Tayo, NDHC board member and Bismarck State College Professor of Philosophy, at the Game Changer event in downtown Fargo, North Dakota.
I’m in my 4th year of board membership with the North Dakota Humanities Council, and it is a duty I feel a privilege to be part of. This last Thursday (10/09/2014), the NDHC kicked off the first annual Game Changer series, a signature event that will continue to be hosted every October in cities throughout North Dakota (the 2015 Game Changer will be in Bismarck). This year’s Game Changer was titled, “Between Two Worlds: America and the Mid-East,” and the NDHC brought together a collection of journalists, poets, authors, and reporters in downtown Fargo. We also received some outstanding support from Forum Communications, Ecce Art Gallery, the HoDo, The Bush Foundation, and Wells-Fargo. This funding and donation of space helped the assembled group speak to an audience throughout the day, and also to have smaller round-table discussions that evening.
After the evening round table discussion, it was photo time with Josh Rushing (r).
One of the speakers was Josh Rushing, a Marine Corps officer of 15 years and a current reporter with Al Jazeera English. I had a chance to take in Josh Rushing’s talk, and it resonated with some of my own ongoing research. I focused on Josh’s points about how the media presents stories today, and how there are infinite voices that do not make the immediate story. I thought about this in the context of the US-Dakota Wars, and how the media — the St. Paul Pioneer and the New York Times — presented a more sensationalized and monolithic version of the story in contrast to the complexities inherent on the ground and at the scene. This makes sense from a reporters standpoint, though, since they are trying to communicate a complex story in a very quick way to an audience that is already mentally and spatially disconnected from the event. At least that is one thought I had, a kind of then and now.
If you want to look into a bit of my research, you can click on this link here. Otherwise, below is about 7 minutes of video from Rushing’s talk at The Fargo Theatre from October 9, 2014. As well, if you enjoy this, and you think it is a good idea that the NDHC continue having these sorts of events, you’ll want to click here and donate. Any amount helps. One of the NDHC’s ideas is modest: we just want to create a more informed North Dakota. To do that, though, requires me to admit that there is a lot out there that I do not know. It’s Socratic in that way: I know that I don’t know, and I’m here to listen, and here to take in what others have to say, and give. But again, enough of that. Check out Rushing’s talk below. And watch “Control Room” (2004) if you want more. I’ve got “Korengal” (2014) in the Netflix queue for this Wednesday, and I’m wondering how it will build off my knowledge of “Waltz with Bashir” and “Restrepo.”
I’ve been coming into the topic and conversation of war in the last week. Twice at least. On Sunday I chatted with a Kurdish friend and got some thoughts on his perspective of the Second Gulf War. Being Kurdish, it was understandable to hear him say that yes, he is glad the United States went at the Ba’ath regime, Saddam Hussein and his two sons (I reminded myself out loud that Saddam was, to put it mildly, a super-jerk and no friend of the Kurds). As John Stuart Mill reminds us, though (and this is paraphrased), when the bullets start flying in a war, all chaos breaks loose and there is barely a modicum of reason, restraint and control. Innocent people die. And it is terrible and it needs to be acknowledged. I have found that it is best to chat with individuals about their individual experiences in war when it comes down to it: ears open and mouth closed. Wars are complex and terrible things. This last Sunday, my Kurdish friend had some remarks on it all but he had to take off. He said we’ll sit down and have a dinner and a conversation about it all some time. I agreed.
Waltz with Bashir (2008)
The second encounter was yesterday evening when I had a chance to watch Ari Folman’s 2008 film, Waltz with Bashir, this a work of remembrance of the First Lebanon War (1982). The film eventually takes the viewer to the horrors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre. If you haven’t seen this movie already, you should. Note: it is an adult topic — war, and the horrors intrinsic to it and remembrance thereof.
Within the film, a female psychiatrist (at least I think she was a psychiatrist) was having a conversation with a friend or patient, and she was remarking on how a soldier dealt with war by treating it, in his mind, as one would treat a vacation. She referred to this as the soldier’s “camera,” and psychologically the soldier was able to deal with processing the immediate carnage this way (think Christopher Browning’s 1998 monograph, Ordinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion and the Final Solution in Poland).
When the soldier came across a Hippodrome of slaughtered and mangled Arabian horses (ravages from the war), the soldier’s psychological camera, she said, broke. This mental shift caused the soldier to look at everything as it was, the change in perspective pulling him into the reality of what was going on. I thought about this and Ari’s use of cartoon to tell this story of remembering The First Lebanon War: impressionistically, a viewer of the film understands this is a serious topic of war. But Ari’s use of cartoon gives the viewer distance. And then toward the end of the film, gravity returns as Ari uses actual footage from the Sabra and Shatila massacre, this carried out by Lebanese Christian Phalangist militia in Beirut. Once again, see this film. It is important.