In the Valley of Elah
Author: J.L. Green
After watching Hillary Clinton talk presidentially on the Sunday morning talk shows and gingerly avoiding direct answers on the wars on Iraq, I went with a friend to see the new movie In the Valley of Elah expecting the same. What I got was a terrible but somehow reassuring surprise that there are people in this country that truly feel the scope of the horror and self-righteousness that has become our policy in a country not ours and a huge question if we have somehow repaid the atrocity that happened to us on 9-11.
The title and the premise of the movie “In the Valley of Elah” is a beautiful one – it centers not only on a modern day detective story of an Iraq soldier murdered by one of his American peers, but of the beautiful story of Goliath and David which the dead soldier’s father Tommy Lee Jones recants at a young boy’s perhaps a future soldier’s bedside. The historic confrontation between Goliath and David occurs as a parallel in this story where the Goliath is a huge dark side of America at war, and the families and honest soldiers caught in its grip, nothing but a struggling group of Davids with nothing but five stones and a slingshot to bring the beast down.
On This Week with George Stephanapoulos, I watch the In Memoriam section, and it is interesting that people who die after long lives lived, have segments given them, while the soldiers who have died in Iraq just have paragraphs with their young ages and hometowns printed after them. Maybe we as Americans should see their faces, hear more about their short lives, but somehow they do not merit a segment in the American media. As a TV news addict, perhaps I am that because I was watching a TV when 9-11 occurred, I sometimes wonder if the media is simply part of the Goliath, if all that glitz and glamour is what deflects the darkness that is truly inside the American psyche.
But the true horror of this wonderful movie is that death is sometimes what awakens us to action, and the death of someone we love even more so. Another one of my favorite movies is Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, which while it involves a war between England and France, shows the love and marriage that happens (after the war is fought) between a princess of France and Henry, and an alliance between the two countries that would last for years, so Shakespeare hoped all wars need not end in total tragedy, even if the body count casts a shadow on a country’s soul that will take decades to remove.
In The Valley of Elah is a terrible movie in that we discover in the last 15 minutes that the murderer of Tommy Lee Jones’ son is no Iraqi or dangerous immigrant but a fellow American soldier, that the story of David and Goliath if that ever was America’s true story, is really nothing but a seamy story of Cain and Abel with Abel’s blood crying from the ground, and Cain in a modern soldier’s schizoid voice asking “Am I my brother’s keeper?”