Sunday, June 29, 2008

Goliath, Through The Looking Glass

Over a span of two days - thanks to various baby interruptions and futbol matches- Rich and I watched a film called In the Valley of Elah, starring Texas native and true cowboy, Tommy Lee Jones. If you haven't seen the movie and want to, this may be a spoiler and you should stop reading. Otherwise, read on and feel free to offer any insight.

In In the Valley of Elah, Tommy Lee Jones plays a strong, silent US veteran named Hank who still creases his sheets and shines his shoes, army style. Hank's youngest son (the eldest having died in combat), Mike, who has just completed a tour in Iraq and is back in the US, goes AWOL and later is found grotesquely murdered. Hank makes it his mission to discover who and why anyone would want to kill the boy that he "raised right," with all of the good-ole-boy - open the door for a lady - type manners.

Without going into a whole lot of plot detail, I can say that in the end Hank realizes that the country for which he fought and for which both of his sons died, is in serious trouble. He no longer recognizes any of the old school, "yes mam" American moral values in the person he thought was his son or in the current military - a code that Hank, a generation removed, still unwaveringly lives by. In fact he mostly finds selfish corruption, hatred, debauchery, thievery, and self-devouring cruelty in varying forms - Gitmo type behaviors that allow for members of his son's squadron - his "brothers" - to repeatedly stab Mike, cut his body into pieces, burn them, and leave them to be scattered by the animals. The only "good" member of Mike's squadron, the only one disgusted by the actions of his squad, is a drug dealer.

Afterwards, the murderers chillingly use military lingo, including the word "sir" to apologize, showing that the military still gives the illusion that they are the upstanding organization that they were 20 years ago - the wolf in sheep's clothing.

In the end Hank raises the American Flag, only instead of flying Old Glory in pristine condition as is shown in the beginning of the film, he takes a tattered flag that Mike sends to him from Iraq and hangs it upside-down, remarking to the El Salvadorian man who is usually in charge of posting the colors and who speaks English with a heavy accent (nothing masked there) that an upside-down flag is a symbol of a nation in dire distress. The actual line is, "It means we're in a whole lot of trouble, so come save our ass because we don't have a prayer in hell of saving ourselves."

The jury is still out on whether or not blame for what is perceived as our country's distress lies in some sort of disconnect within our day to day American values or whether it is the stress of war that causes the synapses in "our boys" to misfire. Are we talking about PTSD or a collapse in civilization?

I couldn't tell if the statement being made was that as a nation we need to return to our conservative roots as a remedy, or if those roots are what directly lead to rebellion. Why do we need to be heroes? Do we create conflict in order to make ourselves worthwhile?

And I understand that the whole of the armed forces is not as corrupt as the movie would have us believe; I know lots of really good people, with good intentions (my students included) who feel led by God to join-up to protect their loved ones from those who would do harm. They live their lives in a way that they feel is virtuous, with integrity.

And I do know that there is a need for a military - one that is wholly led by a universal code of righteousness (which doesn't really exist in a fallible world, but then our humanness is what warrants the existence of a military in the first place - oooh vitreous circle!).

Woven throughout the movie is also the story/theme of David and Goliath* who fought in the actual Israeli Valley of Elah - hence the name of the film. But the modern roles remain unclear. Who is the new David? Who is the Goliath?

And ultimately, if David fought the giant armed only with simple courage and a rock, then what are we doing with armor and bombs? Wouldn't that make us the Goliath? And that would make David..

All of this is rattling around in my noggin, and I am not certain how to feel or what to say about any of it, being the person I am - excellent at noting the conflict, but unwilling to engage in it - like the Israelites who wouldn't face the giant. I will say that our flags should be flown upside-down. Currently we are the Goliath. We are the bully, the bad guy. We are losing the integrity that perhaps we once held in high esteem, though I hate to equate this with secularization. However, religion does provide some sort of moral guideline. Also, we've lost community and are struggling with hand-to-mouth charity. We are good at writing checks, though, as long as we don't have to touch, smell, or see the people we're "helping".

Any thoughts?

Those who believe in the God of Abraham have probably heard the story of David and Goliath: Goliath, a Philistine (and giant bad guy), challenges any Israelite to a one on one combat twice a day for 40 days straight while each army is standing firm on either side of the Valley of Elah. Saul and his men cower in fear at each of Goliath's challenges; none would accept - until young David, who was there passing out food to his big brothers, decided he would heed the call. And of course, as the story goes, David fought Goliath using only a sling shot and a rock - no armor - and felled the giant in one shot. The moral being that all one needs is courage to persevere against 'evil.' David then goes on to be king of Israel.

