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End-of-Year Listmaking

Hair_2It's the last week of the 2006 and I've been spending my days loading up the new iPod I got for Christmas. As of this minute I've loaded 1215 songs. I'm up to Partridge Family in the alphabet.

Meanwhile, I'm watching TV and it's hard not to avoid all the EndofYear lists on every channel. It's like a manic week of taking stock of everything that happened last year: who died (Yahoo!), who behaved badly (E!), what where the best commercials (WTBS) and a random sampling of the top women in music (VH1 Classic).

Could it be possible that Cher is slowly clawing her way to the top of these music lists? Okay, it's only VH1 Classic. Everyone keep their panties on. Who listens to what VH1 Classic has to say? I don't know...but I was pretty excited that Cher made #11 on the list! Can a ranking near the top be but decades away? Dare we to dream?

I tuned in right as Cher’s "Turn back Time" video was playing to showcase her #11-ness. I missed the intro where they explained their rationale for including her. Did they say it was her vaudevillian versatility? Her comeback kid quality? Her leather and chain-mail image? Her sold out shows? Must know. Will keep checking for repeats of the show.

The list skewed in favor of the 80s: the bottom half included Annie Lennox, Joan Jett, Cyndi Lauper, Chrissy Hynde, Carly Simon, Blondie and Cher. The top half included Donna Summer, Carole King, Janet Jackson, and Mariah Carey. The top three were Aretha Franklin, Whitney and Madonna (#1).

The VH1 Classic message board was sprinkled with complaints about a missing Janis Joplin and Patti Smith. I myself wonder how Carly Simon and Carole King made the list as neither were huge 80s hit makers or video mavens, despite their 70s popularity as singer-songwritters. The more comprehensive VH1 list in 1999 of the Greatest Women of Rock 'n' Roll put Cher at a healthy #46. On that list, Madonna was #8, Aretha was #1 and Janis was #3.

The Cher yahoo group just posted a link to a poll for Queen of Pop. Interestingly, they listed Mariah, Cher, Madonna, Kylie, and Britney.

Britney Spears is imploding as we speak, kids. Kylie Minogue is more popular in Europe and Australia, although she has quite a underground of die-hards here. Notice a lack of Whitney Houston on the poll list. Whitney may be on the comeback trail but she’s still an imploded mass herself who has been MIA for a long time. On any list of relevant women of today Whitney is a questionable add, especially so high in the ranking--as VH1 Classic has her. On the other hand, Mariah’s mini-implosion has been forgiven by a recent hit record.  Cher and Madonna are implosion-proof so far. Many wouldn’t give Cher a chance at approaching Madonna’s hold on the tops spots in these 'best of' lists.

I say watch out, though. We're heading in the right direction, list wise.  Click here to see Cher dance the jig.

   


It's a Sonny & Cher Christmas

XmasdvdcoverThis is a melancholy Christmas season for me: it’s the first year I’ve spent without my parents. Granted, I’m 37 years old. I could look at it like “Oh, what a nice, extended, spoiled childhood I've had.” However, I still find myself mourning the missing stocking overstuffed with gadgets and candy, my mother’s mashed potatoes, my dad’s spiked egg nog, Christmas Eve clam chowder and family conversation, even the kind that makes me pull my hair out.

Thinking about my parents on Christmas takes me back to 1979 when I was nine years old. Back then me and my two brothers used to riffle through the Sears catalogue to get ideas for our Christmas list. I had just discovered record stores the year before. Every time I went to the mall, I now made a b-line to the Sonny & Cher tab at Record Bar. This only lasted for a year or two. Eventually, I came to the store and the Sonny & Cher tab had disappeared. Then the Cher tab disappeared, not to return until 1987!

This Christmas, my family made a trip to Chesterfield Mall where my mother left us to do some secret shopping. Hours later, I stood at the top of the escalator watching her ride up with a brown Record Bar bag under her arm. At that very moment I knew I would be getting the most coveted gift on my list: the 1971 album Sonny & Cher Live.

It’s a short and simple live recording and it sounds very kitschy now, solidly lounge-a-palooza before that even became trendy with Steve & Eddie and Marty & Elaine – Sonny & Cher doing lounge versions of current pop and rock songs.

