The Times That Tried, and Broke, Men’s Souls
(A film summary of “Winter Soldier”)
In the winter of 1776 Thomas Paine wrote, “These are the times that try men’s souls”. These simple words meant to describe the beginning of the American Revolution are implied with the title of the film, Winter Soldier . But instead of the American Revolution, it now encompasses all the effects of the Vietnam War. This film brings many tragedies to the public’s attention for no other reason than to educate. For what you do not learn from the past, you are doomed to repeat. The world cannot afford to repeat the mistakes that were made during the Vietnam War.
This film shows how institutions, such as military, family, and church, help to form a person’s beliefs or attitudes. This film shows how many soldiers began to believe that the Vietnamese people were less than human. There were many instances of women being raped in front of their families and then killed afterwards. The reaction from upper command is to just laugh it off. Generally they call it “company policy” to laugh or dismiss any wrongful doings to Vietnamese people, or “Gooks” as they normally call them. With this much hatred and disrespect towards these people it would be hard for a soldier to restrain from going along with what they were taught, or even ordered to do. When people act mindlessly in a group like this, many bad things can, and usually do occur.
The violence that many men in this film described is learned through military discipline, group reinforcement, and instrumental rationality. The story that one man shared about killing any Vietnamese person that he saw is an instance of instrumental rationality. He saw many of his friends killed by Vietnamese, and his rationale was to kill everybody in order to not end up dead like his friends. This kind of violence is human nature; hard-wired into a person from birth. Other stories from the soldiers, describing the killing of little Vietnamese children because of a hand gesture or throwing of a pebble, show a terrible kind of violence that is learned. In this film the soldiers learn this violence from group reinforcement from the military, and also from organizational command from the military. These soldiers were taught from day one how to hideously kill anything and then set up with the notion that Vietnamese people were not human. Thus leading to horrific acts of violence acted out during the war.
This film brought to light the appalling way people can act when put into different situations. The fact that many veterans came forward to let the world know about this violence, shows how they probably weren’t acting in their own interest during the war, and that there was another factor, a group mentality.