American Elephants


Thinking about scary things, and about thinking. by The Elephant's Child
February 16, 2009, 10:16 pm
Filed under: History, Military, Movies, Terrorism | Tags: , ,

People approach events differently.  Some lean into a crisis, want to know all about it.  Others dissemble.  If it is scary, they don’t want any part of it.

For example, take war movies.  Some people don’t want to see anything that contains violence.  Others want to know as much as they can about an event, even as it is not very accurately portrayed in a movie where there is no real blood or real bullets.

Supposedly it is women who don’t want to see, hear, or think about violence.  I don’t know if that is true, though I know it to be true for many of my friends.  I assume that is where the “chick flick” vs. “war movie” division between men and women came about. But then I’ve heard “eeuw, gross!”  from plenty of guys as well.

That goes for other worrisome things as well, such as economic crisis, natural disasters and politics.

I have always been of the former kind.  I read military history, read everything I can find about the current economic crisis and the stimulus bill, am afraid of neither spiders or snakes, and am decidedly female.  Are little girls taught by their mothers to jump on a chair and say “eek!” at spiders or mice?  My mother was much like I am, though I don’t know about the war movie part.  Perhaps I am just more my father’s daughter.

My bookshelves are a testament to those interests. The Rape of Nanking, Survival in Auschwitz, The Battle Cry of Freedom, Saratoga, A Soldier’s Tale, House to House, With the Old Breed, or Black Hawk Down, for example.  Probably my all-time favorite books have been Patrick O’Brien’s Aubrey-Maturin series of 20 books on the Royal Navy in the 1700s.  I have read them over and over, as have many historians, and recommend them to anyone who likes to read.  But the 18th century in the Royal Navy was decidedly bloody.

I have always known from the pictures of refugees streaming from the cities and bombs of World War II, that that could be me.  That the unexpected could happen. Yet I suspect most people don’t think like that.

I also believe that many people simply do not want to know about the Stimulus Bill, what it contains, or what it portends for the country.  I have been shocked at members of Congress and their aides who did not read the bill that they voted for.

There are columns by college professors concerned because their students don’t read, and suggestions that television, the internet and new media like Facebook, Twitter and Kindle are changing Americans’ relationship with words and understanding.

How about you?  Do you fear or enjoy violence?  Snakes and spiders?  Are these things related?  Do you want to know everything you can about a problem or would you prefer not to know if you feel that you can’t do anything about it?  War movies, chick flicks?  What is learned and what is innate?  And does thinking or reading about frightening things or big crises prepare you a little better for actual things that happen?

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1 Comment so far
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I honestly don’t think most people think about what they would do if something horrible happened. I think it has a great deal to do with many American’s response to Katrina (that, and the media hysteria.) People didn’t realize (and still don’t) that in a major disaster, they may have to fend for themselves for some time. So, despite the facts that the response was the biggest, fastest and most coordinated in history, they were incredulous that government was not there to take care of people right away. Many Americans have simply come to depend on the idea that government will always be there to take care of them. We are losing our rugged individualism. And that, I don’t think, is a good thing.

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