modern american war films and the state of america

My opinions on modern American war films are largely negative – American Sniper is the latest one and I have so much hatred in my heart for it and what it promotes – and so when I found out we were to watch Lions for Lambs in English, I was… not looking forward to it, you could say. The movie itself, however, was fine. I guess. No strong opinion on it. For anyone unaware of the plot (which should be most of you, considering it isn’t a very well known film), it goes like this; three different but simultaneous stories, one chronicling a journalist’s interview with a senator who has launched a new military strategy in Afghanistan, the other shows two soldiers involved in this operation and the last features their college professor retelling their story to a student with plenty of potential that isn’t being utilized.

The college professor, Stephen Malley,  (played by the ever charming Robert Redford) and the dispirited student Todd (Andrew Garfield) banter quite a deal, inspirational sentences are thrown around and Malley wants Todd to get involved in the current state of affairs that he feels so discouraged by. The two soldiers, Ernest (Michael Pena) and Arian (Derek Luke), felt that enlisting would be the answer. Along the way, the journalist Janine Roth (Meryl Streep) feels disheartened by her job and what she reports; it doesn’t feel as if she’s doing anything important anymore. The urging “do something” is quite evident in this film, as well as commentary on what the US has achieved in Iraq and Afghanistan (spoiler alert; not much).

The state of America itself has divided opinions, as well as the population’s view on wars – while polls in early 2003 showed 54% of the public favored an American invasion, a poll in 2007 showed that 61% felt it was a mistake and 76% said things were going badly there. However, with the ISIS actions of recent times, the tide is turning – 73% feel worry about Obama’s lack of strategy shown for ISIS in September 2014. We live in busy times; it’s hard to say what will happen tomorrow.

The best part of the film, however, was Robert Redford’s face. The best part is always Robert Redford’s face.

 

SOURCES

Poll: Most back war, but want U.N. support

Poll Shows View of Iraq War Is Most Negative Since Start

73% Worry About Obama’s Lack of Strategy for ISIS

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Why I agree/disagree with Snowden’s actions

I have to admit, I was extremely late in my knowledge of Edward Snowden and what he was known for. Weeks went by with me being “what? Snowden? Who’s that?” Yes, you are free to judge and I don’t have any way to defend myself. I guess I was too occupied by different things (those things being tv-shows and fanfics). Don’t worry, I’m (kind of) up to date now. If you’re not, well, Edward Snowden is a whistleblower; he disclosed thousands of classified documents that he had acquired to media outlets, revealing to the extent which the American government is surveilling their people. While he has many people supporting him, quite a few think of him as a traitor and he has been marked as a public enemy in the US. He is currently living in Russia, and there is no doubt that he would be very unsafe if he were to come back to his home country.

In class today, we watched a video of Snowden being interviewed by a German documentary filmmaker, Hubert Seipel, at the beginning of the year. He discussed a variety of subjects surrounding what he had done and how the public has reacted to his actions. Quite early on, he said he had read several death treaths made by anonymous government officials working in the United States intelligence. In his words, they said they wanted to “poison me as I was returning from the grocery store” and “have me die in the shower”. He asked for police protection.

The fact that the government chooses not to respect their people’s privacy is not a strange concept. We are far from the world of Oceania in Nineteen Eighty-Four, but might be closer to it than we think (a guy in my class held a presentation on North-Korea today, and they are definitely not too far from that world, Big Brother and the secret police watching and all). The act of revealing all that information was brave, and some might say, stupid. But then again, isn’t a big part of bravery reliant on stupidity?

I guess it’s apparent that I support what he did and find it to be the correct decision. Whether I would do the same… well, there is always the fear of it coming back to hurt you and/or the people you care about. I would probably be quiet about it, I have to admit. Still, while there are apparent negative points to what the government does, I can’t help but understand why they find it necessary. By basically “spying” on the people, it would make it easier to spot potential future murderers, terrorists or drug dealers. They should just find a different way of doing it that doesn’t inflict on the privacy of others. Or…? I find that this topic is too great for me to fully express my opinions over. I’m torn.

 

 

two young men

We all know that an astounding number of black people were lynched “back in the days”. It’s said as if it’s been hundreds of years since the last lynching (the last registered case I believe was in 1964). Perhaps the most known was the lynching of two young men; Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. That was in 1930.

