Sam definitely has an ego. This ego allows him to think that he has unique and important insight on issues currently facing the planet. The Eyes Filled with Sand column is where he'll stand on a platform and shout his opinions, formed by being a liberal in Texas. He hopes you'll join in the discussion, because he thinks an exchange of ideas and viewpoints can only help, in the long run.
Ok, so this one is actually going to be a little comics, little politics. It's about a series I followed from the start, dropped off from for a bit, then caught up with a few days ago. That series is Brian Wood's and Riccardo Burchielli's DMZ.
In the beginning, I loved this series for just how raw and visceral it was. This was the halfway point of the aughts decade, I was a freshman at Texas Tech, and this thing grabbed me by the throat. It shook my right leaning mind out of its comfort zones, and here's why: I was born and raised, and still live, in West Texas. That Friday Night Lights movie that came out? You either saw it or read the book; I lived it, firsthand. The married couple that were part of the school system, Jim and LaRue Moore, the ones calling ECISD out on its blatant self service and racism in the name of football? My maternal grandparents. However, my father received tokens of appreciation from the RNC for the amounts of money he donated to the Reagan campaigns, and I was more directly exposed to his views in my formative years. I was a conservative in my earlier lifetime, my very first vote for a president was for Bush. I even attended his second inauguration. But, those last couple years of high school, things happened. I started listening, like actually listening, to System of a Down's Mezmerize and Hypnotize albums. (Quick deviation, one big, impactful moment from them was when I read an interview from Serj Tankian laying out why they opposed the wars, because of their childhoods.) My best friend was challenging my views, making me see things from a different perspective. I started slowly, but surely, turning ever leftwards. Speaking more openly with it about said grandparents, they helped me along, tempering any "new convert" zeal with consideration and reason which helps, to this day I hope, keep my insufferability to a minimum. But the thing that really socked me in the gut was when I first laid eyes on DMZ.
First off, I love Burchielli's art. His gritty, shadowed style is something that a story as heavy as DMZ absolutely needs to keep its gravitas. But Wood, man, every year it's becoming frighteningly clearer that he is some sort of urban prophet. As you know, I absolutely cannot stand any coward calling themselves a secessionist, and Wood absolutely perfectly captures their ilk in the Free States of America movement. They are intolerant, smug bullies, in the fiction, and I would say in real life, with no respect towards others. Matty Roth, as a protagonist, is easily identifiable, because he's anything but an infallible heroic protagonist. He's unsure at first, but then, instead of turning into some sort of author avatar Mary Sue, he stays human. He becomes cocky, he becomes an ass, and he gets in over his head, multiple times. And he never receives any sort of Deus ex Machina saving throw either, at least not in the sense of something coming completely out of left field. Anything that works in his favor works as a part of the overall universe Wood and Burchielli build for us.
One other important aspect is the affluence of complex, interesting side characters that Wood is willing to devote time to. We get two separate occaisions where the entire DMZ itself is fleshed out, from local warlords to the little people hiding in the shadows. They are all given a chance to breathe, to grow, and to tell a story to us about themsel a main character, a love interest, and a villain. And it is the focus on the small, hidden people that gets to me the most. Wood encourages, in every issue, to remember who the actual victims are in any war. The ones hurt most are not enemy comabtants, or insurgents, or "bad guys". It's the children hiding in the basement during yet another carpet bombing. It's the invalid and sick, unable to escape a war zone, who are hit hardest. It's the mothers and infants, trying to survive while people far away order fiery death from the sky. It's the ones ignored by their own countrymen, told they are being fought for, but never seeing any benefit other than more bullets, and more explosions.
This series is, I think, what really tipped me from the right to the left, it gave me that final push. Because Wood has, in this 60+ issue and counting monthly comic, done something the media alone hasn't done and/or won't do. He's taken the paths of Philip Gourevitch and Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire. They wrote about Rwanda (something that I am still shocked people don't speak of anymore), and Wood is writing about the Middle East, but the message is the same. And yes, I know that DMZ is ostensibly about the US, but come on, we all know what it's really about. It's about the unspeakable atrocities that war unleashes. It's about the horrors and nightmares that follow in the wake of legalized bloodshed. He's humanized it, he's given the victims faces, and they're not white and pretty and sparkling. The victims are broken, they are frightened, and they are not soldiers. The victims are always the civilians, and Wood reminded me of that, and even if you disagree with my personal political views, you absolutely must agree that anyone going to war has to face that fact. The reasons for fighting don't matter. They never do, in lives as transient and short as our own. The innocents do, and they always, without fail, will suffer by someone's hand before a war is done. If you can call that acceptable or collateral, then fine, I can't stop you. But what I can hope is that someday you will realize what is being done in the name of good.
Brian Wood and Riccardo Burchielli realized it, and they remind us month in and month out not to forget. I absolutely regret dropping off the series for any amount of time, and now remain firmly attached until the series conclusion is reached. I anxiously await the further exploits of this little universe that Wood and Burchielli and others have built for us to explore, and I love the intelligent, thoughtful approach Wood has taken for such a heavy, polarizing subject. Everyone should read it, regardless of political bent, and I know everyone can take something away from it.
That's all I have for you today. Read DMZ? Love it or hate it? Tell me in the comments, or at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on twitter @samhurtZG. Can't wait to hear your thoughts!
Sam recommends reading Shaking Hands with the Devil by the aforementioned Lt. Gen. Dallaire, or, obviously, DMZ if you haven't picked it up yet.