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The Messenger (2009)

Updated on October 11, 2012
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There are reasons for wars. But there are more compelling reasons against them. For instance, they create a great deal of misery. Naturally, there would not be war if some level of misery were not pre-existent. But once they begin, how can they be controlled? After all, wars are completely mindless. People get hurt and abused with no recourse to justice other than replies in kind. How does it happen? Why do citizens rally to the personal cravings of their craven leaders? Most leaders today are over-theatrical and under-responsible. Plenty are ready and willing to do the unthinkable. The theory of singular culpability is obsolete and discredited. It will never be that guy in that country's fault and that's that. Every leader regardless of what language he or she speaks or religion he or she pretends to practice is a potential threat to all mankind. Every last one of them is at the very least a health threat. And how will they be able to rise to the occasion? Simply put, whole populations want nothing more than to destroy whole other populations. If their leaders can, they will proceed, bolstered by private dreams of destruction, almost without hesitation. But to do so, they need widespread support and encouragement. It is going to be hard on them, they would have us believe, being righteous, to have to commit mass murder. Unfortunately, with each passing day and night, the calls to kill kill kill are getting louder.

Book writers and moviemakers are also busily trying to make the case for greater conflicts. But here is a movie that goes against the grain. It concerns an older soldier, Tony Stone (Woody Harrelson), and a younger one, Will Montgomery (Ben Foster). They have work to do. There are probably any number of tasks the enlisted must perform that are undesirable. Casualty notification is certainly high on the list. Together, the two men travel to the homes of the next of kin and inform them of the death of a loved one. Reactions vary, but there is a feeling that the parents or wives or just N-O-Ks would rather die themselves than hear a painful recitation the audience gets to listen to again and again. In the tradition of Born on the 4th of July (1989), The Messenger is a needful reminder that war in addition to all else is counter-productive.

That is a biased way to look at it, but a good way at that. How global citizenship has been sold the dubious necessity for full-scale fighting is a wonder on par with the original seven. Today in America hardly a single campaigner can get elected without prostrating himself or herself before military symbols. What does this tell us? Hmm? These wayward reflections have little to do with the movie, but the movie serves well as a catalyst toward further insights. These thoughts, then, might be harnessed at some future date and marshalled against an all-out armed response, this most terrible of megatrends. To give one's last breath for a noble and unselfish purpose is one thing; to self-sacrifice without an inkling because genuine information is a closely-held secret is another. And who knows why we are in so many foreign countries while eyeing still more?

It is nice how in the movie life manages to go on. But realistically, at some point it strains credulity to think that life in its current set of circumstances, getting tenser all the time, will continue, la-de-da, indefinitely. One can project. Very possibly mutually assured destruction or a slower substitute will have been the result of iniquities or the other spiritual flaws that our preachers harp on every weekend. But the more important point is that life is well-protected as long as wars are effectively avoided. Then again, the causes of war, as previously stated, are varied and often valid. It has to be admitted that a world without war is largely a pipe dream. But the elimination of war rather than its celebration is also a dream worth pursuing.

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