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Seth - June 26, 2007

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


  1. Seth,

    That’s a very interesting point you make there. It unfortunately isn’t just the weirdos but influential people like Ann Coulter who talk so comically about the deaths of others.

    Comment by Dan — June 26, 2007 @ 8:38 pm

  2. Love is the God approved antidote

    Comment by ed42 — June 26, 2007 @ 8:57 pm

  3. :(

    Comment by Tatiana — June 26, 2007 @ 8:58 pm

  4. Dan,

    Your irrational, obsessive hatred for all things conservative and Republican leaves you grasping at any opportunity whatsoever, no matter how flimsy, no matter how much of a threadjack, to sling mud at them. At what point will you realize you have transformed into the Bloggernacle’s very own Gollum?

    Comment by Kurt — June 27, 2007 @ 4:07 am

  5. Dan,

    Quit threadjacking. This isn’t about political ideology.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 27, 2007 @ 4:27 am

  6. Seth – Thanks for this thought provoking post. As you were discussing the comments of your fellow Deacons (and thereby expressing silent disdain for their attitudes about death) I had a silly recollection (at least it seems silly and insignificant here). I have had a lifelong dislike of cats. I think it can be traced to all the stray cats that inhabited my neighborhood in small town Idaho when I was a child. And in recent years I have been diagnosed with an allergy to cats…but I digress. One night a few years ago I had a dream that included a dog in my neighborhood killing a cat. Essentially he simply crushed the cat in his massive jaws (I don’t recall what kind of dog it was). I remember waking up in great distress. I was completely disturbed by the thought of this poor helpless cat (the cat that usually disgusts me) being slaughtered, especially in this barbaric way. It made me realize that no matter how much I dislike cats, I would never knowingly hurt one.

    Now if I could take a giant leap from this story I would say that I have been taught in my life to feel the same way about human beings. These feelings are a result of lessons my parents taught me and I’ve been schooled in the teachings of Jesus – at church and through the spirit. Oh, I often act tough or mean spirited, shaking my fist (sometimes literally and sometimes mentally) at the drivers that cut me off or in other similar circumstances. But when it comes right down to it I’m a puppy dog. My father fought in the European Theatre in WWII and I’m sure he saw some atrocious things there, but he doesn’t really talk about it (he’s 87 years old). He and I have shared long talks about politics and other issues over the years and he’s the kind of guy that likes to pound his fist on the table to make a point. I learned early in my life not to mess with him when my older brother challenged him to a fight – it lasted about 10 seconds. But depsite these traits he is a gentle man with a soft heart who would give you the shirt off his back. I guess I’m saying that I hope I’ve learned my behavior from him because it is worth emulating.

    I am extremely concerned about the culture we live in that glorifies war and all of it’s horrors. I’m not naive enough to suggest that war is not sometimes necessary. But I do believe we, as a society, promote violence even in our entertainment, far more than we should.

    I love the story of Eleanor Roosevelt entertaining some Soviet dignitaries at the 4th of July parade at her home in Hyde Park, New York. First the fire department passed with all their equipment and the Soviets inquired “Military?” She smiled and said, “No, that was the fire department.” Then the Boy Scouts marched by in their uniforms and the visitors asked the same questions, “Military?” and she explained that they were the Boy Scouts. Finally some old, out of shape veterens who had stuffed their overweight bodies into their old military uniforms marched by and Mrs. Roosevelt smiled and said proudly, “Military!” I hope that is how we will always honor our military – not by their actions in battle but by their commitment and dedication and heroism to our country.

    I know I’ve taken too much space already but I would just like to suggest that we all communicate with our national leaders that diplomacy will always be a better solution to world conflicts whenever it is possible. As the most powerful nation in the world, the United States should be a leader in that concept and as followers of Jesus Christ, we should be the first to take the same stand as citizens. Thanks again for writing this post.

    Comment by Lamonte — June 27, 2007 @ 5:12 am

  7. Great scene from BoB. I’m astonished by the Lieutenant up in front getting his soldier to shoot that AT-4 thing at the tank while it’s coming down the hill towards them just meters away. I hope he got a medal.

    Comment by Eric Russell — June 27, 2007 @ 5:51 am

  8. I’m sorry but I don’t see how I was thread-jacking. I shared an example of someone influential who jokes about the deaths of others. Isn’t that the topic of your post, Seth?

    Comment by Dan — June 27, 2007 @ 6:33 am

  9. Furthermore,

    where did I even bring up a person’s ideology. I don’t appreciate words added to my point, Kurt. So go pick on someone else. I don’t care for what ideology Anne Coulter follows. She is a monster who loves to make jokes about other people’s deaths. I don’t really give a damn if she is conservative or liberal. She is making the point Seth is trying to convey (at least how I read it).

    I know I’ve ruffled your feathers, Kurt, but your attack is pointless here.

    Comment by Dan — June 27, 2007 @ 6:36 am

  10. What Ed said.

    Comment by marcus — June 27, 2007 @ 6:47 am

  11. Yes Dan, but I think you can find plenty of examples of societal violence without bringing Ann Coulter into this. I don’t mind the fact that you are passionate in your political beliefs, even if I often find them one-sided. But Coulter is really only remotely connected to this discussion. Bringing her into this smells too much like political opportunism (she’s a favorite straw man for the Left). It also threatens to derail conversation into an avenue I just don’t want to go.

    And I do think Coulter is a straw man. She allows us to pass off the demons we carry within ourselves onto her. We often do this with public figures. They become associated with all the negativity we harbor in our own hearts. Then we point, shout, and condemn the public figure while the darkness in our own minds remains un-noted, unaddressed, and unchecked.

