Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Second Impression - "Warts And All"

"Warts and all", they keep saying.

I do believe they are right on that score. One thing about it, nobody will ever be able to accuse '
Carrier" of being a ten-hour recruiting commercial for the US Navy, complete with patriotic music and the flag flying proudly in the wind.

I've never had much use for 'reality television', per se. I think it's too fake for me. Seriously, I mean it happens every day, doesn't it? Groups of people going off to desert islands with the prize of $50,000 being held out to the last man standing? Sorry, but that just doesn't fit in any definition of 'reality' that I am even vaguely aware of. No, that's not reality TV, that's what I call 'fake TV'. Reality TV, to me, would be 'Carrier'. True, not the reality of the majority of earth's residents, but it is a slice of actual reality for those who serve in their countries' Navy.

And say what you will, this series definitely does showcase the good, the bad and the ugly.

I was left with two main thoughts following last night's episodes. Fist of all, I am surprised they haven't shown more of the actual action on the port visits. I don't know how, exactly, they could have done that but when you keep hearing about "
partying like rock stars in Perth", for example, there are simply certain expectations to be met.

My second set of impressions was around the sailor whose dream came true ... dismissal from the Navy on charges of racism. It was interesting to watch him get from Point A (in the Navy) to Point B (back to being a civilian). But what was really interesting was to sit back and listen to him. Really listen to him. There's an old saying about a drunk man's mouth being a sober man's mind. Well, sober or drunk, this guy did tend to go on about how his racist attitudes weren't really his fault. It was how he was raised. He was brought up that way. By his family. It was how they talked. He wasn't even allowed to watch 'black TV' (whatever that is). Did I mention that it was how he was raised?

The thing is he went on like this so much, in what for the most part looked like a pathetic attempt to justify his actions, that somewhere along the way I started to feel sorry for him. No, not because it wasn't his fault, not because he was raised that way. Blaming someone else for our actions as adults is a pathetic attempt to not take responsibility for our actions. But coupling his mantra with his interactions with some of his black shipmates made me think that this guy really was pretty screwed up. A walking poster child for the concept that racism is often broken down by one-on-one interaction with those we carry stereotypical views about. That it's easier to hate any race in the abstract than it is to hate one particular individual of that race when you actually get to know him as a person.

What struck me was the thought (whether I am right or wrong, who knows) that at some level, this guy really didn't want to be this way. That he simply knew no other way. And, for that reason, put up what I think was intended to be a proud facade, to let everyone know that he was proud of his actions. I say "what I think was intended to be" because, in my view, he didn't quite pull if off. Unfortunately for him, he was, at least at this time, unwilling to put in the effort, the hard work, to actually change his way of thinking and his actions.

It's not that I think they should have tolerated or condoned his behaviour and kept him in the Navy. I don't. But I couldn't help but wonder if things might have turned out differently for him, that not only could he have found a career in the Navy but the rest of his life might also have changed, had he more time in the Navy. More time to actually get to know some of his shipmates as people, real people with strengths and flaws, just like him, and not just as 'one of those ... fill in the blanks". It could be, of course, that I am totally off-base about this fellow. But the thought wormed it's way into my head and seems to have taken up residence there.

Yup, warts and all. It's a good show.


Anonymous said...

Hi found you via Lex!

I watched the whole series this week, twice! the local PBS had it on back to back and I was stuck on the PC working so it was a great distraction, and well worth sitting through each episode twice.
As far as the racist guy, I spent 12 years in the Army a couple of lifetimes ago, and saw a bunch of his ground pounding predecessors. My feelings were that he was using racism as an easy-out because he could not adapt to the military. I had troops use Racism, sexual deviancies, Purposefully lose their clearances to void contracts, contrive marital problems for hardship discharges, and had a room mate suddenly discover that he was gay after the "don't ask - don't tell" policy created an easy out right after it was adopted. My buddy,"R", never showed any signs of homosexual behavior, and quite the contrary, had normal relationships with women during the 7 years I served with him. But the DADT policy now made "coming out" a quick, easy out and there were no questions asked, no requirements for proof, other than the word of "R". So he shocked our whole tight community when he was suddenly a civilian within a week, and I seriously suspect that it was a ruse to get out.

You mentioned the drunk talk and that is what struck me, the Racist's treatment of his diverse shipmates are not what I have experienced when dealing with real racists. A real racist would not associate with "those people" no matter what when out of uniform. And being "born and raised" a racist, he would have been dropping N-bombs or similar in his inebriated state without thinking of the consequences. He would not have been apologizing and basically telling the black guy "I like you, even though I am a racist" I had to deal with too many of my less enlightened troops, and sad to say my son was raised by his mother in a southern backwater and has no shame stating "racism is wrong but I still hate those N-bombs" when he is sober. When he is less in control of his mouth, he doesn't bother to state the wrongness of his words. I don't understand that mentality, I see it in area he was raised, and yet his sister, two years older, same parents - same schools and external influences, has no problems having black and gay friends. Did the first two years of my Daughter's life above the Mason Dixon line have that much of an effect? or is it a gender issue?
They are both now in their early thirties, but I think that the racial tolerance education should be stronger in the kids in their early 20s

Great blog Keep up the interesting writing


MMC said...

Thanks, Nosmo. Hope to see you back here again.

That was the thing that really struck me, too. That there seemed to be individual blacks that he really liked, even as he spouted off his racist crap. Which made me wonder what was really going on underneath. It just didn't seem to quite fit right.