah unconditionally; she’s his soul-mate and she doesn’t deserve John. War isn’t something to rag on or left as a handy scapegoat. It’s our honor as citizens humbled by the men and women in uniform: to support them – to thank them.
Circumstances were not cause of Savannah’s decisions – saying that is actually ignorant. Hollywood’s ideas of war are not kind to what is sometimes necessary to preserve human life. Country songwriter Darryl Worley penned a song entitled “Have you Forgotten?” about the 9/11 attacks: have we? Because of media coverage, it’s unlikely that we’ll make it through this week without hearing about the attacks. But have we forgotten them for what they represent? Are we so wrapped up in the less-important things in life that we are now unaware of how privileged we are to call this country “home”?
There is always going to be evil around us in some form or another, what’s important is how we react to it. In that sense, I think we are often forgetful of this day. I do believe we should “move on” from it in healthy ways but never should we forget. John was a hero in the best sense – he was someone easy to root for. His motivations might have been wrong but he fought for the right cause. For generations we fight wars in different ways, for numerous reasons. We have grown weary but comfortable by becoming products in our surroundings – often something so much bigger than us.
And, so… with much gratitude to all the servicemen, policemen and firemen – the American heroes – both past and present: thank you.