As an “average American citizen” I have no tangible concept of war, despite news media drowning me in its grotesque and malleable stories, popular movies impotently entertaining me through vicarious depictions of it, video games simulating it in controversially stimulating manners that eerily resemble real-world training, and America as a whole supporting a military culture rivaled by no other in the world.
That being said, I cannot think of a single person, myself included, that is not somehow connected to the military, either directly, through a family member, a friend, coworker or acquaintance. We are all, as a collective community, morally and mortally tied to the American military culture and what it does: Protect our country’s interests against those who might threaten them… by waging war.
Although it seems like I’m hurtling towards a liberal leaning criticism of current American military affairs, I am not. Stay with me…
No matter how many times I watch Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Saving Private Ryan, Black Hawk Down, Apocalypse Now, The Hurt Locker, etc., I will never plainly know what it is like to fight in war, never experience first hand the traumatic reality that often ends up as cinematic fodder meant to rivet and rile its audiences, nor do I wish to. But without the heroic, desperate, courageous, angry, devoted, undying (and dying) participation of generations of Americans in that very act, I would not have the technologically fluffed life of modern American entitlement I casually enjoy every day without a passing thought of its continuing human cost. This is easy to forget when Tom Cruise or Matt Damon ruggedly stand, arms-akimbo, armed to the teeth, 20 feet tall between us and an unimaginable reality which props them up before dormant crowds safely seated in the dark awaiting an emotionally ephemeral journey for a few hours… Then its back to “normal” life for us, but not for those who truly serve, the ones who rise and fall like historic shadows giving presence to the present.
So I ask myself this: Am I genuinely grateful for what I have? What do I do for those who have done the unimaginable for me and those I hold dear? Do I know what this life I enjoy really costs?
I found that my answers to these questions were far from inspirational.
As I join so many others desperately defending some dubiously truthful social construction of myself in a twittering, “I”-obsessed, “Face”-focused, narcissistically-“Linked” ground zero of interdisconnection, I am catching a glimpse of something unfamiliar and humbling shrouded beneath the rising cloud of social noise, a powerful human act that dwarfs our popular preoccupations: The sacrifice of others made for my benefit.
This sacrifice is not solely mortal. It includes the life-long burdens carried by those catastrophically wounded in mind and body in their service to our country, in their service to you and me. I do not risk life and limb in my everyday as I enjoy the privilege to fervently “follow my bliss” and “crush it” in pursuit of “the secret”, but there are those who have and will continue to do so whether I recognize them or not.
As an artist it is important to leave my comfort zone and turn my talents and passions on things that may challenge and even confound me. As a human being I owe this to the young and old men and women who put their lives on the line everyday in places that belittle my most horrific nightmares. It is not difficult to become so entranced by my own inner workings as to believe that whatever fascinating mental quagmire is going on in my head is of the utmost importance and therefore must be shaped into some media and shared immediately, because you care, your “likes” tell me that you do, and you want more of Me in your feed every five seconds, lest you forget Me and feed on another Follower.
In the midst of this voracious wasps nest of buzz and hype and spin I find myself growing tired of myself and what I’m doing today and what ails my progress in attaining ultimate happiness. This restlessness strips away the distractions revealing clarity: I have had the rare privilege of experiencing the freedom and lightness that is said to come over those who give unconditionally to others. It is an undeniable power that we all possess. Doing service for something or someone completely outside of ourselves, and doing it solely for the purpose of helping another, with no expectation of a “return investment”, no expectations whatsoever, is a wasted gift unless freely given away.
It is therefore my wish to turn my passion and talents for filmmaking towards a society of human beings that do more for me than I have ever done for any living being. In my best efforts I hope to lend a voice and a face to those who turn themselves toward the fire and the thunder as the rest cower, pray and hope.
TORN, my next short film, is intended as a psalm of gratitude and respect to the wounded Americans now living as best they can in a civilian world that too often forgets the permanent price of Freedom.
The film follows a young soldier suffering from a traumatic brain injury that erases who he was before the war and his memory of those who loved him. It will lend an honest eye to the lives of his family as they struggle to accept the unacceptable and somehow continue onward.
In creating this short piece my producers and I wish to connect with real soldiers and their families who are living this reality. Although this will be a narrative film it will be driven by real people and their true stories.
This is where you can help.
If you or someone in your life knows a soldier or a military family that is struggling with the physical and mental aftermaths of waging war and they are willing to talk about it, please help us connect.
My producers and I are looking to speak with members of U.S. military families to share their experiences for use in our short film. Specifically, we are hoping to connect with those families living with the difficult reality of their loved ones returning home with life altering injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, amputations or disfigurements.
This short film is our "average citizens'" way of doing service for those who have paid an unimaginable price in doing service for us and the rest of America's civilian culture.
Myself and the makers of this film appreciate the sensitive, emotional, and personal aspects of our request and will do our utmost to ensure the peace-of-mind and respect our interviewees deserve for bravely sharing their stories with us.
Specific details regarding the content, conduct, and conditions of these interviews will be discussed and agreed upon in private with those volunteering on an individual basis.
Please help make this effort something we can all be proud of. This is our chance to do our part, to humbly serve those who valiantly serve us.
My production team and I are deeply grateful for your time and participation.