The two of them had been arrested, charges saying they robbed and murdered a white factory worker in addition to raping his girlfriend. The jail they were in was broken into, they were beaten and hanged while police officers in the crowd didn’t even object to it; in fact they cooperated.

A friend of theirs, James Cameron, almost suffered the same fate until an unidentified person in the crowd declared Cameron’s innocence, and he was released. Later, he said the charges of murder were correct, and the girl thought to be raped said the rape charges were false. Yes, the two men had committed a crime they were sentenced to. Would you say they deserve what they got to them?

First of all, lynching is a horrible way of murder. Even anyone for death penalty would (hopefully) rule out that as a viable option for the end of your life.

Second of all, they were killed without a trial. Oh, that angers me so. The whole point of the justice system is that everyone remains guilty until proven otherwise. If these two men were white, you know they would have been treated more fairly.

Third of all, the fact that you are able to lynch someone says a lot of times more about you than them.

the electronic age

My class and I were lucky enough to join a radio recording. I was just in the audience, listening, trying to look as if I had some fascinating thoughts about fascinating things. I was paying attention, though. The topic was whether social media could make us more social. The three women in the debate answered yes, citing reasons such as a broader network could be created, you could share different parts of yourself with the world and such.

Social media in general, such as facebook, twitter, tumblr, instagram and the like, have been created to broaden your reach. You get to know new people, you can get in touch with them easier and share pieces of yourself at the same time. It’s got positives.

Of course, there are two sides to everything and this is no different. The amount of people glued to their phones at all times has definitely increased. Ten years ago, you wouldn’t see half as many people fiddling with their iPhones (nevermind the fact that iPhones didn’t exist ten years ago; you get my point). The access to everything you could possibly want (pictures of pretty clothes, cat videos, the ability to chat with the gorgeous guy in your math class) everywhere you go is too tempting. No one wants to wait for the bus while doing nothing. Why not play Candy Crush? Why not post an Instagram photo of your shoes? Why not finish that 40k Jaime/Brienne fanfic you found yesterday?

We socialize in different ways but those ways are getting increasingly limited to only digital devices. When was the last time you had a three hour conversation with your best friend? When was the last time you went out to a cafe and spent more time eating the food rather than taking a picture of it, finding the right filter, #coffee #chocolate #atacafé.

I will be the first to admit I feel more comfortable expressing myself to all of internet rather than an individual who might do something like, I don’t know, talk back. Maybe that’s what this is about? You just want people to listen or compliment, you don’t not necessarily care for their conversation. I’m just stabbing in the dark here, of course; who even knows what every single person thinks while scrolling their facebook newsfeed? Talking for a whole people is not what I’m interested in. What I am interested in, however, is whether or not this is helping us or stopping us from reaching our full potential as human beings.

What people enjoyed to do in the 1700s or 1800s was mostly sewing and riding horses and going to balls (or maybe I’m just thinking of Jane Austen novels). A hundred years from now, we will be known as the Electronic Age. Are we more advanced in terms of personality and intelligence?

“Their phones and iPods and iPads were as good as glued to their hands,” they’ll say. “They couldn’t live without them.” And will they be wrong? Would you correct them?

I take my phone everywhere. It’s with me when I listen to music in the bus, when I get text messages telling me to buy milk and tea, when I scroll through my tumblr dashboard for hours and at the end of the day, reading fanfiction or books (a topic for another day, but books have also gone digital, which is upsetting yet understandable in this day and age).

Are we getting more social? Or are we just finding ways to pretend we are? We all care how many facebook friends we have but how many do you talk to every day? From all the “likes” you get on your Instagram photo, you would expect to have many more shoulders to cry on and ears that would listen. I feel it’s all an illusion, we trick the brain into thinking we’re moving forward while we’re really moving backwards. The world is too advanced for us to become Neanderthals again. But maybe the Neandarthals were better at socializing with each other than us? Maybe we’re moving backwards in evolution in that way?

A hundred years from now, we will be known as the Electronic Age. Maybe we’ll also be known as the beginning of the end. The end of humanity’s strongest instinct; communication.

q & a

I watched the movie Gran Torino today with my class. It is directed and produced by and stars the wonderful Clint Eastwood. It centers around Walt Kawolski, a widower, Korean war veteran and professional grumpypants and his relationship with the Hmong family living next door to him.

