Thursday, May 16, 2013

Sergeant York

The Howard Hawks Blogathon is a celebration of the life and career of director Howard Hawks, and is hosted by the blog Seetimaar. For a complete list of participating bloggers, visit the website.

Sergeant York
seen on TV @ TCM
5.10.13

I imagine that for as long as man has waged war on each other, there have been individuals with moral objections to the practice. It's certainly not hard to imagine why. Someone once described war as a failure of the imagination, and when one considers how long some conflicts have lasted, that definition makes a lot of sense.


I like to believe that if it came down to protecting my family and/or my home - if, like, aliens invaded Earth and we had to fight them off, Independence Day-style, say - I'd do what I had to do. One can never be truly certain of what one would do in such an extreme situation unless it actually happened. Still, I know that going off to fight for any less of a reason would give me pause. I was in college when Operation Desert Storm happened, and though I never truly believed the US would start up the draft again, I admit the possibility occurred to me... and it scared me. That was one war I wanted no part of.

Part of the problem with war is that there's rarely a good justification for it. There's a reason why Hollywood loves movies about World War 2: it was easy to identify the bad guys, and after Pearl Harbor, it was easy to recognize them as a clear and present danger (to America, anyway).

As we've clearly seen in recent years, however, misinformation and incomplete information have not kept us from getting dragged into foreign conflicts, nor has a lack of Congressional support (technically, only Congress can declare war, though you'd never realize it in this post-9-11 era). When your leaders misconstrue the facts and  offer flimsy justifications for waging war, being a conscientious objector becomes rather easy - at least, if one recognizes the obfuscations and deceptions for what they are.


I'm not a pacifist. I recognize that there are times when you have to stand up for yourself through violent means, simply because it's that kind of world. That said, I also recognize and respect non-violence as a legitimate and personal response to injustice. The civil rights movement was founded on this principle, for example. However, one can't ignore the fact that rioting was also a major factor in that movement. One can go back and forth over which act gets more immediate results. I certainly don't pretend to know the answer, however, I'm convinced that practicing non-violence takes a hell of a lot more courage.



Being a secular person, I can't competently speak to the religious conflict that Alvin York overcame to fight for America in World War One, although I'll say this much: the very fact that he found parts of the Bible that supported both non-violence and violence makes me wonder if he ever found any other contradictions within it. The Bible offers good advice on how to live, this is true, but it was written by men from different time periods and with different agendas, and unfortunately, people don't take this into account as much as they probably should.



The story goes that the only way York would agree to having a movie made about him is if it would help pay for a Bible school. He is also alleged to have only wanted Gary Cooper for the part. If true, that turned out to be a good choice, since Cooper would win Best Actor for the part, and the film itself, Sergeant York, got nominated for eleven Oscars, including Best Picture.

I watched this film with my mother. Unlike my father, my mother isn't all that knowledgeable about most movies, not even ones from her era. She knew who Cooper was, though. She mentioned how much she liked him in High Noon. She likes to try and anticipate what will happen in a movie; every once in awhile, she'll blurt out a prediction, like, he's gonna do this or they're gonna do that. She tends to be about fifty-fifty. At one point early on, I had to remind her that bad things have to happen in order for there to be a story. Sometimes she takes story conflict a little too seriously. Still, she definitely liked Sergeant York.

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Related:
The movies of Howard Hawks in limericks

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