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Norman Lear Headshot

Where Is My Troop Train?

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In the last 20-minutes of a flight that brought me home from half way around the world the other day, I read about a movie called Stop-Loss and knew I had to see it as soon as I could. Not because it seemed to be an anti-war film. As related to the current war, I needed no help in that department. Not because I understood it to be grim and I dig grim. I think it was because -- as much as I thought I knew about how so many American families and their G.I. sons and brothers and fathers and distaffs were suffering in this war, I wasn't truly "feeling" it. Oh, I moaned to those who'd listen. And I "felt" it just the way I've felt about distant suffering all my life. You know what I mean -- a famine or natural catastrophe in some distant place on another continent, we're sorry, truly sorry, maybe we hurt for a moment, maybe even write a check in an effort to feel we've done something about it, but then we're just as likely to grab a nosh from the refrigerator on the way to bed and enjoy an untroubled sleep for the full night.

I've been there, done that, to coin a coinage. As I read about Stop-Loss I think the reason I had to see it as quickly as I could and did was the need to "feel" what so many American families at a considerable distance from so many of us are feeling as the war impacts them directly.

So what about Stop-Loss and its effect on me? I'm not fool enough to think any film, however great, gives the person who's seen it the right to think his experience equates to that of a participant in or victim of the action it portrays. But like any great film, and Stop-Loss is a great film, it can help the viewer to experience that "feeling," if only fleetingly. Stop-Loss did that for me. I feel as never before for the men and women fighting it and for their families.

During the Vietnam protest days there was an indelible photograph of a group of students lying on the track in front of a troop train. Where, I wonder, is my troop train?