  1. You can clearly see from the opening scene that Walt doesn’t like his son’s family. He thinks the daughter is wearing inappropriate clothes and he gets annoyed when the son makes a joke when he’s supposed to be respectful. It sets a good foundation for the rest of the movie when he gets closer to his neighbors and still maintains a cold relationship with his own family.
  2. The Gran Torino is a big part of the movie. It’s the title, it gets mentioned both in the beginning and the end related to who’s going to inherit it and it’s featured in the final scene. I believe the reason it’s so significant during the whole thing is because of the importance it places both in Walt’s past (when he worked at Ford) and his present (the reason he gets to know the Lor family is in essence because of the car).
  3. During Walt’s birthday, he first spends it with his son and daughter-in-law and later with the Lor family. He might have gone to the Lor family begrudgingly, but we see him enjoying himself there more than with his own son. He even went so far as to kick his son out, and with the neighbors, he was seen having fun. As much fun as Walt can have.
  1. One of the things I found interesting about Walt’s death scene was its religious significance. Throughout the whole movie we hear that he doesn’t believe in religion and the only reason he ever went to church was to please his wife. Yet at the end, the way he is positioned in death is oddly reminiscent of Jesus.

I think the reason of his sacrifice was both the knowledge of his impending death (coughing up blood, told he should get in a home and such) as well as the fact that the Lor family wasn’t as bad as he thought. He enjoyed their company, seemingly more than he has other with people other than his wife (he admits he wasn’t close with his sons).

  1. Walt is shown to be a man who isn’t open with people or even himself. The fact that he didn’t tell his son of his visit at the doctor’s was to be expected by someone like him.

serenity, calm, peace

The theme for Peace One Day this year was “Who will you make peace with”?

In fear of sounding like a total pretentious fool, I will say that the one I want to make peace with the most is… myself.

Yeah, yeah, I know how that sounds. Wow, way to be pompous douche, you’re thinking. And I get it. I do. That’s how I would think if anyone else said it, but when you are in the situation yourself, you feel quite differently.

Why? you might ask. Why exactly do you need to make peace with yourself?

Well, dear children, because I feel as if there is a war raging inside of me. Neither of the two bigger parties should win, and I’m pretty sure the smallest one is going to lose the battle, again and again and again. It ought to win, however. The smallest part that basically inhabits all my positivity and hope and motivation is the good one.

The two larger ones are self-loathing and self-pity, and no one wants to feel either of those. You want to be happy with yourself. That’s what I want. I want serenity. I want calm. I want, well, peace with myself. That’s the only way I’ll ever be fully happy.

a clear 50/50

Studying and working abroad sounds wonderful. No matter what country you’re in, going somewhere else to live for a period of time sounds amazing, whether it’s to America or Germany or Egypt. I think it counts especially if you live in Norway, a country of few options compared to some others.

Expectations can sometimes fall flat, though. In the case of studying and/or working abroad it seems like a clear 50/50 that you’ll enjoy it or not. It all depends whether you think the good sides outweigh the bad ones, or the other way around.

The positive sides can include:

Getting to travel – You will experience different cultures, eat a different cuisine, meet a lot of interesting people (New York, for example, is a city of diverse personalities).

Getting more social – Being in a city, either by yourself or just a few people you know, will require socializing. Things as small as asking where a certain cafe is can lead to close-knit friendships, and if you are in a big city (or even a small village), you might need someone to lean on.

Looks good on the resume – Whether you apply to schools or to jobs, the fact that you’ve lived somewhere different from home country proves you can adapt well to different situations and settings. It also looks really impressive.

There are some negatives too, of course:

Different time zones – If you’re somewhere far away from your family and friends, communicating with them might prove to be difficult. They could try to contact you while you’re in deep slumber, you might call them in the wee hours of the morning.

Homesickness – Linked with the point above, you might start feeling homesick. Even if you make new friends, you will still miss your old ones, and that can put a damper on the excitement of being somewhere new and exciting.

Loneliness – If you, like me, aren’t very good at making friends or even acquaintances, it might be hard to handle. No matter what, things are easier to deal with when you have someone on your side, someone you can confide in and who can comfort you. Without that, you might be happy.

However, if you think studying abroad sounds amazing and is something you would want to do, there are some websites that can help you get going.

http://no.studyacrossthepond.com/home.asp

http://www.gseabroad.com/

http://www.studyabroad.com/

http://www.sit.edu/studyabroad/