The Critic

From:jd collins
To:Thomas Dean

The Critic

A Greek, arguing for the affinity of Troy (Troianos) and the Hittite capital of Hatusa with the Greek world, said that if all memory of our civilization were wiped out and archeologists uncovered the remains of an Orthodox cathedral in Boston, a Baptist Temple in Dallas, a wooden frame church in the mountains and an adobe chapel in the Southwest, these latter day scholars might not understand that the fragments all were part of the same culture. Even despite the glaring differences, all read from the same Book, worshiped the same God and dreamed the same dreams. Where did these people come together? Well, that's how I met the Greek, in the Army.
The Four Feathers
The Four Feathers

The recent release in 2003 of the latest version of the classic Four Feathers invites comparison to present day difficulties in Irak.

Four Feathers presents recurring themes in the West's dealings with Islam. Beau Bridges released a Version of Four Feathers in 1977.

The Army is a separate society; for those who served the university of life, perhaps not as much a profession of faith as the US Marines but enough.

A highly placed woman of class and gentility which ordinarily does not associate with me contacted me to tell me about the people she met in her son's company. Her son had been badly injured in the current conflict, and she traveled to see him, as people of privilege sometimes can, and she met the officers and enlisted people of his company. "All very nice," she remarked, "but I never met so many---eh unusual---interesting people."

"Welcome to the US Army," I replied.

The incident called to mind my one occasion as a literary critic. The editor of a publication I wrote for solicited a comment upon a piece about the Army. The author was new and needed some guidance, I was told.

The Forgotten War: Australia and the Boer War
The Forgotten War: Australia and the Boer War

Breaker Morant is often taken as a allegorical allusion to the war crimes trials of the Vietnam War in which there was neither right nor wrong, only policy of the moment.

I read the piece. It was a finely crafted melodrama about a Gold Star mother, a southern belle, visited by her deceased son's Army buddy after VJ day in 1945. The piece was well written and captured the pain of the moment, but in its effort to transfer the homecoming scene from the classic ALL'S QUIET, had not accounted for the difference between a Germany of one nationality and one religion and the US of World War II time frame. Fortunately, the author had not made the friend Black. The US Army remained segregated de jure well into the Korean War, with a lingering de facto separation long after.

I made no comment, except that I read the piece and found it "technically perfect," well written with a logical storyline.

I hoped this would satisfy the editor to whom I felt indebted considerably for running my own stories about the US Army in an anti-heroic time when few publications considered military tales a topic for consideration. All that macho stuff will encourage another war, those who responded told me.

Today with yellow ribbons fluttering in the breeze and patriotic songs on all lips the vignettes of day to day camp life might not be regarded as heroic enough.

Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry
Where Death and Glory Meet: Colonel Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Infantry

The movie Glory may have corrected many misapprehensions about the civil war but the character created by Morgan Freeman SGM Raulings was entirely fictional.

On the piece of melodrama presented, I really didn't want to take sides. Obvious talent had been shown, even if the author knew little of the subject matter, past or present.

Dr. Davies has often called me the world's natural rebel, but I couldn't tell you what it'd be like growing up in Georgia, except as it might have been told to me by other soldiers.

After repeated pressing for comment, I finally told the editor to tell the author to learn more about the animal before he adopted it as a pet. The segregated Army of World War II might have produced a white friend, most likely, but one with a whiny nasal accent, a bulbous nose, broken teeth, large beady eyes, with heavy meaty hands from working in a stockyard or a factory. I lavishly described the potential friend as a Texas outlaw, Polish stockyard worker, a dark faced Italian from Brooklyn, an Hispanic from New Mexico, a Filipino The sheer shock of meeting all these "white people" might have been more mortifying than the news of her son's death.

On further reflection, I added, the meeting would never have taken place. People of the World War II era had more of a sense of place and decorum than the generation that followed. In their etiquette, all that might have come forth is a card, a short note and perhaps a silent prayer.

I suggested that the author visit a military town and look around before he next experimented with the topic.

Silence followed. It seems the editor was the new author and was deeply offended. I wrote the piece OTHERS as a conciliatory rebuttal, but the magazine wouldn't run it.

I haven't heard from the editor since and I really wouldn't go looking for him. I suppose no one, including myself, likes critics. But they serve a useful function so that what flows from the pen as a product of fanciful imagination has some root in real experience.

And the woman's son: he managed to stay in over yonder despite his injuries and despite an arrangement which could have gotten him out.

"The General Chief of Staff needs ten more like him," I told the mother.


The Critic © 2004 byjd collins for The Gentlemen of The Society ALL RIGHTS RESERVED