Mail Call


It would be a classy move if History Channel host R. Lee Emery sent a note to the family of Lance Cpl. James Higgins, who was shot and killed in Iraq last week.

The 22-year-old Marine's mother told the Washington Post that her son's hero was Emery, host of the History Channel show Mail Call. Emery is himself  a Marine, most famous for his typecasting in Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket..

Higgins was a big TV fan, too–literally–often watching on a 75-inch screen when he wasn't playing X-Box or PlayStation 2 video games, according to his mother's account in the paper.

Strange, but I have been connecting war and videogames for several days as I watched on CNN the footage of Israeli airstrikes, or Israeli footage of missiles launched from Lebanon by Hezbollah.

The sepia-toned footage was remote and removed from the horror, like a videogame, or battles fought in that old Star Trek episode in which war had "evolved" into a game of electronic Risk where the requisite number of people lost in virtual airstrikes were drawn by lot and vaporized in some antiseptic chamber.

That's why it is so important that TV also shows the hard-to-watch, septic aftermath at ground level, the soldiers as well as the children and other innocents on both sides that are the collateral damage of our inability to get along for extended periods of time on this planet.

"Dulce et decorum est, pro patria more," wrote poet Wilfred Owen, which means, if memory serves, it is sweet and proper to die for one's country. It was said ironically, as Owen watched the grotesque bodies of gassed soldiers in World War I being carted away. Owen was later killed in the war.

It is not sweet or proper, of course, but it is necessary for soldiers, if not most politicians, to sacrifice themselves when asked to do so by their country. Often those soldiers are just like us, TV viewers and video game players who, bravado aside, would probably rather be taking on the bad guys in some sci-fi war game or saluting Gunny Emery on Mail Call.

By John Eggerton