I was a kid during Vietnam and my dad, then a captain in the army, a psychiatrist stationed in Detroit, was the guy other guys would beg and act crazy to to avoid the draft. I also grew up on shows like Combat! and The Rat Patrol and on my seventh birthday my parents got me a plastic but otherwise very life-like M16 -- a very odd gift from two lifelong liberals during wartime (in my home now the only weapon I allow for my six-year-old son is a lightsaber.) I am still a sucker for WWII movies and finally got to write my own, The Tuskegee Airmen.
As I got a little older, however it was the Vietnam war films that most shaped my adolescence: The Boys From Company C, Coming Home, Platoon, The Deer Hunter.
Like most Americans I have no idea what it is really like to fight and survive a war. The closest I will ever get is through the media. What I do know, however, is that Kimberly Peirce's Stop-Loss is the most complete and moving film about the effect of war on youth since The Deer Hunter. All of the small-town intensity she poured into Boys Don't Cry she injects into her new film.
Though the film is not overtly political, I left the film seething at George Bush, a dope like me who had romantic notions about faraway wars. I'm ashamed to say that I understood his idiotic statement the other week to troops serving in Afghanistan, saying how "romantic" their mission. I could've said the same thing (only when I had my chance to serve I didn't hide out in the Texas Air National Guard).
Just like The Deer Hunter, Stop-Loss lifted the veil for me, disabused me of my romantic notions of war. I left furious at this administration for toying with these earnest young men, robbing them of their youth for a web of lies, traumatizing them not to keep us safe at home but so old men could play army and get rich.
Trey Ellis is the author of Bedtime Stories: Adventures in the Land of Single-Fatherhood.
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