03.09.2003 Feature Article

God Already Left Africa - "Tears of the Sun"

By Kasoa
God Already Left Africa -
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“Go with God,” he said in a shaky voice, as he waved a frail hand in the air to bid the refugees leaving his Mission a safe journey.

“God already left Africa,” LT curtly retorted to the soldier standing next to him. “Yea…that’s right.” Replied the soldier.

The movie is “Tears of the Sun,” and the setting is Africa – Nigeria to be precise -- during a highly tumultuous time.

Bruce Willis plays lieutenant (“LT”) in the movie, which I think, should be made required viewing by all Africans, particularly -- Ghanaians, and most importantly, at least all the Ghanaians who visit this forum (Say it Loud “SiL”). I say this not because Ghanaians in Ghana have experienced what the movie invokes. Nay, Ghana is one of the few places in Africa where a full-scale civil war has not broken out. We would like to keep it so!

SiL has been a place to bounce-off ideas for quite a few years now. I am not in a position to judge whether its existence, and the impact it has on citizens in the Diaspora is overestimated or underestimated. What I do know is that some current leaders in Ghana have at one time or the other, debated matters on SiL, and it is this, (exposure to future leaders), that I seek to exploit. The scenes depicted by this movie, and the core of what makes a “soldier” must be made to foment a duty-bound disposition -- in tune with the inherent ideals of a society -- in the minds of many, (especially soldiers and leaders).

I hope that a lesson learned would be this: either as a rebel soldier, (God forbid), or a legitimate and loyal governmental instrument of force, a soldier’s pride and sense of duty must remain trapped, and focused on fighting the true and armed enemy. I appreciate the degrees of discord that what I have stated immediately above introduces – and which I must address. The very notion of a rebel soldier, with its intrinsic illegality must be rejected strongly, of course. However, in seeking to balance two evils, both of which are extremely difficult to control, the heinous crimes committed against humanity is what must be surgically exorcized (if at all possible) in the unfortunate event of rebel insurgence.

The approach to resolving this issue, (in addition to STRICT enforcement of existing laws on crimes against humanity), must also lie in the human being and the mettle that forms the makeup of the person, whichever side they may find themselves fighting for. This approach calls for drawing on the very aspects that separate man from beast, and at least, a modicum of conscience not to resort to outright savagery, no matter how dire the perceived problem may seem!

This must be taught and made a sacred and inviolable constitution within the confines of those we clothe, shelter, feed, and ARM to bear out our collective interest in times of threats from forces – domestic and foreign!! Acts of savagery have been reported across the globe – perhaps, these acts are generally on the decrease but I limit my views here to Africa because that is where “Tears of the Sun” is set, and Africa also happens to be the theater where events, similar in nature are currently unfolding.

Civil wars are messy, and the rules of engagement, (whichever form they take), are murky at best. However, amidst all the madness, I believe some basic level of humanity can be salvaged if it has ever been a part of the fundamental building blocks of the person. The merciless killing and maiming of unarmed and harmless citizens, some done in ways that carves new boundaries to the phrase, “in a gruesome fashion,” leaves one immersed in a state of utter dismay! Soldiers are duty-bound, trained, and sworn-in, (upon their blood), to protect their citizens from all harm, currently known or unknown!! It is a dying shame to see some of them behave so unpatriotically – to unleash the full might of finely trained fighting machines on defenseless citizens.

It is both charitable, and faint, to describe the acts of these soldiers as “cowardly,” in light of what I know happened in Rwanda, Liberia, Congo, SierraLeone etc; and as depicted in the movie, “Tears of the Sun.” The assault on innocent and defenseless citizens, notably, children, demands the question why the soldiers/rebels, at the very least, are not falling dead from just unadulterated shame resulting from their misdeeds. More realistically, why in the end are there so many who go scot-free, and are not held accountable by a more earthly and predictable force?

In fact, even though “Tears of the Sun” has a familiar headlines-making ring to it, which presses into memory, some carnage that occurred in Africa, most people would more readily associate the story the movie tells, with events that wreaked havoc in Rwanda, and continues to unravel societies in Sierra Leone and Liberia. Nigeria (where the movie is set) has had its own sanguinary wars – principally, a civil war that cannot be readily stamped out of memory by those who had the misfortune of witnessing its occurrence. The impact it had on people who actually experienced it may be indescribable, but I suspect many were the lives altered who observed events unfold even from a distance.

