[lit-ideas] NYT's Road Home

  • From: "Andreas Ramos" <andreas@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "Lit-Ideas" <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 8 Jul 2007 12:08:28 -0700

The NYT's editorial, which calls for immediate withdrawal from Iraq, is entitled "The Road Home".

That's a curious title. It's clearly lifted from the movie of the same name "The Road Home".

But I doubt more than a handful of Americans know that movie. It's a Chinese movie from the late 90s. No kung-fu or whatever; it's a Chinese movie for Chinese.

It takes place somewhere in Western China in the 1950s. A young politically-enthusiastic teacher arrives at a small rural village. A girl falls in love with him. Most of the movie is about her longing for him, with long scenes of her waiting on a mountainside, hoping to see him go by. The girl is played by Ziyi Zhang, who has a remarkably open and expressive face. At the height of the movie, she spends a long day in snow and ice waiting for him to return.

The end of the movie returns to the present, China in the late 90s (there is a movie poster for Titanic on the wall). The young teacher, now an old man, had died in a distant village. His wife wants to bring home his body for burial. It's winter and the villagers want to use a tractor. But she says no, according to tradition, he must be carried. When the village remembers how he educated generations of kids, they join in to carry him back to be buried on the hill above the schoolhouse.

It's a beautiful and moving film, with one of the best depictions of deep love I've ever seen in a movie. It is subtle, with only a few minor events, yet the film fills its space magnificently. Watch this and you'll see that China can produce world-quality movies.

But why did the NYT chose this movie for its editorial? I never would have chosen this movie's title to serve something that had to do with Iraq. What does a quiet love story have to do with a war of lies? Why use a somewhat obscure Chinese movie to talk about the USA's disaster?

The US military was betrayed when they were dishonorably sent to fight a meaningless war. They will be betrayed a second time if Bush forces them to flee Iraq in defeat. This war must end now, and our troops must come home. They cannot be abandoned to politically-expedient solutions simply to shift the blame away from a liar and a coward. The Road Home is about honor and tradition for a teacher; the NYT is trying to remind the USA that it must remember and restore its honor, which has been lost in the sand in Iraq.

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