15 comments:

Mark said...

maybe we should say it is the global empire of capital and big land owners that is also the real Goliath, and the US, UK and EU likewise in their role as main cheerleaders, guarantors and protectors which hold these self-same interests. I saw the placard signs in Tiananmen Square 1989 before massacre that read: "I love democracy more than bread" and I think it there I see the true spirit of David. But don't we need both, democracy and bread? A picnic is then as good a place as any other to begin!

Amira A. said...

Granted I never watched In the Valley of Elah (mostly because nothing I'd heard from customers led to me to believe it was that good), but I wouldn't think the David and Goliath analogy is something as concrete as "us versus them." Even us versus our own institutions.

Then again, I do like my analogies good and intangible (us versus our own arrogance; that seems like long odds to me).

Mark said...

Amira I think you're right, so maybe it's about us vs ego. Apparently in at least one Nigerian dialect the word "ego" translates to "money talks"

Capital, pre capita
etc

Hopefully that's intangible enough for you!

Ginger said...

I agree, Amira, that there is probably not a concrete meaning here, and maybe we should examine our own internal Goliath tendencies (the ego, as Mark says) as opposed to more tangible ones.

I hesitate to totally blame capital for everything; first of all it's too abstract of an enemy, and secondly, without it, there wouldn't be that branch of altruism. (I still support Bono.) :P But yes, money is the root of evil - and evil existed in the very first garden, "the best of all possible worlds".

(Oh, you're going to get me for that one..)

And also, poor David was human, too - that spirit of his defiled..

What are we to do?

Ginger said...

Christine! Where are you?

Ginger said...

Sorry - one more thing..
Amira, the movie wasn't excellent. In fact, the filmaker almost tried too hard to include all of the symbolism and make everything relevant. It just struck a chord with me.

Mark said...

Perhaps Goliath is the powers of the above, and David those of the below. ie the enemy is the system of powers

I agree that capital per se isn't the problem so much as those who own it and the free reign they have and unholy cahoots with others they enter in deciding what to do with it..

Christine said...

Without seeing the movie, it's hard for me to weigh in on the whole David and Goliath metaphor. I have to thank Ginger for telling me about the valley of Elah reference. On the upside, I learned something new. On the downside, I also learned that Sunday school might have been useful after all.

You raise the question of whether or not we should be flying the flag upside down. I'd say no. I'd say wait and see how this election goes, and, more to the point, whether people continue to be involved and interested in politics. I feel we're at a turning point, that there are a number of factors coming together that will test us as a country, and I'm hoping (and hopeful) we'll pass with (yeah, I mean this pun) flying colors. (it was horrible but totally irresistable... lo siento)

Jamie has his money on a burning Reichstag or a complete meltdown. I try to be the positive one in the relationship. :)

Amira A. said...

Mmmm.... Abstractions are delicious.
:P

I don't know. Maybe money does have something to do with it. I don't think it's the evil that people want it to be. Most of the time I just think of it as an indicator of less savory ambitions.

Not that success is unsavory. I don't know.

I've used up my smart moment already.

And since you've already given me what I'm going to assume to be the best part of the movie (the spark of debate/conversation/general interest), I'll just say thank you for letting me know I haven't really missed anything. :)

Mark said...

I've set up a facebook group for the civil libertarian picnic campaign. you can find it by searching for the Freedom Picnic Campaign. Pls join up, forward it around, keep in touch and get picnicking!

Best wishes
m

Ginger said...

You guys rock!
Thanks for the lively discussion and for helping to save my sanity!

Fougs - I am glad you don't think our flags are upside-down worthy. Some days I waver back and forth (get it? waver? wave? like a flag.. yeesh. I haven't slept very much lately.) I think there is so much that needs to change and I think that we have a lot of integrity to make-up. And sometimes I think we should fall as a nation or that we have to, in order to regain a little humility. I may be starting to sound like Jamie here - who is incredibly smart and wonderful (!)- but yes, pessimistic. We just need to continue to remember that the nation is made of people and I think there are still a lot more goodies than badies out there. And don't tell me otherwise. I just had a kid. Look at our classrooms, for example.

Amira - You need to come back once a month for salon night! We could really use your input. But I know.. I know.. college, work, yada yada yada. Still, If you ever get a chance.. Also, I need help with In Design. I may contact you about a tutorial or something.

Mark - I have no facebook! Only a myspace! The students say that facebook is better, though. I'll check it out and hopefully so will the others who read here.

