In The Valley of Elah


†††† Tommy Lee Jones gives yet another memorable performance, but this one certainly not a with feel good ending.The last scene has our National Ensign raised upside down as a symbol of distress.The movie juxtaposes warriors of two different generations, a father and a son, the father somehow able to maintain his moral compass through the physical and mental turmoil of war, the son evidently corruptedand destroyed by the same.The question the movie asks and the distress call it raises is this - what have we lost in our national character which allows us to be despoiled by the evils we fight and what is the impact on our youth, and therefore our future, of this despoliation?


†††† The film gives no answers.It simply raises the question as it raises the distress flag, the interrogative emphasized by duck tape which prevents the question and warning from being removed or ignored.The title of the film emphasizes the significance of the question.How do we defeat the giant evils which oppose us without becoming the evil which we seek to destroy?How do we live with ourselves and others when, in our struggle against that which we loath, we become that which we struggle against?How do we maintain our moral compass and pass its true north to our children when society has convinced them that all directions are relative?


An old boss once gave me a present and a lesson as an end of tour memento.It was a swagger stick with an M-16 round on the tip.His message was this:As you learn the new, donít forget the lessons of the past.Something in our collective past enabled those chosen to defend us the ability to confront evil head on yet not be despoiled by that confrontation.I am not so bold that I propose to know what that something is.I do propose, however, that given the evils which persist, if we cannot teach our children to maintain their moral compass in the act of confronting evil, that a national distress call is not uncalled for.There will always be Goliaths to face and valleys of decision to cross.Have we imparted to our children enough of the old so that, when called into that valley, they will be able to stand and pass through with their moral compass intact?Have we even given them a compass, or have we sent them into the valley without a guide?If the latter, we will be left in our old age with only our eyes to see and weep for our loss, the flag pole tapped upside down ensign a reminder of what we failed to impart to our heritage.††† ††††††††††††