Slow, conversational banter serves as the transition between the songs. At different times in my life I have found it funny or not-so-funny. They goof on Sonny’s mother, Sonny’s singing, their sex life. All the sexual innuendos went right over my nine-year-old head. It’s must racier banter than one would find on the TV show. And they only sing three of their 60s hits: a long, experimental version of “The Beat Goes On,” Sonny singing his solo hit “Laugh at Me” and a lounged-up version of “I Got You Babe.” They were moving away from hits for an act of cover tunes, just as Cher would do for decades to come. They covered three Beatles songs, a Spiral Staircase hit, a Judy Garland standard for Cher, who also torches up “Danny Boy.” That song used to bore me to tears when I was a kid. I religiously skipped over it. Now, I’m so moved by it, I get real tears. It’s a weird mix of music, this album. I’d listen to it for hours on my parents' huge phonograph player; and I'd look over the cover artwork which taught me my first lesson in understatement. There was very little in the way of liner notes, considering we had a luxurious gatefold amount of space for some. The images looked like snapshots from a night club show circa the early 70s…very darkly lit, some fuzzy red, white and blue stage lights, a listing of the band-mates, arrangers, producers, and other usual suspects and that was it.

LiveinsideOn the cover,Cher is half shadowed out in the foreground, while Sonny stands blurred behind her…an interesting and ironic arrangement. You can barely make out Cher's outfit. God forbid! And Sonny is in his then-current uniform, a bow tie and tux. They’re holding comically clunky microphones. Spread large and wide in the gatefold photograph, there is no text, just profiles of Sonny & Cher as they sing to each other. For the duration of the album, for lack of reading material, you could focus on Cher’s armpit (the best in the biz according to Bob Mackie) or her mesh top, those fabulous microphones or Sonny’s ominously large yet handsome dropping hand. Is that a bracelet he’s sporting?

I felt a kind of perfect childhood happiness when I opened this present on December 25, 1979. Even though I already knew what it was before I ripped the wrapper. My mother never made any attempts to hide record album gifts, which we received every year. I listed to the album first thing that day. In the years following, I wore it out. I’m still listening to a bootleg CD copy today. I don’t know who the MC is who opens the concert. It sounds suspiciously like Chuck Barris of The Gong Show: “Ladies and Gentleman, the Westside Room proudly presents SONNY AND CHER." I regret we never now use this old-school way of introducing a show. It’s still chilling and exciting every time I head it.

This is one of my fondest memories of Christmas. I hope this year you find a gift under your tree that will continue to give you warm feelings for decades to come. Happy holidays!

Sonny & Cher Show Christmas on DVD.


Is Cher a Feminist?

Spike One night in college I had an epiphany. I realized, quite suddenly, that I didn’t have to define myself by a boyfriend and the end-game to my life wasn’t “married happily ever after.” I could, in fact, take care of myself, answer for myself, and be myself. Luckily, I had some working-women as fellow students to serve as role-models. In graduate school, I jumped into the world of creating and reading zines (underground magazines derived from old fan and punk trades). I came across the modern feminist zines Bust and Bitch which I’ve been reading for many years since. Feminist rock anthologies are now barely starting to mention Cher as a rock chick of note, but rarely do feminists texts mention Cher at all. Although she was on the cover of Bust a few years ago, the article contained little explication of her role or attitudes about feminism.

So imagine my surprise when reading the 10th anniversary issue of Bitch recently and I came across a Cher dis in the article  “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Feminism But Were Afraid to Ask” by Rachel Fudge. Feminist Judith Halberstam, Professor of English and director of the Center for Feminist Research at USC, was asked “What is the most significant accomplishment of the past 10 years [for feminism]?” Halberstam listed a few militant feminist activities of note and then ended by saying, “Apart from that, I was happy when Cher retired…”

Okay…she made a funny. But seriously, it forces me to defend Cher as a feminist. Maybe not a militant feminist, maybe not an academic feminist, maybe not even a self-defined feminist…but Cher has definitely produced an persona of feminism over the years and has ultimately lived a feminist’s life.

Consider Katharine Hepburn again. Her parents produced a child who, by living with feminist intellectuals and activists, internalized the first-wave feminist message. Katharine Hepburn then took the message to pop culture, gave it a living context and boom! The thing was done. By seeing publicity pictures of Katharine Hepburn wearing pants (how outrageous!), feminism was actively defined. Women could see it, understand it subliminally. Although when you asked Hepburn, she poo-poo the idea of identifying herself with second-wave feminism (the 70s ERA movement and Gloria Steinem). Hepburn lived it. Why talk about it?

I would argue that likewise Cher has provided pop culture with similar feminist imagery. Whereas Madonna has engaged feminism in her life through artistic statements, Cher’s feminism is less of a pop-academic endeavor. With Cher, there is more human integration regarding her life as a feminist project.

