Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Wind That Shakes the Barley

A few weeks ago I rented The Wind That Shakes the Barley, a movie from 2006 starring Cillian Murphy, the hero of 28 Days Later. TWTSTB won the Palme d'Or at Cannes, but I hadn't heard much about it. It turned out to be quite moving, esp. in regard to the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. The setting is Ireland during its struggle for independence from Britain after World War I. British soldiers descend on a farm, brutalizing the people, insulting the women and killing one of the men. Torture was depicted with horrifying intimacy, even though it wasn't terribly graphic.

My immediate reaction was perplexed amusement. I thought, "Why are they being so mean to those guys? They're both the same color!" The idea that ethnic hatred could exist between two groups of white people was foreign to my 21st Century American brain. It certainly put our occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan in a new light. For the last few years I've watched in impotent rage as Iraqis and Afghans are killed, imprisoned or merely traumatized by our brutal, arbitrary attacks. But my fury has been numbed by the tedious duration of the war, the seemingly endless (to the point of banality) repetition of its crimes and the monotonous, morally expedient media coverage that has induced in us a comfortable complicity. I have to admit that seeing white people as the victims helped bring the situation home for me again, esp. considering they were Irish and I'm 3/4 Irish.

Our wars overseas have become background noise in the presidential campaign. Now that the economy appears to be tanking, even less attention will likely be paid to the ongoing tragedies in the Middle East for which we are largely responsible. How sad it is that our own financial insecurity worries us more than the survival of millions living at the other end of our guns.

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