Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why, what, how long do we mourn? Part II

April 15, 1912 The Oceanliner Titanic sinks and 1500 persons perish.
The first movie about the sinking of the Titanic, released in 1958, was a black and white movie - A Night to Remember. I was in highschool and blubbered like a baby while watching the movie. I've never forgotten it. I've not seen the 1997 film of the ship's fate. From viewing previews only, the '97 movie with all its glamour and hype seems to take the tragedy and turn it into something perhaps more glamorous than tragic.

I know the event occurred; yet I no longer have a lump in my throat when I recall it, even though upon recollection, I still mourn that loss. Perhaps above the mourning, the fear captures my memory refusing to let it slip away......having stepped aboard a couple of cruise ships within the past 20 years, I easily relate to the vast ocean of cold, unforgiving water and ice - even in the Caribbean? Well, more clearly in the Inland Passage to Glacier Bay.

December 7, 1941 The Japanese attack Pearl Harbor 2400 persons lost.

Pearl Harbor attack - I was yet unborn but my parents must have certainly mourned America's losses that day; though I never remember hearing them ever speak of it. I suppose school history was my first real exposure to PH.
The 1970 movie Tora, Tora, Tora, with a 2001 movie entitled simply, Pearl Harbor, I've had no desire to see either movie. Spinning a tale around such a tragic event? Not a story I wished to see glamorized on the screen. (If I had seen one of the movies, I suspect that the "wound" and the story it was to me was cauterized enough by 1970 to have allowed me to sit in a movie theater without being reduced to sobbing.) More chilling for me to see currently, however, are the old news clips that capture some of the attack and the devastating aftermath of lost life and destruction - to see the real life later sky battles of "our" fighter planes shooting down "their" fighter planes - wow, we get to see someone actually die in those clips, real life revenge of us against them. Those are scenes that bring me deep sorrow - I avoid them during national Veteran's Day moviefests programmed on non-stop weekend television.

June 6, 1944 D-Day The Invasion of Normandy, untolled death and destruction
Up until really the last few years, we've actually had survivors in my town of this event. I believe they did not much enjoy speaking of their service, only grateful for their survival, and grateful to their comrades having given their lives beside those who did manage to survive. Somehow I could watch news clips of those days' events because they seemed so far away, so long ago, so unreasonable and unlikely - how could that have really happened? In this instance a movie did catch me unexpectedly by the throat and make the mystery and sacrifice of human life explicitly real. I watched the epic first 24 minutes of Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan. In my own living room, I had to mute the sound - it was so terrifying. After witnessing that half hour portrayal of the landing at Normandy I knew the tragedy of war. I knew the loss of friends. I knew the loss of mankind! The pain and portrayal was not glamorized, it was all too real. I did not guess what it meant to lose a loved one, I froze inside against the terrible angst of such an event! Yet, still I had the monitoring of a mute and off switch - it was long ago - it was over for me and for all of those who had managed to survive. But the memory for me of just 24 minutes of reenacted battle was unimaginable - those could they possibly want to recall a memory that I'm sure filled a large section of their memory bank.

September 11, 2001 Terrorists highjack American planes attacking/killing over 3000 persons.
But then September 11, 2001, came - we could not look away. We could not turn the dial. We could not escape the media. We were hypnotized, terrorized, traumatized. It was not a movie, it was not history, it was not long ago, it was us and our friends and our families who were on the planes, in the buildings, fighting the fires, trapped in the stairwells. I cried and cried and cried and even as I write, the tears and the terror are real. The movies - there have already been a couple of weak attempts to I suppose tell, or capitalize on the event. I could not have been dragged or paid to watch such movies. I don't know that as an old woman I will be able to watch a "made for tv" or for MP3 player or heaven knows what communication toys we will have then, with my grandchildren or great grandchildren. I lived at the time of this event. It was too real for me. Did I watch it? Yes. Will I be able to relive it without deep anguish, I think not ever.

But my grandchildren and great grandchildren, they will undoubtedly have their own ultimate nightmare of some savage act of inhumanity. They will be able to look at September 11, 2001, and say we were fortunate that more persons were not killed......will that be true? When do we become used to violent death and dying and just avoid watching it in some kind of portrayal or in real life media?
War goes on every day. Someone's loved ones are dying. Are we glad they are not our loved ones - yes? Are we glad they are someone else's loved ones - no?

Have I become maudlin, cynical, realistic, fatalistic in my old age or was my brain just untangling a bit yesterday and today by summoning up memories that might be better forgotten? Or better still, maybe remembered?


  1. I wonder what mourning is a part of the lives and memories of persons whose world is populated by daily bombings, the ebb and flow of warring tribes, and the uncertainty of daily bread. The routine death by violence of loved ones. Does it become such a normal part of the way life is that there is no room for mourning? No expectation that it could or should be different?

  2. CP - I wonder that also....this week's news, a bomb in Baghdad killing a small busload of school girls, passersby rush to aid and two more bombs are detonated. What does that do to a family, to a mother, to a father? Does their grief turn to nothing but hardened hatred for the perpretators? Once more, their sorrow is ours.

    MindSieve has allowed "itself" two - actually one, looooonnnggg post on these events....and will move on to other lighter subjects but the persons commenting have been extraordinarily thoughtful in trying to sort, with me, what I've meant to say in these posts. Thank you!