Friday, November 23, 2007

Iraq War film flops...
Public "apathy"?
Or America bashing fatigue?

Leave it to the SF Chronicle to put a bizarre spin on public attitudes towards Iraq. In Joe Garofoli's article today, "Iraq war is hell on the bottom line of box office", he managed to get quite a few Iraq veteran quotes in. All extremely dismayed at the lack luster box office appeal.

"I thought that with the casts (of these films), at least a portion of America would go to see them," said Magruder, a 24-year-old who is taking premed classes at California State University Northridge.... snip...."America doesn't want to deal with Iraq, period," Magruder said. "There's just apathy. And that's what a lot of veterans, no matter what their position on the war, are finding when they come back home."

Magruder enlisted "out of a sense of duty and, because his family had limited financial means, to pay for college.

"The war doesn't end for us when we come home," said Geoff Millard... snip...Most hauntingly realistic to him was the soldier in "In the Valley of Elah" who was struggling after his return home. When that character was overseas, Millard said, he couldn't wait to come home. Now that he was back, he was so uncomfortable that all he could think about was returning. "If people saw (these films), then they wouldn't have an excuse not to do anything about it anymore."

There is a third quote attributed to Army Sgt. Selena Coppa, commenting on how accurate many of the films were on the difficulties returning Vets faced. Like Vietnam veterans, when one views such brutality, it forever affects the mentality. However Coppa's comments did not have the critical "whine" factor exhibited by Magruder and Millard.

Perhaps that's because the Chronicle went out of their way to get at least two of the four veteran quotes from the LA and DC chapter presidents of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. A fourth quote from Joe Wheeler of San Bruno, again emphasizing America's apathy, mentions no affiliation with the organization.

While I certainly respect any veteran's viewpoints on the GWOT after serving, it's a slanted portrayal by the Chronicle - building the article's entire thurst around the minority war veteran protester viewpoints. The majority of our veterans do little public complaining, with most expressing a quiet pride in their jobs well done... without demanding public nods of approval.

However I beg to disagree with these respected veterans. I don't believe the films' box office flop status can be attributed as much to apathy as to a national fatigue of non-stop America bashing. Unfortunately, these films portray our troops and their leadership with a high degree of emphasis on those few flawed apples. And if there is one thing Americans do have (unlike our media and pols), it's a healthy respect for our warriors, and a resistance to them being compared to terrorist thugs in the line of duty.


SGT Coppa said...

While I appreciate the respect that you have expressed in your post, I do have a slightly different viewpoint (of which, of course, very little got put in the article itself, because that is the nature of quotes).

Many troops I know are suffering from some form of PTSD, and many have difficulties adjusting to coming home. While I certainly appreciate your desire to show the better side rather than the uglier underbelly that can sometimes come with military life, sometimes I think it hurts the soldiers who do have it to have that perception out there-that only 'weak soldiers' have problems. It's actually the number one problem the Army has with treating PTSD right now-people who have it often take too long to self-identify because they are afraid of being viewed as a 'flawed soldier', or 'flawed apple', as you put it.

One of the things I liked about the movie is that the people who had problems don't look unusual, they don't look like anyone else. They look just like you and me, just like the soldier serving besides you-just like the real sufferers of PTSD and traumatic brain injury. Because there isn't necessarily anything different about them. Some of the best soldiers I have known have had PTSD when they came home, and have needed to seek treatment. Obviously the movie would have been too long if it had showed the helpful effect such treatment can have, but I really do believe that civilians can help by supporting that view-that PTSD is not unnatural or abnormal, it happens to the best people, and if they don't get help, truly horrible things can in fact happen.

Alia said...

And you, Sgt Coppa have made a very sound point, and true to an extent.

There is a world of difference between "war face" and "PTSD". Most all veterans and active duty do come home with "war face", and it only need require time for the soldier to adjust back into the U.S. life of "normalcy".

PTSD is another matter entirely. On the whole, yes, soldiers do suffer it. But what I perceive Mata was saying; and that which I know first hand is -- not all soldiers have PTSD gran mal -- that is a truly lingering psychologic disturance. Most do not. Most do, however, require time.

My daughter came home with "War Face". Took a few months for it to ebb, for her to digest her experiences. But lingering psychologic trauma? No.

Most firefighters and police after an intense engagement also suffer something similar to "war face"; but it is not a lingering psychologic malady.

The problem, I think is that which is normal -- war face, gets slogged into a PTSD, and that is quite wrong.

Not all soldiers who fight in war are permanently scarred.