Platoon and “Adagio for Strings”

Last night, in my usual inability to sleep mode, I was flipping through the channels, and I caught the tail end of Platoon. Usually, when I see this movie in the listings, I keep right on going. I figure one viewing is pretty traumatic, and twice is enough, so I will not subject myself to another. But last night I was feeling pretty down, and I just couldn’t help myself, so I stopped on the channel. Sometimes, you do things to yourself that you know that you shouldn’t, and you know exactly what the outcome is going to be, not of the movie, but the outcome of your reaction.

Platoon is one of those movies that is so visceral that I dare anyone to watch it and not be touched in some way by it. The scene in which Willem Dafoe’s character Elias is killed is so gut-wrenching that I still find myself holding my breath when I watch it, even though I know that his arms being thrown towards the heavens are his body’s death paroxysms from sprays of bullets to his back.

But Oliver Stone’s masterpiece about the Viet Nam war is made all the more real by setting this homage to human brutality to one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” And so, as Charlie Sheen’s Chris is being airlifted out in the closing scenes, Barber’s Adagio is hauntingly ripping at what is left of your last tenuous semblance of composure.

And then, because I was already an emotional wreck, I thought I would watch Babel. I didn’t make it past the first hour.

But I am reminded of the movie’s tag line: “The first casualty of war is innocence.” And this brings to mind a startling statistic of which I was not fully aware until just recently: We have been fighting in Iraq longer than the U.S. fought in either WWI or WWII. World War I lasted 4 years and just under 5 months. The U.S. role in World War II started in December of 1941; it ended with the Japanese surrender in 1945. However, the U.S. was involved in Viet Nam over a decade.

Granted, wars are different now, and the Iraqi war is not Viet Nam. But we continue to lose troops. And we continue to bring troops home who are not the same as when they left. And John McCain’s voting record for veterans is abysmal. Go here if you want details http://www.ireport.com/docs/DOC-89976.

My dad was a veteran of three wars, and if I could only vote on one issue to decide who gets to be the next president of the United States, it would be how this person would treat the men and women who fight, and die, and sacrifice almost everything for the rest of us, not just when they are giving up everything in a foreign land thousands of miles away, but when they come home and ask for something more than due them in return.

The first casualty of war may be innocence. But the last casualty of war should not be its veterans.