“Tears of the Sun” is not overly dramatic! Life they say is stranger than fiction; and life in war-torn regions of Africa is weirder by far!!! Any decent person who sees the movie cannot help but feel an intense hatred against the acts of the rebel forces, and an equally burning desire to see the demise of their deeds, and their very existence! Nevertheless, to anyone of African descent, who still holds dear the belief that, good eventually trounces evil, “Tears of the Sun” is a “shock and awe” concussion campaign on your humanity! The movie leaves you stunned, and stashes a knot in the deep recesses of your belly that winds tight your anger. You are left with the sneaking fear that should that knot be unwound unexpectedly, there can be no telling the damage that could be unleashed on those cowardly rebels, and the violence you yourself might “do in” them were you availed the opportunity.

Thus, “go with God,” the Priest said to the refugees as they sang songs on their way to the US forces helicopter pick-up site. The US Navy soldiers who had come to the rescue of the American doctor had been pressured by the doctor to take along the refugees or to leave without her. LT had unwillingly agreed to take all of them along. The Navy’s elite force looked in control. They trudged their way through the thickets; and the refugees sang songs the whole time, adding to the movie’s suspense. I secretly wondered if the gravity of their predicament had not yet dawned upon them. Why would they sing so openly, possibly, alerting arrant rebel soldiers who might be in close proximity? I was uncomfortable the whole time but – it is a movie, and Africans like to sing so.... Perhaps, the writers wanted to make a subtle point that “Africans” always seek solace in music and group, or ethnic solidarity even when the situation clearly calls for a different approach.

While they rested, LT’s team and the refugees narrowly escaped detection by a group of rebel fighters who were making their way to the Mission. The doctor tried unsuccessfully to convince LT and his men to return for those who had stayed behind at the Mission. I suspected the ones who had stayed behind at the Mission were not bargaining for an easy picnic, but it soon dawned on me why the doctor was frantically insisting on a return.

I must commend the casting director on the choice of characters for this movie. The actors also carried their burden with seeming ease...a highly awesome performance by all!

The Mission doors flung violently open with one huge push! Awash in light, and framed by the door opening, stood a rebel soldier who carried a presence, the magnitude of death! He was the Captain. Soldiers, in ant-like fashion, poured into the Mission’s common-area from his flanks. The soldiers that marched into the room barely measured up to the Captain’s shoulder – he cast an imposing figure! The Captain stood aside to let his Commander into the common-area. The look on the Commander’s face described it all. It was rather hard to believe, but the Commander’s presence overshadowed that of the Captain’s. The Commander was not a big man – yet, he gave the unmistakable impression that one would fair better in a tussle with the Captain, than to attempt to tangle with him. That was the declaration his piercing and dart-like eyes impressed on the audience when he appeared on-scene. He had a weathered look to his face, and a bone structure that seemed to rival the toughness of granite!!

The Priest pleaded with the rebels to leave because the Mission was not harboring any fighters, loyal to the unseated government. The Commander took the Priest’s neck ornament in his hand, and turned it from side-to-side, as he studied it…it was a crucifix. He let it go with a snap – the scorn on his face was apparent! He gazed at the pictures on the walls slowly; visibly mottled with his scorn was now an offensive scowl! The Captain’s eyes were set, (intently), on the Commander the whole time. The Commander took two steps back, and then whipped around tightly. He took one final look at his Captain; then, walked briskly out the door. The camera panned to the feet of the Captain. At his feet lay the Priest, whom a few rebel fighters were holding down.

The sharp clang of metal reverberated through the speakers as the movie had the viewers’ attention riveted on the hapless man at the Captain’s feet. The camera moved to the Captain’s torso area, just in time to capture the soldier unsheathing a long, curved, gleaming, and vicious-looking machete. The look the Captain had on his face is worth a personal viewing of the movie. Either words are inadequate to describe the full effect, or I simply lack the power to so do. The Captain was a heavily muscled man – the detailed extent, revealed in a rippling muscle-bound arm extended in the air, machete in hand. Summoning his full muscular might, he swiftly thrust downward with great force….

The movie made an impression – I may or may not be impressionable. Nevertheless, this is one impression I am glad was made. For those who have been lucky enough not to have experienced the nightmare, may this movie dissuade them from romanticizing the effects of war. There are many others out there who have been unlucky enough to witness such events unfold elsewhere, while within the confines of a comfortable and safe home. Knowing there was little they could do to intervene (and the resultant guilt) is quite a heavy burden to bear. I feel your pain (Clinton ©), perhaps, that is why I took a moment to put this together to display on the Internet. If a few minds are altered, the cascading effect may go a long way. Watching innocent women and children die is no small matter, and that is what LT and his brave men could not do. I hope some of the Africans – especially in the conflict-ridden areas -- would sit to ponder the acts they may be engaged in. It is a long shot, but worth the try.

Ending credits to “Tears of the Sun” has this quotation:

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." --Edmund Burke.

Da Yie.

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