    This post is about us, not about our public smokescreens.

    Lamonte, thanks for that. Long or not, it was appreciated.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 27, 2007 @ 7:05 am

  12. Dan,

    You havent ruffled my feathers. I am tired of your obsession with hating with all things Republican and constantly threadjacking every freaking possible thread on the bloggernacle with your single-minded partisanship. You do it constantly, all over the place. It is boringly and utterly predictable. “Oh, look, there is Dan bashing ______(insert Republican of the Day here) again in yet another threadjack.” I could write a spam program to do what you do, and it would pass the Turing test, and not because it was well-written, but because it would so easy to simulate your comments.

    Comment by Kurt — June 27, 2007 @ 7:28 am

  13. I guess I don’t see where the glorification of war and violence, especially by teenage males, is anything new in society or in the world. Isn’t this an extremely old story? Hasn’t blood lust always existed?

    If anything, it seems to me that it is less socially acceptable now than it has been for thousands of years.

    Comment by Sue — June 27, 2007 @ 7:42 am

  14. Sue – I’m sure you’re right about that. Maybe it is because of all the technological media available to us that, it seems to me, we (meaning society in general but teenage boys in particular) seem to be obssessed with violence – video games, movies, music – and the other things that seem to be popular (isn’t reality television just our desire to see conflict between people) to the point where violence seems to be pervasive throughout our lives. I am old enough to remember a time when it was not the case. Yes, we had the occasional fights at school, we had football, we had movies but we didn’t have the graphic violence depicted in almost everything we do the way it is today. And whether it is a time honored tradition for teenage boys – and others – to glorify war and violence, isn’t it time to change that? I think that is what Seth was trying to say. Excuse me Seth if I put words in your mouth.

    Comment by Lamonte — June 27, 2007 @ 8:01 am

  15. Kids take things lightly. It’s part of the joy of being a kid.

    Making insensitive, shocking remarks is what passes for humor on the internet.

    When done right it can be hilarious.

    Comment by Susan M — June 27, 2007 @ 8:03 am

  16. I suppose the argument: “boys will be boys” has at least some validity.

    But I think the child warriors of Liberia and Congo are instructive. There is something lurking in our children that can easily be exploited for monstrous aims. Unlike some, I never considered the book “Lord of the Flies” all that far-fetched.

    I also agree with Lamonte that there is an undercurrent of brutality running through our youth culture that can easily break free and find manifestation in shocking ways. While these outbreaks tend to get a lot of media attention, the spiritual sickness continues un-addressed.

    Comment by Seth R. — June 27, 2007 @ 8:44 am

  17. Seth,

    My apologies for bringing her into this discussion here. It really was not my intent to make it into a hyper-charged partisan squabble. She had just made those comments, and I felt they were apropos to your point.

    Unlike some, I never considered the book “Lord of the Flies” all that far-fetched.

    I don’t think the author thought it that far-fetched either. His point really is quite powerful.


    You have got to chill dude.

    Comment by Dan — June 27, 2007 @ 8:55 am

  18. Another example, if I may, of the desensitizing of the upcoming generation: for a little brainless entertainment, I went to see Spiderman 3 on a Fri night – when the “non-driving” teens hang out at the movies. There was a scene when Peter Parker, under the influence of Venom, slugged his former girlfriend. Many in the audience cheered.

    I resolved to be more involved with my 16yo son.

    War is a horrible thing – but there _are_ some things worse. Diplomacy, IMO, is the mind (not arm) of flesh too often.

    Comment by Mondo Cool — June 27, 2007 @ 10:18 am

  19. Seth,

    Your pst is provocative, but I have always had a hard time with the association of fictional violence with real violence and behavior. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware of their correlation, especially with at-risk people. For me, however, they’ve never been associated.

    I’ve spent countless hours playing violent video games, watching violent programming, and what not have you. To me, reality and fiction are very different, even when they appear exactly the same. Even if the fiction is a recreation of something that really happened, it still doesn’t have the same effect on me as seeing the real thing.

    A good example of this was when a friend of mine (who has spent even more time doing all those things, plus he hunts) and I were looking through pictures at ebaumsworld. We came upon one of a guy who’d decapitated himself through a freak accident of jumping out a window onto an iron fence. We were repulsed! We’d seen who knows how many movie and video game decapitations, but even now recollecting the picture is disturbing to me to think of an actual human being losing their life in such a tragic way.

    I’ve just always wondered since Columbine whether I’m the exception or these nuts who act on what they view are.

    Comment by Bret — June 27, 2007 @ 1:59 pm

  20. Mondo Cool,

    My brother and I had the same reaction you did and it was nice to hear most in the audience have the same reaction. (this was the opening show, too)

    Where do you live?

    Comment by Bret — June 27, 2007 @ 2:01 pm

  21. Bret:


    Comment by Mondo Cool — June 27, 2007 @ 10:29 pm

  22. Seth,
    Thanks for the post on the evils of Halo 2. I hope Rusty has learned a lesson.

    Comment by cj douglass — June 28, 2007 @ 4:25 am

  23. Dan, I think what the others are trying to say is that any peoples during war can be brutal and sadistic. Not just American conservatives but American liberals, etc. Let’s not get partisan here.

    Eric, if you think the miniseries is good you should really read the book. I think the miniseries is great in its own right but the book is rich in experiences too. I think Stephen Ambrose really got the voice of the American G.I. in “Band of Brothers.”

    Comment by Josh Kim — July 1, 2007 @ 5:23 am

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