2014 is my sophomore dog year. Sheepdog that is. I took all the survey courses last year and got my puppy feet wet. I'm never going to be anything more than I was when I was a kid, which is a big brother among the three big brothers in the neighborhood that kept us gang free. Codename Kool Moe Dee: Wild Wild West. I'm not ever going to pretend that I'm a warfighter or that I actually have some kind of metaphorical war to fight. But I do have the mentality and last year I connected some intelligence with my guts and made sense of all the fighting I've done in my life. I know with clarity that am a sheepdog in my bones. Can't help it. Just going to try and be smart about it.
I knew I wanted to see Lone Survivor. I didn't read the book, but I've known about Luttrell for a while. I'm sure I've heard him on one or two SOFREP podcasts. I think last year was when I read two or three of the sniper biographies that pulled me into that particular orbit. I didn't realize it was his story in particular but I knew it would be interesting to me in the same way some people are drawn to the story about the dude who cut off his arm to go rock climbing, or put on 50 pounds to prove something about McDonalds. It would be a kind of standout story that crosses over into the public consciousness. Except I know something about people who do for real. At the end of the day, they tell the dying truth.
Indulge me for a moment's consideration of the concept. We have a bit of society that is entirely skeptical of the dying truth. The dying truth is what you tell when you are absolutely convinced that what you know is real, right and that you cannot see it any other way. The dying truth is what you'll tell until your dying day, but most of the time it doesn't get told at all because you really don't care if people know, or believe you or not. You just know what you know. When I first became a writer, I always thought about this kind of knowledge - the sort you imagine a war correspondant tells in the salon of society matrons, or the adventurer tells in the offices of the philosophical society. It is that thing that defies the conventional wisdom because you cannot follow convention to find out such knowledge. It perplexes because it must be experienced. So you have to wonder how much of the dying truth anyone in society actually gets. When Merriwether Lewis returned to become the toast of Saint Louis, half of his diaries were lost. He didn't show the scar where he got shot in the ass by one of his own men. Some audiences demand only glorious narrative. Some storytellers indulge them. There will be a thousand reviews of this movie and how many of those will be written by people for whom the spirit connects beyond the infotainment factor? Such connections don't always matter, but in stories about life and death, in tales about the truth you will tell until the day you die, it does.
We are fortunate to live in a nation of millions, and with a million millionaires there are often enough parlors that are built on dying truths themselves. I know Wahlberg was a good choice to wear the bloody makeup and navigate a good fraction of that truth through the corridors of Hollywood power. Yeah the movie was still a movie, but it connected with the fighter in me. And it reminded me of the term, a term we probably don't use enough in this nation of millions: warfighter. I just so happened to watch a National Geographic special about the C-5M Super Galaxy airlifter. The colonel in charge knows it to be a weapon that serves the warfighter. Every time I hear the term, I identify with fighting spirit and the will to win. But I'm not going to get fluffy with my vocab to illustrate the feeling, rather I will just call it ineffable. When you know it, you know it. If you had to grow up streetsmart as I did, you know it deeply.
So at this point in my life, when I am beginning to peak out as 'Daddy' and focus again on my own growth and what I know to be true, I am coming to reconcile my fights and my will to fight, and my capacity to fight. It goes without saying that my reasons must be proper. What resonates from the film is all over the place, but I will talk about the bullet to Axe's head. It made me mad. It made me madder than I can ever remember any scene in any movie made me mad. I thought about it with Maestro yesterday - those movies when people walk out silently, overcome with emotion. Glory. Apocalypse Now. Schindler's List. Blackhawk Down. Saving Private Ryan. It belongs in that group of films, but unlike those, this movie isn't a big arc war film. It doesn't give you a whole lot of dramatic introduction. It gives you a close-up of a platoon of warfighters. Trained to be deadly. Trained to think on their feet. Trained to survive. Trained to win. It's the kind of head that it's difficult to crawl into, especially for a generation raised on the narrative of meaninglessness, romance and deceptions of All's Quiet on the Western Front.
I have begun to learn something I will never learn fully. That is how to fight with firearms. In doing so, I have to reject a lifetime of dramatic representations that make no logical or ballistic sense. I learned something about first aid last year. It was so simple, but it took 40 hours of experience competing with a lifetime of television fakery. Everyone of us who lives in the Idiot Proof City must at some point recognize how closely we are held hostage by the ignorance of interdependence. Some of us see it as we take control of our diets and realize the ultimate liberation of growing our own food, some of us see it as we exercise rigorously for the first time and realize how far we can run. Good literature can shake us up and make us realize we have been accepting conventional wisdom instead of dying truth. I have been consuming this kind of good literature for about six years now, starting with Churchill's account of WW2, and moving on to understanding the Eastern Front, and then back through time to Rome's Punic Wars and all sorts of history since then. But only recently have I begun to see how it applies to me personally, transforming from mere understanding to training and responsibility.
What that means is, for better or worse, at that moment in the film, I felt that I needed to be a part of the solution. I recognized in myself the determination to be a force to be reckoned with as trite as that may sound. They say of the responsible man that he wishes he could have been at the moment of truth to make the difference because of what he knows he could have done. Yes, I'm a yapping little puppy, but I'm growing up. I understand the fight in the dog. That's what that movie was about and it most connected with me in that simple moment of dying truth.