Evidence of this: Cher historically says what she feels (however unladylike it may come across: see the swearing entry last month). Cher resists being intimidated by male-dominated industries (Rock 'n' Roll, Hollywood). Cher has produced independent, single-woman-supportive statements and imagery throughout her career, living mainstream feminism in ways more effective than simply writing a book about it. After all, a picture with pants speaks a thousands feminist words.

Imagery
What she wears part 1: Cher’s androgynous apparel of the 60s and her in-your-face flamboyance (via Mackie-wear from 1971 to the present) has served to mobilize both working class women and a large group of gay men because it encourages us by example to be who we are and express ourselves without apologies.

What she wears part 2: Cher’s paparazzi street-wear from the late 70s and 80s (torn jeans, chain mail, leather) also delivered a message of toughness and show women that you can have duality of personality. Tough one day, feathers the next. You don’t have to be Dolly Parton 24/7. You can walk the streets without makeup and live to tell about it.

Words To Live By
Cher’s mother once implored Cher to settle down and marry a rich man for security. Cher’s reply: “I am a rich man.” Granted, there was a time when Cher was a dependent wife of varying sorts to Sonny Bono and Gregg Allman. The 70s were possibly a big learning curve for Cher as an independent woman which involved emancipation from Sonny and their marriage-as-business, career resuscitation with the help of David Geffen (not known to be a feminist-sympathizer), and struggles in care-taking Gregg Allman (also no paragon of female empowerment; he was once quoted as saying woman have only two uses: making the bed and making it in the bed).

Ah…”making it” -- so quaint, so 70s.

Certainly by the mid-80s Cher was not allowing herself be defined by her men. Cher even bulked the romantic establishment by daring to date, and not marry, younger men. It takes feminist balls to do that in a world where women are to this day seeking the older husband to take fatherly care of them.

Cher’s 80s and 90s rock singles and videos also show a strong, sassy woman: "I Found Someone," "Believe," "Strong Enough," "Just Like Jesse James," and "When the Money’s Gone" all portray a first person narrator of power. In fact, the video for "I Found Someone" showcases Cher’s 80s persona of a touch chick fighting for what she wants.

Cher’s movie roles have also been mainly strong examples: Rusty Dennis fighting for her son in Mask, Sissy struggling with mastectomy in Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Dolly dealing with lesbian issues in Silkwood, a defiantly single mom in Mermaids.
 
The thing is, Cher is not a 100% perfect feminist. This, I guess, is why her name finds itself on the feminist target list. To some degree it might be the overt sexuality, the circus silliness of her concerts, or finally, the cosmetic surgery. Understandably, cosmetic surgery irks feminists because it undercuts our ability to just be who we are. It contributes to the dirty game of confirming we’re not good enough as a woman of years or a voluptuous woman or someone with a beauty mark when beauty marks just aren’t “in” for this decade. I can’t, myself, blame Cher for this breach of feminism since the problem is so epidemic in an entire generation of women. Hard-core feminists may find it easy to resist even the routine of daily eye-cream applied to ward off wrinkles, but it’s not so easy for the day-to-day feminist soldiers out here. Would it be nice for budding feminists out there if Cher aged like a blues singer? Sure it would. But you can’t misapply her feminist balance because of it.

I don’t often consider outright Cher’s contribution to feminism. But it certainly irks me to see her tallied as a feminist problem. I simply don’t agree. In fact, most female Cher fans I’ve met tend to be working class men and women who respond to Cher’s defiant independent imagery. Five decades of Cher resisting pop-culture obsoletion should speak for itself. She’s a tough broad in many ways where it still counts.

   


Wait a minute....

Notopblog_1 Judge not ye Cher fan, least ye be judged. Shortly after I posted that Diva Skank post, I remembered a public faux pas that happened with Cher back in 1979 at a roller skating party. Some photographer captured Cher's "shelf" (as my mother would call it) when the camera flash penetrated the mesh of Cher's black top. Unexpectedly. It was scandalous. People wondered the same thing at the time: was that an accident or a skanky publicity stunt? I can't find the paparazzi shot, but it looked something similar to this outfit to the left.

Truly, Shakespeare (and Agatha Christie) had it right: there's nothing new under the sun.

