I’d been on YouTube, looking at a couple movie clips. On a whim, I typed in “Band of Brothers” and watched a couple clips (warning: violence and profanity).
Last winter, over the course of several weeks, I checked out the entire series documenting the struggle of a particular company of American soldiers in the European theater of World War II. We’d watch, at most, a single episode in one night.
It was a moving and powerful series for me. It got both of us thinking. I was moved by the human sacrifice and horror that men inflict on each other and the moral ambiguities of warfare. My wife was similarly moved, but says she often went to bed with nightmares – not just at the horrific slaughter and trauma visited upon these young men, but also at the emotional horror that accompanies the transformation from normal kid, to trained killer.
In the particular YouTube clip, some of the more disturbing imagery for me was the sight of a fallen German soldier shot in the leg and panic-stricken, clawing at the grass as one of his own tanks slowly crushes him to death. The other was the sight of an American soldier cowering in his trench, unscathed, but screaming in terror at the madness surrounding him.
Then I made the mistake of glancing through the YouTube comments section. It was filled with the usual profanity-laced, misspelled, stupidity that you often see with YouTube clips. One remark caught my eye:
“the kraut got crushed by his own tank lolz”
As disturbing as the imagery I’d viewed was, I found these words somehow more chilling.
I recalled sitting in a tiny church classroom Sunday afternoon, waiting for the Deacons Quorum adviser to arrive with the lesson materials back when I was a boy in a small southern Utah town. I remember the other deacons excitedly jabbering and laughing about how they went out shooting yesterday for jackrabbits.
“Hey! Did you see when I hit that jackrabbit? Blew him right in half!”
“Yeah, remember when you shot that other one’s head off with the 12 gauge?”
“Remember how that other one squealed like a pig?”
I don’t know these commenters on YouTube. But I doubt that a lot of them are much older than the boys in my Deacons Quorum.
I’m brought to mind of stories from Liberia and the Congo of child soldiers. Stories of packs of 10 year old boys gunning down entire villages with machine guns. Infants shot in the head. Other children tortured to death. Reportedly, some of the worst atrocities in these accursed affairs is committed by children.
What kind of people are we? And what are we becoming?
And when he had done this he wept again;
And he spake unto the multitude, and said unto them: Behold your little ones.
3 Nephi 17:22, 23