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AfriGeneas Military Research Forum Archive

Re: "Cold Mountain" Wash. Post Style Review

Katarina and Lee, et al,

Many seasons have past since my youth, but they are still fresh in my memory, I can remember as a youth constantly playing at “war”, every chance I got. Playing "Army" with the other boys at every post we were ever stationed. I was always a "Cowboy", a Cavalrymen, a Marine or a Soldier, in context with these roles that I portrayed there were two constant, I, (we) always won and I was (white). Reality is, none of these "constants" were true, (we) did not always win and I was not white but a person of color, yet this is how I believed things were and how I saw myself because this is how Hollywood portrayed the world I lived in. What I saw is what I believed, John Wayne was a hero, he was the toughest "Cowboy" that ever rode a horse, the finest Soldier that ever stood in the saddle, he'd stormed the beaches at Iwo and won the war in the Pacific single handedly and I was him. There was no cable TV, they did not show Black movies on a military post so I was thoroughly alienated and separated from a part of my culture and the truth.

Then one day my mother called me in from outside, she asked me to sit down and tell her about the "Days battles and Campaigns" and with the kind of excitement and enthusiasm only evident in a youth who has conquered men, nations and worlds on the play ground and with eyes wide with wonder, like a master story teller, I began to tell the “tale”. When I was done she placed a book in my hands, I looked down at it and was stunned, on the cover were German Soldiers. I knew them to be “Nazis” by their uniforms, I recognized the helmet and the tall boots and I had heard the “Duke” and others call them by that name, I knew them to be the “Bad Guys”. Before I could utter a word of protest, because I knew her intent was for me to read it, she held me close and said there is a truth I most learn if I am to “live” in this world, (years later I would realize that the word she used, “Live” actually meant survive.) She continued to say that (we) did not always win, (we) did not always have the finest soldiers and even though the “Bad Guys” lost, some times they were the better soldiers, “it is important that you know your enemy”, this I heard first from her, not from Sun Tzu, Alexander the Great, or George Patton. As far as I knew John Wayne didn’t even know that.
The Book was called the Asphalt Soldiers, a story of the combat arm of the Waffen SS. From that day forward I knew the difference between the Wehrmacht , the armed SS and the extermination squads that roamed rampant throughout Europe and the Soviet Union. I knew the difference between an ME 109 and FW 190, I knew the aces that flew them. I knew the Zero from the Kate or the Val and how many Japanese Carriers were lost at Midway. I knew every Bomber Group in the Mighty US Eight Air Force; I knew every Marine Division order of Battle in the Pacific Campaign and every Island invaded and in order. That one book opened a door to a universe of knowledge and understanding. My mother never advocated against me watching Hollywood, she did how ever encourage me to read, go to the library, frequent other institutions of higher learning to glean the truth and separate fact from fiction. I have over the years gone through several stages in my development as an historian and researcher. With the “Sword of Truth” in hand I had first been critical of Hollywood and all it produced, if it was not historically accurate. For I knew what it was like to “see and believe” and be mislead. I to thought back upon the lesson my mother sought to teach me and in that lesson I found “me” and my self esteem became a mountain no lie or myth or false hood could topple because I knew where to get the “Rocks” to pile back on the places the “lies” and “Distortions of the Truth” chipped away at.

The fact that this Nations people retrieve its history from Hollywood is sad and tragic, but blaming or holding Hollywood accountable for any measure of the ignorance or lack of knowledge exhibited by (us) is ground I will not stand on. Neither will my children. Slaves sacrificed their very lives to learn the spoken word and at life’s peril they sought education and fought hard the legal battle to enter into institutions of higher learning. I will not “spit” on this sacrifice and hold any director, producer, writer or Hollywood accountable for the education of my children or my people.

Food for thought

Morgan Freeman was not a black cowboy in "Unforgiven", nor was Clint Eastwood, the characters portrayed in this film had a history of being "Gunman and Outlaws", the film never portrayed them as having been in the "cattle business" or "working cowboys". Kevin Costner and Robert Duvall are “Cowboys” in the film "Open Range". "Cowboys", Black, White, Hispanic, Buckaroo, or Vaquero were an exclusive and small community. Most individuals who wore wide brimmed hats, sported side arms and rode horses were not "Cowboys" and had never rode with an “Outfit” large or small. Though the "Cowboy" is the most recognized figure of the Frontier or the Classic West, he is however in one of the smallest groups of Western Historical figures, he is a minority. Larger groups consisted of soldiers, settlers, pioneers even outlaws and lawmen, the largest being the Native American, the latter, as well known as the "Cowboy". There is a classic "Cowboy" and a mythical one; it is the mythical one that is world renown. It begins with the dime novels of the late 19th century, but it is Hollywood that actually creates the mythical "Cowboy", that is so loved today. The Classic "Cowboy" never existed in this form.

Both of my boys 5 and 12 are learning about "Cowboys", classic and modern day, I will not discourage them from watching anything Hollywood might put out about the subject, I well however caution them to be objective and critical; do not depend on Hollywood to educate you. Do the hard work, read, do the research, study, reap the rewards brought by true knowledge.

My mother and those that came before her knew the places where one could find true knowledge that refreshes, satisfies and strengthens; it is in this direction we should point…

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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