   


Diva Stank

Schilton_1 So I'm assuming everybody has seen the recent skanky Britney Spears photos. If you're underage, I'm hopefully assuming you haven't. I'm not quite sure this was the best way to clean up an image after Kevin Federline's long-overdue exit; but I'm not a bonafide Stylist so what do I know about the latest celebrity look.

In a recent New York Post blurb, Cher's publicist, Liz Smith, encourages Britney to hang with Cher instead of Paris Hilton, saying Cher is "clever and level-headed." Liz also snipes that Cher is "actually famous for something."

Now, I wholeheartedly agree with Liz; but I know more than a few snarky rock fans out there who will jump all over that one. Cher once had her own legitimacy problems out in the arena of public opinion.

In any case, haven't they all released perfume lines? Heiress, Curious, and Uninhibited. Although, rumor has it Cher now wears a chocolate sent called Comptoir Sud Pacifique Amour de Cacoa. Go buy these if you simply must smell like your favorite Diva or if you're Britney and you have some recent smell of public skank to cover. Britney! Don't make Paris look angelic, now. What would Bob Dole think?

Anyway, Cher wouldn't hang out with Paris Hilton. Cher's had enough drama with the Hilton's of this world, way back to 1965 when Sonny & Cher tried to stay at the London Hilton and press reported them getting booted for looking like skanks themselves. I found this photo today on Google images. It purports to be S&C actually at the Hilton back when Paris, who wasn't born until 1981, was just some skank-potential floating around her mum's young fallopian tubes.    

Well at least Cher can exit a car like a hippie lady in those pow-wow chaps.

   


Rejected Blog Title #2: Blog of Stone

Don't you sometimes wish your blog was a blog of stone? Me too. It's tough to watch great Cher websites come and go. People get busy. Lives move on. Fans auction away their savings for dusty feather boas.

I wanted to take this opportunity to express concern for the great sites that are down. Everything Cher was down for a good while but I see it's back up. That's great, because it's a comprehensive site with some quirky special things about it.

    

Jpcbanner

Just Plain Cher is not back up, however, since back around Cher auction time (at least that's when the news post look like they've stopped coming). I'm worried about this site because it's one of my personal favorites. JPC has been up a long time, and some great material has rotated on and off the site, some great reviews you couldn't find elsewhere, like of rare TV specials for instance. This was run by long-time fandom and I loved their perspecitve on Cher stuff. Text wise, it was the strongest site. JPC also had a very current news feature, as well. Plus easy-to-use forums and some creative games like the Gypsy Fortune Teller. There was definitely some scholarship happening on that site. JPC, we hope you're doing okay and making plans to return someday.

            

Everythingcher I missed Everything Cher, too. Although its forum isn't as active, the site has a comprehensive Cher Tattoo Index! And other great stuff under Miscellaneous including Cher on stamps, in comix and other quirky Cher collectibles. There's also a page on the disturbing process of making the newest version of the Cher doll. And, if you purchased the computer game 9 because Cher's voice was on it and learned quickly that a walk-through guide was necessary because you spend more time collecting Cher crap than playing video games and therefore your game IQ is now pathetically low, Everything Cher offers such a guide.

And if you're ready to start a Cher collection from scratch, the blueprint for you is here: a great collectible book list, magazines to look for, a video/DVD list, and Cher music organized in alternative ways for your various educational needs. The album section shows cover art, song titles, song times and basic album details.

Only the news and tour schedule information is moldy oldie. Which possibly means the site is existing virtually parent-less, but that's okay. As a ghost town, it's still a valuable piece of Cher scholarship.

 


Review of The Ground Truth

Overview
First of all, let me explain my bias: I am a peace-loving, anti-war-nick. I would be the last person to join the armed forces. I protested the Iraq war in an unlikely, Los Angeles rainstorm four years ago before the war started. To be specific, I am anti-war-of-aggression. This war for oil qualifies as such. But I am not against peace-keeping missions. I understand the necessity of the armed forces and appreciate the immense sacrifices soldiers make on behalf of a country we all love. Soldiers do what we all collectively as a society ask them to do.

I watched The Ground Truth with a close friend who has worked closely with the Veterans Administration and who thoroughly understands the VA claims process. He has special knowledge of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) conditions and I asked him to bring his experiences to bear on the points of this movie. However, I want to be clear that this person is not a spokesperson for the VA.

It took us four hours to watch and talk about this film. The running time is only 1 hour,18 minutes. But we talked about until 1 a.m.

The Best Parts
A large chunk of the film is about soldiers struggling with PTSD. My friend is personally tied to this issue as he had a family member struggle with this disorder and the situation had a life-altering impact on his family. These PTSD stories are ultimately the most moving portion of the film.

