ANDY MARTIN: From Restrepo to Palm Beach, Love Stories for July 4th
Andy Martin provides his first comments on the new combat film “Restrepo,” and connects the Americans on duty in Afghanistan with every American here at home, with observations and “love stories” from New York to Palm Beach.
Internet powerhouse Andy Martin connects a series of “love stories” across the 4th of July holiday
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Andy Martin says that in America, “Love changes everything”
Martin says that our love for the United States of America is a unique aspect of our great nation
Andy suggests that Barack Obama’s “lack of love” makes him someone who cannot share our patriotic moments
(NEW YORK)(July 6, 2010) My 4th of July holiday began a week early on June 25th in New York. I had time off and took the opportunity to see the new film “Restrepo.” Restrepo is as powerful a reproduction of the combat environment as I have ever witnessed. The movie was opening in Greenwich Village. Before and after the show one of the soldiers in the film was available to comment. If you have the opportunity (the movie is still not in general nationwide release) go and see Restrepo.
As the film progressed I found myself transformed from Afghanistan to Viet-Nam and Iraq. The reality is that the combat environment never changes: danger, fear, shooting, death and survival. The platoon sergeant said there were parts of the finished project he could not watch. I understood. It took me years to see a “war movie” after having observed the real thing in Viet-Nam. (I was not on active duty in the military.)
Restrepo was filmed in an isolated, desolate valley in Afghanistan. Dozens of men died during a period when senior officers thought the valley had strategic significance. In April, 2010 the valley was abandoned. The movie was shot in 2007-2008.
When you see the film, don’t think of it as a “war” production. Think of Restrepo as a love story. There are two kinds of love in the film. First, there is the love of country. The young men in the platoon are all volunteers. They have offered themselves as living defenders of our nation and the cause of freedom.
Then there is the love among and within the men. It is often said that men do not fight for the president or their generals; they fight for each other. Here you see that love, and love of self-preservation, in graphic detail.
What struck me was the universality of combat as depicted in Afghanistan. The hills where the men march and fight could have been in Viet-Nam. The land was flatter in Iraq, but the danger just as great. The locations change but the killing never does. And, like Viet-Nam and Iraq, the enemy was usually faceless and located right in the village at the bottom of the hill or at the end of the road.
The most difficult part of the film to experience was the aftermath in the theater. One of the men, accompanied by his extraordinary wife, was in the audience. Greenwich Village, where the Angelika Film Center is located, is not perhaps the first place you would think of to see a war movie. The soldier stood up and detailed the traumas he experienced on his return. Luckily, he had a steadfast wife, who also serves in the military, and they have survived the transition.
Bill Clinton cheapened the term “shared pain” because he was so obviously insincere and self-interested. But shared pain is what war is really about. Pain shared on the battlefield, and pain shared after men return home. My own dad came home from World War II completely shattered; I experienced the shared pain of his transition to civilian life after six years of war.
Today we have a growing sense of guilt at home, as the war on terror drags on and we truly do not share the sacrifice with our men and women in uniform. The nation as a whole is not mobilized. We pay the bills, but we do no share the pain. At least most of us do not. Restrepo is a reminder of a bill we cannot afford to ignore and may not be able to redeem.
If you see a solider (or anyone in uniform), or someone in your family is serving, hug them and thank them. Share their pain. It is real and it is horrific. Iraq and Afghanistan have followed the Viet-Nam model (as opposed to Korea and World war II) in that there are no “front lines.” Truck drivers have been awarded Combat Infantryman’s Badges for firefights while they were driving trucks.
War is hell. If you don’t believe me, see Restrepo. You’ll become a believer.
A couple of days after Restrepo there was a church picnic that I had planned to avoid. Too late. One of the priests asked me to accompany several elderly ladies on the ferry to Governor’s Island in New York harbor. The place was especially crowded because Prince Harry was playing polo. With the ladies in tow off I went to the picnic. It was an unusually and surprisingly meaningful experience.
The church choir had selected a medley of songs to sing as part of the picnic entertainment. One of them was “Love Changes Everything,” from the Broadway show. As the choir sang, my mind drifted back to Restrepo.