Y'all have a great 4th!

Amira A. said...

Facebook is better than myspace.

Anyway, it's been a while since I used InDesign; not sure how much help I'll be, but I'll do what I can. And I would like to come up to A-town. Maybe if I ever get a license....

Mark said...

Freedom in Our Time

Ginger said...

Sorry Mark,
The blog made me laugh a little. Though there may be truth in the overall message, it is so overstated and accusatory that docile American Christians and their allegience pledging school children would never take it seriously, especially in the comment section. So, even if the veil could be lifted so that all could unite and agree that (the same kind of) change must be made in the US, it won't be through this venue. This offers no suggestions (other than to get rid of the pledge and replace it with another recitation) as to how people can positively come together - it just says that some people (and, btw, the conservative W-loving Christians are people)are wrong and brainwashed - hardly motivation for them to make a change.

I found the blog post both interesting (well documented, though I haven't checked context)and inflammatory but wothout mission, other than it inadvertently creates more separation between those who understand the writer's message and those who know a different truth.

It is a very nice study in rhetorical device, though.

Mark said...

i think it's interesting in that the *right* wing is now starting to grow in size/recognition about the fundamental flaw at the heart of the state-allegiance facist model of patrotism, and the awful truth about what corporate consumer America has done to its own people's brains and the wider world.

clearly this man's associates are right wingers and, as are many Muslims bigoted in their attitude to Gays. and also to the question of border controls wiht their anger at W's amnesty laws.

Nonetheless they have cottoned on to the truth that it is time to remake the world, from the ground up. it is good to know these people exist, and from what knowledge i have of men with keen minds and political perspectives such as this one, with a little nudging (in the direction of new borders for old (meaning, new non-miltarised borders of self governance, at the local level for the old, the nation-state fortress model, which is in the long term a dead duck) i think there is yet hope for us all but i worry about the us in the medium term.

to me this man sounds like he recognises the true meaning of Jesus' political mission. in a sense then he is waiting for deliverance, but the first step is that he has noticed the fallen society around him is a product of the American people's ongoing support for the fallen system that promotes it - ie he sees that "the american way of life" is a false god

so he knows we need insurrection, that the world must be transformed from below, democratically but he is still working out what this means, in non-violent terms thank God

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Goliath, Through The Looking Glass

Over a span of two days - thanks to various baby interruptions and futbol matches- Rich and I watched a film called In the Valley of Elah, starring Texas native and true cowboy, Tommy Lee Jones. If you haven't seen the movie and want to, this may be a spoiler and you should stop reading. Otherwise, read on and feel free to offer any insight.

In In the Valley of Elah, Tommy Lee Jones plays a strong, silent US veteran named Hank who still creases his sheets and shines his shoes, army style. Hank's youngest son (the eldest having died in combat), Mike, who has just completed a tour in Iraq and is back in the US, goes AWOL and later is found grotesquely murdered. Hank makes it his mission to discover who and why anyone would want to kill the boy that he "raised right," with all of the good-ole-boy - open the door for a lady - type manners.

Without going into a whole lot of plot detail, I can say that in the end Hank realizes that the country for which he fought and for which both of his sons died, is in serious trouble. He no longer recognizes any of the old school, "yes mam" American moral values in the person he thought was his son or in the current military - a code that Hank, a generation removed, still unwaveringly lives by. In fact he mostly finds selfish corruption, hatred, debauchery, thievery, and self-devouring cruelty in varying forms - Gitmo type behaviors that allow for members of his son's squadron - his "brothers" - to repeatedly stab Mike, cut his body into pieces, burn them, and leave them to be scattered by the animals. The only "good" member of Mike's squadron, the only one disgusted by the actions of his squad, is a drug dealer.

Afterwards, the murderers chillingly use military lingo, including the word "sir" to apologize, showing that the military still gives the illusion that they are the upstanding organization that they were 20 years ago - the wolf in sheep's clothing.

In the end Hank raises the American Flag, only instead of flying Old Glory in pristine condition as is shown in the beginning of the film, he takes a tattered flag that Mike sends to him from Iraq and hangs it upside-down, remarking to the El Salvadorian man who is usually in charge of posting the colors and who speaks English with a heavy accent (nothing masked there) that an upside-down flag is a symbol of a nation in dire distress. The actual line is, "It means we're in a whole lot of trouble, so come save our ass because we don't have a prayer in hell of saving ourselves."