The film also reminds us the war vets are all around us and we often fail to notice. One soldier said, “You don’t see us because we don’t talk about it.”

There’s a chilling poem about PTSD in the movie: "live wire snap" by mos def and a moving song by Tom Waits, “The Day After Tomorrow.” Ironically my Dad sent me this song from The Daily Show web page the same day I discovered it in the movie.

The Architecture of the Film
I’ve seen many documentaries; so it’s hard not to comment on how they handle their subjects. I never knew what this documentary wanted to be. And I really couldn’t see any organizing principle. The movie touched on so many topics related to the soldier experience; but nothing was ever handled in depth and I was never sure what the take-home message was for each issue.

We started with recruiting and the idealist soldier falling for the false advertising by recruiters. I was disappointed we only received sound-bites about aggressive recruiting tactics, hearsay from the soldiers. What makes a Michael Moore movie so effective is that he shows the villain caught in the act. In his documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, we see military recruiters doing the dirty deeds and it’s so much more powerful.

The movie then discusses soldier training/brainwashing and 'The Killing Indoctrination' which shows how the ancient War Cry is used to fortify troop resolve. David Grossman discusses the psychological issues of learning to kill. See his book “On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Killing In War and Society”. The psychological and biological angle of killing and learning to dominate others were fascinating, but there was frustratingly little of this.

I did come to see that the real courage of soldiering isn’t the actual killing. Courage comes into play when a soldier needs to reacclimate himself to civilian life and process his war-time experience after coming home. 

But it’s not news that war is a sinister job, and one that requires the Devil’s tactics. Can I really say I watched this segment and was surprised by the barbarity of war? No.

The film then speaks about the 'crisis of purpose' soldiers feel in Iraq after a traumatic event. “What are we doing here?” They must know the military-shtick: we’re there to restore order and/or to preserve our access to oil, yada yada yada. You have to think this must be a spiritual questioning occuring. But is this a crisis-questioning derived from PTSD or were these soldiers truly all conscientious objectors who find the blood for oil mission essentially unsavory? Either answer is okay; but the film is too vague about this point…until the end when you realize the bulk of the participants are soldiers actively protesting the war.

Soldiers talk at length about civilian casualties, which leads directly into their issues of PTSD. At this point I thought the exploration of PTSD was the point of the film. It definitely could have been. My friend thought this segment was a good representation of PTSD symptoms and experiences. One vet claimed to have been denied help from a psychologist who labeled him a conscientious objector. My friend said he had never experienced or heard of any claims specialist who would respond this way to a Vet; but my friend did say that every organization, business, or social program has their share of bad eggs who respond inappropriately. 

The movie leaves PTSD and quickly covers issues regarding the return home and the bureaucracy of the benefits process. We end with a segment called 'Hope' showing the documentary’s Vet at peace rallies.

The Agenda
The veterans groups who supported this movie as listed in the credits were all groups against the war or vets with a peace agenda. There’s no problem with this; but the documentary poses as one without any agenda. The quotes and the stories featured however show a clear subliminal anti-war agenda. Why be so demure?

This war is different than Vietnam in that there is no draft. Men and women volunteer to join. They are ultimately responsible for their free choices. Some, not all Vets, have regrets about their choice to join the service. This film choses to show only vets who felt betrayed and bamboozled. The documentary does not show opposing arguments, which are crucial for any truly balanced “non-agenda” piece and are also highly useful in any pro-agenda argument: show the opposing view and then break off its leg. Ultimately, giving the opposition no say often gives them an unspoken power. If this film is trying to say the military is a bad choice for all men and women, just say it. Instead we get half-told and hearsay stories like “my comrades made these war slurs,” and “the VA counselor told me this.” It’s a basic rule of arguments and storytelling: show don’t tell. Show the evidence. Like Michael Moore, show the villains and let them hang themselves.

Most film-makers have some kind of subconscious agenda anyway. You really have to work hard to prove you don’t, bend over backwards by showing all sides.

The film ends with Camilo Mejia, who served in prison for his objections to the war, asking soldiers to risk jail time and conscientiously object by dissenting given orders. These are the final words of the film.

The End Tragedy
Personally, I respect what Camilo did. But to place this as the take-home message of the entire film was chilling. Asking soldiers to bulk all that training/brainwashing they’ve gone through (which is necessary for their very survival) and then object? Why put the final burden on the soldier to dissent? Why add more stress on him? Why put this on their souls as well?

