The more things change…

/ 20 March 2007

One of the things we do here in Vienna — it started a couple of years ago — is to bring along with us a season or two of a tv show on DVD we haven’t yet had time to watch. The last time we were here it was Lost, but this time around, knowing we’d be here for six months, we splurged and brought with us the complete collection of MASH (nine seasons and the movie).

Just about every night we all sit down as a family and watch an episode or two. I can't believe how incredibly pertinent it is! The more things change, the more they stay the same. Granted, this is a 70's series about the Korean War, which means it was filmed at the end of the Vietnam War. And of course it's a lot less obscene, bloody, and so on (and a tad more sexist in the beginning), than most tv these days. But the criticism of blind military ideology, the criticism of attempts to turn "the enemy" into nonpersons, the bravery of ordinary soldiers doing their best in the craziness of the conflict, etc. are all directly pertinent to what we're going through right now in Iraq.

A couple of days ago we watched an episode where the doctors were trying to get an ordinary lab incubator, so that they could culture blood samples in the unit, rather than waiting two days to get them to Seoul. The docs pursued the supply people all the way up the chain of command, and ended up at one point at a press conference where a general blustered on inanely without addressing the points. Meanwhile soldiers were dying for lack of basic medical equipment. It was eerie how much the general's responses sounded like the mess we've heard lately about Walter Reed hospital.

There is also a continuing thread of engagement around issues of racism and homophobia. It's well done, and given us good things to talk about with our kids. But this show was filmed almost 30 years ago -- and we're still having these same battles, and with a lot less civility! I wish MASH were the show people were watching right now, instead of 24....