Tuesday, March 20, 2018

The Shape Of Heroism

I read Max Hasting's excellent and powerfully detailed review of Howard Jones's book on the My Lai massacre when it first appeared on the London Review of Books website. Then for reasons I'm not sure of - possibly the fact it's so good that I felt impelled to re-experience it - I read it again late last week.

Then came one of those spooky coincidences that are just, well, very spooky. Yesterday I switched on the telly and there was Hugh Thompson, cited in the review rightly as one of a tiny handful of those involved who behaved honourably and courageously, talking to Tim Sebastian in a rerun of a Hardtalk episode from 2004. I instantly knew who he was, realising I'd seen the interview when it was originally aired and sort of forgot it, but also stored it somewhere in memory. Suddenly everything I knew about My Lai seemed to come together in an almost visceral fashion.

It's astonishingly powerful tv, by the way. The deeply impressive Thompson is visibly shattered over having to recall what took place and made desolate by his treatment following the events. This should be required viewing for anyone who buys into the heroic mythology of warfare. It teaches us what real heroism is like.

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