Reality Versus Glorification of War: Close Readings from Here, Bullet
How often does the average person hear the truth about war? See the destruction and lives it takes? Does the media show the bodies lying on the roads lifeless and dismembered? Or is it only those who fight the wars and are on the frontlines that have to experience the heartache and destruction that is war? Every day, our society is bombarded with images of war. From ages as early as five and six, children are shown movies, television shows and given video games that tell them war is glorious, that it’s fun, and that it is an honor to fight a war against another country for the honor of your own country. The highest grossing games in the video game market in twenty seventeen are those that include guns, blood, and violence. Essentially, children that are involved in and shown violence from a young age grow into adults that glorify and instigate war because their morals and beliefs develop in a culture of war. In a New York Times Book Review article referenced on the back of Brian Turners Here, Bullet, a reviewer said that “the day of the first moonwalk, [his] father’s college literature professor told his class, ‘someday they’ll send a poet, and well find out what its really like'” (New York Times Book Review). Therefore, Turner’s experiences, expressed throughout his collections of poems, give readers a realistic perspective of how gruesome war whereas the media frequently over-glorifies the aspects of war.
The idea that Turner’s reality is far different from the media’s glorification of war is so prominent through his collection that it comes to fruition before the collection officially begins in Turner’s forward “A Soldier’s Arabic.” Here, the speaker describes war as “a language made of blood” (1), meaning that war is gruesome, bloody, and something that isn’t to be taken lightly, a sentiment carried throughout the collection. Then, in the lyrical poem “Repatriation Day,” the author includes three three-lined stanzas in which the speaker addresses his want to die among his peers in a hospital where they will “write down [his] name” (27) instead of dying in war and being lost and forgotten by his loved ones. To bring out the reality of war in this poem, the speaker describes in the first stanza how “skeletons rest in their boxes / still slack-jawed twenty years later, / as if amazed at their own deaths.” (27) This explains how quick and shocking the idea of death is even to those who go into war knowing there is a good chance they will die. This idea of being surprised by death is much different than media’s idea of death being an honor as it is exemplified in various types of media. One example being movies such as “Top Gun” and “Black Hawk Down,” movies where the death of a soldier is considered honorable, as is a soldier killing someone on the enemy side.
In the second stanza of “Repatriation Day,” the speaker wants to “lie down among them / to be wrapped in sheets like the flag” (27). From this quote, one can deduce that the speaker is tired and worn down because of his time-fighting in war. It is as if the speaker is saying dying is the only way for him to achieve the rest he is seeking and that he would rather die and be buried with “the colors of his nation” (27) than keep fighting. This is the opposite of what is expected from a solider by citizens because the media, including propaganda dispersed by the branches of the military, tells society that being a solider will make you feel a rush of adrenaline and give you a new purpose every day.
Similarly, to “Repatriation Day,” the lyrical poem “Sadiq,” written in one nine-line stanza, addresses the aspect of death. Initially, the form the poem was written in stands out to readers. It’s not often that a poem is written in one stanza. Turner uses the form of this poem to mirrors the way people who die at the hand of weapons in war are killed in one long painful motion by making the poem one long stanza with little complete stops in the narrative.
The way the speaker in Sadiq poses killing is the opposite if how mass media depicts weapons and their role in the war. In a news broadcast, MSNBC’s Brains Williams described war as being “guided by the beauty of our weapons.” This description of war and the use of weapons implies that the destruction caused by the weapons are also “beautiful”. In Turner’s poem Sadiq the speaker opposes Cohen’s glorification of war by stating that using a weapon to kill someone should “strand you in a desert / of irrevocable desolation, the consequences / seared into the vein” (56). If this reality was what the media broadcasted instead of the glorification of war our culture would be much less hesitant to jump into wars than they are now. Also, the culture of movies and video games would be much less violent leaving less of a pro-violence ideal in the minds of the young and old alike.
However, instead of addressing a want to die, as other poems such as “Repatriation day” did, the speaker of Sadiq explains what it feels like to end another human’s life in a wartime situation. The speaker describes the effect of killing by saying that it should make the killer “shake and sweat” (56) and that it “should break your heart to kill” (56) another living being. It is this idea that is lost in medias glorification of war. When a solider kills someone it is seen through the media as him or her defending their country and their honor. Whereas it should be seen as them taking another life.
Oppositely from the aforementioned two poems, the lyrical poem “What Every Solider Should Know” speaks not of death in war but of what a solider need to know to successfully live through a war. Written in fourteen two lined stanzas, the structure of this poem indicates that it is not intended to be only a poem but also a list containing instructions explaining to soldiers how to get through the war unharmed since war is a very dangerous unpredictable situation.
In the first stanza of the list of instruction that is “What Every Solider Should Know” the speaker tells readers that in war “if you hear gunfire on Thursday Afternoon, / it could be for a wedding, or it could be for you.” (9) The speaker is simply telling readers that just because there is gunfire doesn’t mean it is enemy fire, it could also be for a celebration so don’t assume in your haste and immediately return the gunfire. On the other hand, the video games and movies tell both soldiers and society that in order to protect themselves they must return the gunfire immediately because all gunfire is meant to kill.
Furthermore, the speaker says especially in middle eastern war “o-guff! Tera armeek is rarely useful. / it means stop! Or I’ll shoot. / Sabah el Khari is effective. / it means Good Morning.” (9) Through these two stanzas, the speaker is trying to say that positivity and kindness plays a greater role in making a change than violence and threats do. When a solider connects to the people in a war-torn country they will begin to trust him more than when they use force. Often times movies and video games, as well as media, show war as solider pushing their way into towns, killing or injuring all of their people and causing complete and utter destruction. Overall, through Turner;s collection his poems “What Every Solider Should Know”, “Repatriation Day”, and “Sadiq” there is a clear difference between the reality of war for someone who has been through the war first and how the media glorifies and depicts war. Furthermore, it is these differences between the reality and glorification of war is what create a culture that supports and even instigates war.
Kamiya, Gary “Iraq: Why the media failed,” Salon April 10, 2007. Web.
Turner, Brian. Here Bullet. Alice James books, 2005. Print.
“Tell traditional corporate media outlets: Stop glorifying war” act.credoaction.com N.d. Web.
Lee Moran, “Brian Williams Gets Heat For Using Leonard Cohen Lyric To Describe U.S. Airstrikes,” The Huffington Post, April 7, 2017.