On Memorial Day, Terese and I got to see Sgt. York starring Gary Cooper on Turner Classic Movies. What a movie! Once in a while, at least during the Golden Age, Hollywood got it right. In 1941, when Sgt. York was made, Hollywood wasn't in the business of making apologies for America. The "Blame America First" crowd was around but much fewer in number than they are these days. The only real change the studio made in this story was to elevate York's rank from corporal to sergeant. I think Corporal York would have worked just as well. As Shakespeare says, "What's in a name?"
Gary Cooper plays real-life WWI hero, Alvin York, who single-handedly captures a German battle position at Argonne, France. The story includes several fascinating references to passages from the Bible as York tries to reconcile his faith in God with killing the enemy. Those familiar with the Bible in the original Hebrew know the Sixth Commandment reads, "Thou shalt not murder," rather than the oft-misquoted, "Thou shalt not kill." After basic training, an understanding captain allows York to return home to think about what he really believes and tells him, "If you still feel this way when you get back, I'll sign your discharge papers myself." At the end of a terrific scene when York searches his soul from a mountain promontory overlooking the Tennessee valley that is his home, he realizes he must heed the Lord's instruction to "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's..." So, York returns to the army knowing he must do his duty.
What is remarkable about York's journey of faith is the answer he gives for his reason in fighting the Germans so valiantly in the face of almost certain death. He attacks, and then kills the German machine gunners and hand grenadiers he says, because he wants to save lives. In the end, York defeats his external enemy, the Germans on the battlefield, and with divine guidance, a warrior's most dreadful internal enemy--doubt.
Some folks say we were a much different country then and that is very true. But the perception in Hollywood production offices and New York boardrooms nowadays is that patriotism and a sense of civic duty are foolish, unseemly, and of course, politically incorrect. They want nothing less than to undermine our men and women in uniform via negative public opinion which they foster and stoke at every turn. It makes me fervently wish with all my heart they'd take some time off for reflection and yes, prayer--maybe even from a mountain promontory back home.