The jury is still out on whether or not blame for what is perceived as our country's distress lies in some sort of disconnect within our day to day American values or whether it is the stress of war that causes the synapses in "our boys" to misfire. Are we talking about PTSD or a collapse in civilization?

I couldn't tell if the statement being made was that as a nation we need to return to our conservative roots as a remedy, or if those roots are what directly lead to rebellion. Why do we need to be heroes? Do we create conflict in order to make ourselves worthwhile?

And I understand that the whole of the armed forces is not as corrupt as the movie would have us believe; I know lots of really good people, with good intentions (my students included) who feel led by God to join-up to protect their loved ones from those who would do harm. They live their lives in a way that they feel is virtuous, with integrity.

And I do know that there is a need for a military - one that is wholly led by a universal code of righteousness (which doesn't really exist in a fallible world, but then our humanness is what warrants the existence of a military in the first place - oooh vitreous circle!).

Woven throughout the movie is also the story/theme of David and Goliath* who fought in the actual Israeli Valley of Elah - hence the name of the film. But the modern roles remain unclear. Who is the new David? Who is the Goliath?

And ultimately, if David fought the giant armed only with simple courage and a rock, then what are we doing with armor and bombs? Wouldn't that make us the Goliath? And that would make David..

All of this is rattling around in my noggin, and I am not certain how to feel or what to say about any of it, being the person I am - excellent at noting the conflict, but unwilling to engage in it - like the Israelites who wouldn't face the giant. I will say that our flags should be flown upside-down. Currently we are the Goliath. We are the bully, the bad guy. We are losing the integrity that perhaps we once held in high esteem, though I hate to equate this with secularization. However, religion does provide some sort of moral guideline. Also, we've lost community and are struggling with hand-to-mouth charity. We are good at writing checks, though, as long as we don't have to touch, smell, or see the people we're "helping".

Any thoughts?

Those who believe in the God of Abraham have probably heard the story of David and Goliath: Goliath, a Philistine (and giant bad guy), challenges any Israelite to a one on one combat twice a day for 40 days straight while each army is standing firm on either side of the Valley of Elah. Saul and his men cower in fear at each of Goliath's challenges; none would accept - until young David, who was there passing out food to his big brothers, decided he would heed the call. And of course, as the story goes, David fought Goliath using only a sling shot and a rock - no armor - and felled the giant in one shot. The moral being that all one needs is courage to persevere against 'evil.' David then goes on to be king of Israel.

15 comments:

Mark said...

maybe we should say it is the global empire of capital and big land owners that is also the real Goliath, and the US, UK and EU likewise in their role as main cheerleaders, guarantors and protectors which hold these self-same interests. I saw the placard signs in Tiananmen Square 1989 before massacre that read: "I love democracy more than bread" and I think it there I see the true spirit of David. But don't we need both, democracy and bread? A picnic is then as good a place as any other to begin!

Amira A. said...

Granted I never watched In the Valley of Elah (mostly because nothing I'd heard from customers led to me to believe it was that good), but I wouldn't think the David and Goliath analogy is something as concrete as "us versus them." Even us versus our own institutions.

Then again, I do like my analogies good and intangible (us versus our own arrogance; that seems like long odds to me).

Mark said...

Amira I think you're right, so maybe it's about us vs ego. Apparently in at least one Nigerian dialect the word "ego" translates to "money talks"

Capital, pre capita
etc

Hopefully that's intangible enough for you!

Ginger said...

I agree, Amira, that there is probably not a concrete meaning here, and maybe we should examine our own internal Goliath tendencies (the ego, as Mark says) as opposed to more tangible ones.

I hesitate to totally blame capital for everything; first of all it's too abstract of an enemy, and secondly, without it, there wouldn't be that branch of altruism. (I still support Bono.) :P But yes, money is the root of evil - and evil existed in the very first garden, "the best of all possible worlds".

(Oh, you're going to get me for that one..)

And also, poor David was human, too - that spirit of his defiled..

What are we to do?

Ginger said...

Christine! Where are you?

Ginger said...

Sorry - one more thing..
Amira, the movie wasn't excellent. In fact, the filmaker almost tried too hard to include all of the symbolism and make everything relevant. It just struck a chord with me.

Mark said...

Perhaps Goliath is the powers of the above, and David those of the below. ie the enemy is the system of powers

I agree that capital per se isn't the problem so much as those who own it and the free reign they have and unholy cahoots with others they enter in deciding what to do with it..

Christine said...

Without seeing the movie, it's hard for me to weigh in on the whole David and Goliath metaphor. I have to thank Ginger for telling me about the valley of Elah reference. On the upside, I learned something new. On the downside, I also learned that Sunday school might have been useful after all.