Love does change everything, both in our own lives and in the life of this nation. No one forces anyone to love the flag, to love our Constitution and to love our men and women in uniform (women are still not allowed in combat infantry units). We can burn the flag and make incendiary comments about our leaders.
But for those of us who truly love the United States, we are in turn changed by that love. Our loyalty is given freely. It is not extracted by the state. Free will makes all the difference.
Sadly, I also thought about our “president,” “President” Barack Obama. I take nothing away from the man in the way he was able to persuade people to vote for him. He is obviously a very talented and intelligent individual. Of course, it helped that he had “Grandpa McCain,” the most incompetent presidential candidate in either party since Bob Dole, as an opponent in 2008.
But Mr. Obama is out of place in the Oval Office. People realize he does not love America; his heart does not love our traditions and institutions. I was shocked when Dorothy Rabinowitz in the Wall Street Journal recently called Obama “an alien.” Of course, I have been sounding that alarm for six years. The realization that we elected a man who is not one of us has spread and continues to metastasize. Obama goes through the motions, but love for America is not in his heart.
This is not the column to regurgitate the debate over Obama’s birth and origin, but it is clear Obama was never bathed in love within his own family. The Kenyan Barack Obama was a man who hated America and the Anglo-American world. Obama’s mother similarly lacked any emotional attachment to the land of her birth. The closest young Obama came to traditional love was the selflessness of his grandparents in raising him after his mother went off to pursue her own interests. And so Obama was not only love-deprived at home, he was deprived of the love of nation and flag that are instilled in almost all of us as we grow up. He is “alien” to our society even if he may not legally be an “alien.”
In return, the men and women of our armed forces do not love Obama. They respect his authority and follow his orders. But it is a loveless relationship. More’s the pity. That was the real message of the McChrystal controversy. The relationship between Obama and the military is a loveless one.
Finally, I ended up at Bethesda Church in Palm Beach for a family visit on the 4th. The rector gave a rousing defense of freedom and especially freedom of religion. He criticized religious extremists of all shades and persuasions. After he preached, the choir sang the Star Spangled Banner.
Deep within me I felt the love that can only flow from the bond established by free individuals within a free nation.
No, the United States is not perfect, and we make many mistakes. Massive ones. My regular readers know I have been on the losing end of big battles in recent years. I opposed the initial Iraq invasion, and Obama’s Afghanistan escalation. But none of the political disputes where my views ended up not prevailing affected my love for the United States.
As an 18 year-old I took the oath of enlistment in the U S Air Force Reserve (part of my advanced corps ROTC program at the University of Illinois). I can still recite my serial number. And I still love the flag and this great nation as much today as I did as an 18 year-old. That’s why I feel so much of a kinship with the young men of Restrepo. The loss of even a single life is a devastating loss to family and to all of us. The loss of America would doom civilization.
I’ll have more to say about Restrepo and the war in Afghanistan in a companion column.
But for this holiday season, I can only say, God Bless America, and God bless the men and women in uniform who put their lives on the line to keep us safe. We can never repay their sacrifice. We can only redeem their great gift of love by living individually and as a nation up to the high ideals which were presented on July 4th, 1776. Men who loved this land enough to gamble their lives and their “sacred honor” on the future of freedom left us a great legacy. And a great responsibility. We will succeed in that mission. “Love changes everything.”
The Stars and Stripes Forever.
ABOUT ANDY: Andy Martin is the legendary New York and Chicago-based muckraker, author, Internet columnist, radio talk show host, broadcaster and media critic. He has over forty years of background in radio and television and is the dean of Illinois media and communications. He promotes his best-selling book, “Obama: The Man Behind The Mask” and his Internet movie “Obama: The Hawai’i years.” Martin has been a leading corruption fighter in Illinois for over forty years. He is currently sponsoring http://www.AmericaisReadyforReform.com
Andy is the Executive Editor and publisher of the “Internet Powerhouse,” http://www.ContrarianCommentary.com. He comments on regional, national and world events with more than four decades of investigative and overseas experience. He holds a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law and is a former adjunct professor of law at the City University of New York (LaGuardia CC, Bronx CC).
Andy’s columns are also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com; contrariancommentary.wordpress.com.
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