Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Real heroes


Went to see Flags of our Fathers last night, the Clint Eastwood helmed new war movie.

First: mini review. This is the story of the guys who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in WWII. They become celebrities overnight, and the Department of the Treasury uses them to raise war bonds. They keep being called "heroes" however, and they don't feel they deserve it.

It's impossible not to compare this film with Saving Private Ryan, and I think if this one had come out first it would have been hailed as massively groundbreaking. Perhaps because it was filmed in washed-out color near to black and white, and perhaps because Eastwood's point was different, it didn't resonate as much with me as Private Ryan did. But it's clearly phenomenal filmmaking.

Warning: much gore and violence. In the Private Ryan battle scene, the individual acts of violence were non-stop, very very sudden and quick. You could feel the soldiers' survival instincts kick in, and they moved fast rather than lingering on any one death or maiming. In Flags, again perhaps because the battle itself was different, the gore was lingered on more. The battle scenes were interspersed throughout the film, setting up the irony between Iwo Jima and the subsequent war bonds tour. The back and forth had me wincing, unusual for me in a film of this kind.

And, the message. The message in Spielberg's film was more subtle, a brief moment in the film's dialog near the end. In Eastwood's, it was right in the narration. While I don't fault the sentiment, I wonder if the point could have been made with less of a hammer.

Okay, enough review. Now to the message itself, actually a very powerful one and I suppose it's good that people hear it loud and clear.

"They might have been fighting for their country,
but they were dying for their friends—
the man in front of them, the man right behind them."

The question becomes, what makes a hero? The theme of course made me think instantly of Jesus' statement in the Gospel of John:

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

--John 15:13

It's occurring to me, is this the definition of hero? I think of mothers sacrificing every day for their children, of husbands protecting their wives, of police and firefighters risking all to save another, of our soldiers overseas. The moment of heroism comes when you forget self in order to bless another.

Interestingly, it's that forgetting of self that keeps most heroes from believing they were being heroic. Often they'll say, it was no sacrifice, or I wasn't trying to be a hero. And it seems that would go with the territory. Heroism implies a sharp focus on thinking about the other to the exclusion of all else. You do what needs to be done for the moment, but you may then go back to feeling afraid or tired or stressed. So you don't give yourself credit for the heroism that you really deserve.

I'm sitting here, thinking back, and there is a time or two where I might have qualified as heroic. Not in the sense of putting myself in physical danger, but maybe emotionally or professionally. Hmm. I'll need to think about that more.

When have you been heroic? Are you giving yourself enough credit?

Your ideas and inspiration are welcome! Please comment below or Contact Laura.
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