You raise the question of whether or not we should be flying the flag upside down. I'd say no. I'd say wait and see how this election goes, and, more to the point, whether people continue to be involved and interested in politics. I feel we're at a turning point, that there are a number of factors coming together that will test us as a country, and I'm hoping (and hopeful) we'll pass with (yeah, I mean this pun) flying colors. (it was horrible but totally irresistable... lo siento)

Jamie has his money on a burning Reichstag or a complete meltdown. I try to be the positive one in the relationship. :)

Amira A. said...

Mmmm.... Abstractions are delicious.
:P

I don't know. Maybe money does have something to do with it. I don't think it's the evil that people want it to be. Most of the time I just think of it as an indicator of less savory ambitions.

Not that success is unsavory. I don't know.

I've used up my smart moment already.

And since you've already given me what I'm going to assume to be the best part of the movie (the spark of debate/conversation/general interest), I'll just say thank you for letting me know I haven't really missed anything. :)

Mark said...

I've set up a facebook group for the civil libertarian picnic campaign. you can find it by searching for the Freedom Picnic Campaign. Pls join up, forward it around, keep in touch and get picnicking!

Best wishes
m

Ginger said...

You guys rock!
Thanks for the lively discussion and for helping to save my sanity!

Fougs - I am glad you don't think our flags are upside-down worthy. Some days I waver back and forth (get it? waver? wave? like a flag.. yeesh. I haven't slept very much lately.) I think there is so much that needs to change and I think that we have a lot of integrity to make-up. And sometimes I think we should fall as a nation or that we have to, in order to regain a little humility. I may be starting to sound like Jamie here - who is incredibly smart and wonderful (!)- but yes, pessimistic. We just need to continue to remember that the nation is made of people and I think there are still a lot more goodies than badies out there. And don't tell me otherwise. I just had a kid. Look at our classrooms, for example.

Amira - You need to come back once a month for salon night! We could really use your input. But I know.. I know.. college, work, yada yada yada. Still, If you ever get a chance.. Also, I need help with In Design. I may contact you about a tutorial or something.

Mark - I have no facebook! Only a myspace! The students say that facebook is better, though. I'll check it out and hopefully so will the others who read here.

Y'all have a great 4th!

Amira A. said...

Facebook is better than myspace.

Anyway, it's been a while since I used InDesign; not sure how much help I'll be, but I'll do what I can. And I would like to come up to A-town. Maybe if I ever get a license....

Mark said...

Freedom in Our Time

Ginger said...

Sorry Mark,
The blog made me laugh a little. Though there may be truth in the overall message, it is so overstated and accusatory that docile American Christians and their allegience pledging school children would never take it seriously, especially in the comment section. So, even if the veil could be lifted so that all could unite and agree that (the same kind of) change must be made in the US, it won't be through this venue. This offers no suggestions (other than to get rid of the pledge and replace it with another recitation) as to how people can positively come together - it just says that some people (and, btw, the conservative W-loving Christians are people)are wrong and brainwashed - hardly motivation for them to make a change.

I found the blog post both interesting (well documented, though I haven't checked context)and inflammatory but wothout mission, other than it inadvertently creates more separation between those who understand the writer's message and those who know a different truth.

It is a very nice study in rhetorical device, though.

Mark said...

i think it's interesting in that the *right* wing is now starting to grow in size/recognition about the fundamental flaw at the heart of the state-allegiance facist model of patrotism, and the awful truth about what corporate consumer America has done to its own people's brains and the wider world.

clearly this man's associates are right wingers and, as are many Muslims bigoted in their attitude to Gays. and also to the question of border controls wiht their anger at W's amnesty laws.

Nonetheless they have cottoned on to the truth that it is time to remake the world, from the ground up. it is good to know these people exist, and from what knowledge i have of men with keen minds and political perspectives such as this one, with a little nudging (in the direction of new borders for old (meaning, new non-miltarised borders of self governance, at the local level for the old, the nation-state fortress model, which is in the long term a dead duck) i think there is yet hope for us all but i worry about the us in the medium term.

to me this man sounds like he recognises the true meaning of Jesus' political mission. in a sense then he is waiting for deliverance, but the first step is that he has noticed the fallen society around him is a product of the American people's ongoing support for the fallen system that promotes it - ie he sees that "the american way of life" is a false god

so he knows we need insurrection, that the world must be transformed from below, democratically but he is still working out what this means, in non-violent terms thank God