Robert (gurdonark) wrote,
Robert
gurdonark

on correspondents



"A wall of death is lowered in Times Square. No-one sees it there. They carry on as if nothing were there"--old Genesis song, from the Peter Gabriel era.

"Let’s skip the news boy (I’ll make some tea)
The arabs and the jews boy (too much for me)
They get me confused boy (puts me off to sleep)
And the thing I hate - oh lord!
Is staying up late, to watch some debate, on some nation’s fate".--from the good part of the post-Peter-Gabriel Genesis (and, for that matter, the best and also the last truly listenable Genesis album, called Wind and Wuthering).

Tonight as I hunted a car wash, an AM broadcaster boasted how he, as supposedly contrasted with his ideological opposites, supported our soldiers overseas. Then he gave a graphic demonstration of his support. He played rather unfortunate arrangements of each of the service corps' hymns. I did like the Coast Guard hymn, which, to me, has a kind of understated dignity about it, rather like a constitutional monarch of a middle European state which favors monarchs on bicycles.
I would cite you to a MIDI of it on another website, except that the unfortunate MIDI version I found had an over-weening fondness for the bell MIDI tones, which are, to my mind, either not bell-like enough or too bell-like.

I am not much for pundits of the left or the right using patriotism as a political football, and on my AM dial a fair bit of patriotism questioning seems to be par for the course from each side of the political spectrum. My topic tonight, though, is not "bash the right" or "bash the left".

I'd like to talk instead about how this whole diatribe got me thinking about a missing kind of journalism. I've been reading Ernie Pyle's accounts of the Italian campaign and D-Day in a book of his collected essays. Mr. Pyle devoted his time to explaining how people go about the awful and yet sometimes unavoidable experience of war. In one passage, he describes:

"They seemed terribly pathetic to me. They weren't warriors. They were American boys who by mere chance of fate had wound up with guns in their hands sneaking up a death-laden street in a strange and shattered city in a faraway country in a driving rain. They were afraid, but it was beyond their power to quit. They had no choice.

They were good boys. I talked with them all afternoon as we sneaked slowly forward along the mysterious and rubbled street, and I know they were good boys.

And even though they aren't warriors born to the kill, they win their battles. That's the point".

For all the drama in that paragraph, it is this kind of reporting I miss nowadays. War has become a hobby-horse, a chance for reporters to risk their lives in hopes of promotion at their media outlet, and a chance for pundits to practice their punditry before a backdrop of dropping bombs.

Yet I read the essays of Ernie Pyle, and of the cartoons of Bill Mauldin, whose cartoons of soldiers in the trenches, being ordinary people, irritated General Patton and yet somehow helped humanize the war. Mr. Mauldin said: "I drew pictures for and about the soldiers because I knew what their life was like and understood their gripes. I wanted to make something out of the humorous situations which come up even when you don't think life could be any more miserable."

I think that the problem with the current world situation from all sides is that the dark side of humanity is so easy to portray, and the rest of people's humanity is so difficult to see. Im my view, this wonderful counterculture our internet gradually creates must, should and will expand to meet this need. Until we have a context to live in this post-Cold-War world, the current chaos
will continue. It may indeed be a "change your thinking" situation.

It's a small and perhaps inconsequential thing, this notion that we need war correspondents who report about people rather than sensations, but it's my own view of one microscopic step in the right direction.

Ernie Pyle died in 1945, killed by a sniper during the island-hopping Pacific theater campaign.
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