Langston Hughes' Poem, Without Benefit of Declaration
Length: 836 words (2.4 double-spaced pages)
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"BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE." This phrase is run on commercials in an attempt to try and recruit men and women to enlist in the United States Army. The commercial shows men and women completing obstacles and high tech training. Some other commercials for the United States Armed Forces use tactics, such as; awarding money for college after the recruit has spent a given amount of time in their Army, Navy, or Air Force. But, what the commercials fail to do is to depict the reality of any soldier's life post war. These commercials are not alone with false advertisement of war; Hollywood movies and books have also contributed. Society has come to glorify war and have forgotten the consequences of the men and women who went to fight for their country.
In movies, a soldier's homecoming is depicted as one of honor and courage. Hollywood tends to glamorize war and not show the true effects of the mentality of a woman or man who have just returned home after the war. In the poem, "Homespace", by Anthony Grooms, the psychological state of the soldier's return home is displayed more true to that of Hollywood's. The boy returns home and is embraced by his mother. The family has a barbeque for the boy's homecoming. Even though he is at home, where he should feel safe and secure, the boy remains in war-like state of mind. He isolates himself from everyone else, "I made myself busy with the fire/ So I wouldn't have to talk," (Line 7-8). The young man, "heard screams" (Line 9), when fuel was added to the coals. Men and women of war are tormented by the images they seen and heard. No one person at this gathering seemed to take notice of the impression that the war left on this boy, mentally. It seems as though, because the boy was home and no physical evidence appeared on his body, they assumed everything was in good condition. Not noticing the boy's problem, "Women and children laughed from the porch/ Men sat under the elms" (Line 11-12). All the while these ignorant people sat enjoying themselves, the boy, "watched the sky for the enemy" (Line 13). This last line adequately describes the mind frame of the boy and in all probability many of men and women who fight in wars for their countries.
Hollywood movies and book tend to also ignore the negative aspect of veteran's who come home to no family or a home to live in.
Hollywood is not entirely at fault, for the lack of attention, but society confronts this problem nearly everyday. In the poem, "He Said He Had Been A Soldier", by Dorothy Wordsworth, a common man stopped to talk to another man. From the description of the clothing of the second man, "He had a beggar's wallet over his shoulders/ And a coat of shreds and patches" (Line 4-5), the reader understands that the man is homeless. The homeless man tells how "his wife and children/ Had died in Jamaica" (Line 2-3). It is most likely that the man's family died as a result of the war. He now has no family or home. This man went and fought for his country, yet this country of his pays him no regard. Not only does the government seem not to be bothered by this man's troubles, but society also turns their heads. Society may look at this "bum" and disregard him because of the state that he is in. They fail to realize that this man had done for their country. The other man who stopped to talk to the veteran gave him, "a piece of cold bacon/ And a penny" (Line 11-12). How dare this man be so demeaning. He took the time out to talk to the man in "shreds and patches", but yet in the end was not all as caring as he first seemed to be. The fact that the man spared only a penny to this human being is unreal. Society has such little concern for other human lives. After all, most of the people who turn away from these veteran's who live on the street, have never did their country such an honor as a veteran has.
Society tends to neglect the aftermath of a soldier's life after they have fought for their country. If commercials and Hollywood make war such an attraction, where there is always a hero who is loved and honored by everyone, then society would get the sense of what really occurs. Langston Hughes' poem, "Without Benefit of Declaration," best described Hollywood's way of detailing war. In the last four lines he states, "A medal to your family-/ In exchange for/ A guy/ Mama, don't cry." As if a medal can replace any human life. The fact that "guy" is used in relation to a mother's son is absolutely offensive. The more true depictions of war the better society can handle situations.