Sunday, February 22, 2004

Some Unfinished Scribbling

I’m not done with this yet…I’ll probably turn it into something bigger…
But I wanted to put it out there for your comments since we start BRM again tomorrow and I might not be able to write much for a few days.

The enemy is here… somewhere…

Consider a damp path in the Republic of South Vietnam, overhung with heavy vegetation, crowded closely on both sides by more of the same. You tremulously move your right foot forward about 18 inches. Eighteen inches closer to mission completion. Eighteen inches closer to a helicopter ride back to your own tent. Eighteen inches further into the unknown future.

Forty seven “Eighteen inch steps” in the past, your best friend stepped through a camouflaged hole and pushed a dung covered piece of sharpened bamboo through his instep. One hundred and twenty five steps before that, a shot rang out from the jungle ahead and a Lieutenant fell to the ground with a hole in his right lung. One hundred and fourteen steps before that, one of the new guys walked through a tripwire and now four men are being flown back to Pleiku for various types of injuries.

Your Platoon has expended roughly four thousand rounds of ammunition in the last five hours, without a single drop of enemy blood being spilled. The enemy is here. If you can see it you can kill it. But the converse is true as well. You cannot kill what you cannot see.

Each soldier takes another step, and the tension builds. It has built with every step, until the air is filled with a strange emotional electricity. Like a slow squeeze of an unfamiliar trigger. It can’t move another micron without an explosion. Another step is taken in an eerie silence. Everyone knows it is only a matter of time. Step…

The enemy is here.

The enemy is always here…but the enemy cannot always be seen.

Gone are the days of mortal combat, where men fought at arm’s length and mingled their blood in the rich brown earth. Armor gleamed in the bright sun and swords rang against helms until victory was claimed by the fearless champions of Righteous Might. And yet, the enemy was the same. The enemy lurked in the halls of castles and the private chambers of the powerful.

The enemies of today are the same enemies that have haunted our steps since the dawn of time. They cannot be seen. They can’t be sensed in any tangible way. But they are always there, just around the next corner...waiting in ambush on the path to human greatness.

I sat in a dark theater today and watched one of the greatest fantasy stories ever told come to fruition in it’s final episode as a major motion picture. A story of mortal combat and human greatness, set against a background so utterly dark and hopeless it should have driven it’s heroes under the bed shivering. As a world hangs in the balance, and massive armies of classically evil characters howl their fury, I realized that the enemies in the story are not Orcs, or Evil Wizards, or even the diabolical Sauron himself. (Of course I am talking about The Return of the King here, the final piece of Tolkien’s timeless trilogy) The real enemies, both in the Lord of the Rings and in every day life are not nearly so easy to deal with as an army of hapless monsters.

Denethor, Steward of Gondor for his entire life, refuses to relinquish power to the rightful king. His grief at losing his eldest son pushes him over the brink of insanity and we cringe as he sends his younger son on a suicidal mission out of bitterness and anger. And yet I can’t help but feel a leap in my heart as Faramir accepts this mission from his Lord Father and rides proudly toward certain death. In the end, it is the Steward of Gondor, not his honorable son, who flings himself burning from the top of Minas Tirith. Honor trumps Avarice. Duty triumphs over Bitterness.

Eowen, fair haired maiden of the Rohirrim, is denied the chance to fight in the pivotal battle of her time. As a woman, she is obviously meant to sit in safety while the men of Rohan ride to battle. She lacks the strength and training to ride to battle. Every excuse is ready made for her to avoid what she knows will be a bloody horrible business. Prejudice, Precedent and the misguided intentions of those who think they know what is best for her hold her back. But she finds a way. Disguised beneath a helm and carrying a lowly Halfling in her saddle, she blends into the mass of warriors and rides forth anyway. And I cheer inside when she says to the King of the Nazgul “I am no man” and plunges her sword into his head, while standing valiantly in defense of her father and King. Persistence trumps Prejudice. Courage triumphs over Fear.

To be continued…someday
(don’t you hate that)


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