Saturday, September 20, 2008
I saw one of life's moments yesterday. I sat watching bits of the 1998 Spielberg movie on World War II, 'Saving Private Ryan' when an incredible scene unfolded. A platoon of American soldiers led by a captain played by Tom Hanks, had just lost a friend to two bullets from the German Army, as they fought over desolate waste-land. They had tried to save him, shore him up with morphine but nothing worked. Two bullets in the stomach. He died. Blood everywhere, pumping out of the small holes in his body tillhis heart stopped beating.
Then they caught a German soldier who hadn't made it away on time. They made the German soldier dig a grave for their friend and as he dug, it was clear they intended to take their revenge on him for the death of their friend who had fought through thick and thin by their side.
The German soldier, still standing in the grave he was digging, looked up at them and began to beg for his life. He held on to one who had been friendlier than the others and had given him a cigarette, and began to plead in English with a strong German accent. He repeatedly shouted, 'I love America' and tried to climb out of the grave but was pushed back.
Then he sang the first few lines of the American anthem, brokenly, repeatedly, not fully understanding the words. He would sing two lines and start again and again.
The guns cocked around him and he shouted...'f**k Hitler' a few times as well in a desperate attempt to save his own life but he could still see his death in their eyes as they cocked their guns.
Then they pulled him out of the grave, and tied a blindfold over his eyes. And the Captain told the only American who could speak German to tell the prisoner to walk a thousand paces away from them, not looking back before taking off his blindfold.
As he walked away, stumbling over the rocky terrain, uncertain as to what would happen, I waited for the bullets that would knock him to the ground. But they never came. The captain made his platoon let him go.
In those few minutes, I saw the humanity of both sides and I fully understood the futility and senselessness of war. And also for the first time, I totally comprehended John Donne's words-
Every man's death diminishes me because I am involved in man-kind. Therefore, never send to know for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.