Thursday, July 5, 2007

How I See It: The Talk We Nee

By Gerry Mandel

Did you ever notice how much talk there is today? It seems everywhere you turn, someone’s talking. Taking a position, giving an opinion, analyzing a situation. You hear it on TV and talk radio. Thanks to cell phones, you can’t even escape talk in a restaurant or a library. I play tennis and almost got into a fight with a guy who thought he had the right to make cell phone calls from his court. From the condition of his backhand, I hoped he was talking to a tennis pro.

Talk is even encroaching on an area once considered inviolable. Cartoons. Yep, animated features, according to a recent article in the New York Times, are loaded with talk while lacking movement, which makes them less entertaining. Think of the classic Road Runner cartoons, or Tom and Jerry. Those guys didn’t talk. They moved. They acted and reacted, and we all got it. Charlie Chaplin made the world laugh and cry without saying a word.

To tell you the truth, I think all this chatter is the cause of global warming. Those over-stimulated frequencies have to go somewhere, right? One of my favorite musicians is Mose Allison. He wrote a song called “Your Mind is on Vacation and Your Mouth is Working Overtime.” An anthem for our times.

So where am I headed with all this talk about talk? I’m going back over 60 years, back to World War II, back to June of 1944 and the beaches of Normandy. Tens of thousands of men landed on those beaches. Sadly, thousands of them died there. Most of them, however, came back home. But there’s a sadness in that as well. Because so many of them never talked about what happened there, what they saw, how they felt. And how they feel now, more than 60 years later. It’s not easy for them to talk about their experiences, especially to their families. But isn’t it a shame that these men who earned the right to talk have chosen to keep it all in? Tim Russert of “Meet the Press” says they possess a “quiet eloquence.” I like that. Quiet eloquence.

I play senior softball with a guy named Charlie. I like him a lot. He’s 82 years old, which gives me hope that I’ll still be able to swing a bat when I’m 82. I had known Charlie for a year or more, when I told him about a book I had read, called “Flags of Our Fathers.” It’s the story of a young man who learns that his dad was one of the six guys who raised the flag on Iwo Jima in 1945, an event I know you’re familiar with. He found out about it after his dad had passed away. Charlie said, “Gerry, I was on Iwo Jima too.” He surprised me. I knew he was a Marine, but not much else. I asked him if he’d ever told his wife or his kids about what he went through. He said, “They never asked, they didn’t seem interested. Anyway we were just doing a job.” Quiet eloquence. Still, I could feel there were undercurrents in his life that he didn’t want to acknowledge.

I wonder how many stories and memories are locked up. How many sons and daughters, and grand children, will never know what pop or grandpa went through. Time keeps on moving. The older we get, the faster it moves. I hope there’s time for these men to bring their families into their past. I hope they talk about it. It’s the kind of talk we need. Anyway, that’s how I see it.

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