Why not lay the responsibility where it truly deserves to be placed: with us. It is ultimately our responsibility as citizens to a) prevent these kinds of wars of aggression from happening and  b) to get them resolved quickly when they start. Congress, Congress, Congress: we elect them, we pressure them, we protest their policies. We educate ourselves on the issues. Start with experts in the Middle East crisis. I’d like to take this opportunity to plug the books on Iraq by a professor at my alma matter, Sarah Lawrence, Fawaz A. Gerges.

I can see why the military wouldn’t want to distribute this film, beyond being legally prevented from doing so. It’s like asking General Motors to distribute a message to their employees about quitting and going to work for Toyota. Wrong or not, why expect them to self-sabotage? But also, the final take home message just isn’t fair. It victimizes the soldier all over again by making it his problem to stop the war. Indirectly, we can then blame him all over again when he can’t object and the war continues.

Claims About VA Claims
The real reason I wanted my friend to watch this film in the first place was to evaluate the claims about the VA. My friend works 6 days a week for vets and knows the VA process. Many claims processors are vets themselves who care about the Vet's claims and are committed to getting money out to them.

The VA problem is two fold: the system is swamped with claims and the U.S. Congress sets the laws on vet disabilities which the VA is bound to follow. When a new kind of ailment arises, my friend admits the delay in benefits sucks; but regulations are set by Congress and it takes them sometimes years to approve new benefits. Add to this the fact that laws are sometimes complicated. It’s easy for a vet to hear something and get confused.

This is where The Ground Truth is at its weakest. Presenting Vet's hearsay on the claims process just spreads misinformation and exacerbates the suffering. False facts also weaken the validity of the film. Michael Moore would have secured the impossible interview and talked to a representative at the VA.

My friend weighs in on these pieces of misinformation:
-It’s not true that vets must claim all their problems within in 2 years. They can file at any time. It may take years for their ailments to surface.

-It’s not true that the VA diagnoses Vets as bi-polar to avoid making awards for PTSD. The VA can’t deny a claim unless every means has been made to identify the PTSD cause as service related. Some Vets were angry having been diagnosed as bi-polar or with behavioral disorders. You can still have PTSD and get compensation, even if you are diagnosed as bi-polar. One diagnosis doesn’t officially negate the other.

-It’s not true that the VA holds up claims waiting for vets to go back into battle or die first. However, it is true that the VA is swamped and inefficient. And adjusters suffer their own internal frustrations with the bureaucracy.

My friend and I agreed a more useful documentary would show the VA claims experience from all sides, explore why it takes so freakin long to get claims resolved so Congress will let the VA hire more adjusters.

Conclusions
The film did a disservice to vets by reinforcing myths about the VA. These factual errors also raise questions about the film’s thoroughness. When you choose to showcase certain comments which the film makes no attempt to verify, it looks not only like an agenda-film but a lazy one.

As for PTSD, my friend says it’s only been in last five years that soldiers are being treated for this disorder at all. Clearly there’s more to do, but the strides have been immense. Much more information is now available to help Vets and their families recognize the symptoms.

If this film makes you appreciate PTSD issues more, it’s worth watching. If the intent of the film was simply that, we could have gone deeper and ended on a more helpful action item. One solder did gave one piece of practical advice: “I’d rather hear Welcome Home than Thank You.”

That said, a really balanced piece about the whole Vet experience would have shown more sides and more soldiers speaking on all issues raised. The film hand-picked soldiers with PTSD and soldiers with lingering anti-war feelings – a small and absolute sample slanted to an anti-war agenda. Time Magazine calls the film implicitly anti-war – which is fine. So why pretend otherwise?

This is not to take anything away from those who are supporting the movie. These are just my opinions. I find the film important in some areas, but essentially an imperfect thing. I do feel strongly that the final take-aways should be these:

To Soldiers: apply for benefits at any time. Mistakes happen. You may get a bad claims specialist. You may have to appeal a ruling. It’s worth trying. It will take a long time; but there are many people at the VA who will exhaust every avenue to get you money. There are also veteran’s outreach groups out there who will help you navigate the VA process so you don’t have to do it alone.

To Non-Soldiers: Are you willing to pay more taxes to get claims processed faster? You should vote that way. Call your congressmen.  Ask them to evaluate the claims process. Get active. Protest the war or offer solutions. All hands on deck.

More Poems About the War Experience
Here, Bullet Poems by Brian Turner