editor's note

 

M*A*S*H


Watching this old wartime sitcom, during what remains, or will become of “Enduring Freedom”, makes one realize how unbelievably contrite our current US Foreign Policy is, how empty and vapid our armchair politicizing has become, and the frightening proportions of our National media reportage.
Here was this Prime Time TV show that aired from '72 to '83, but was based around a Medical Unit serving during the Korean War. It was completely new in its ability to laugh, proselytize, comment, and even judge the National arguments, policies, morals, and fever/temperament.
I never much watched M*A*S*H when it was a current TV series. I didn't really like the subject matter, or rather what I thought was the subject matter (War), and found that I couldn't really find a sympathetic female character (let's face it, Hot Lips, especially later Hot Lips, is irksome by any standards). But I always liked the theme song, and always made it through the opening credits, so that I could hear the sad sonorous soliloquy, before flipping the channel. The tune is titled, Suicide is Painless. I was unclear with what “Suicide was”, as far as the verse was concerned, but for a television show, the melody was not necessarily so catchy, but something more: maybe because the song was imported from M*A*S*H the movie. I don't know, but those bars of music are really all I recall from the series.
And it's funny, despite all the TV I watch, I tried to resist the digitally re-mastered and re-released M*A*S*H currently playing on, of all channels, the Hallmark Channel, notorious, or rather distinguished for its Family Programming. And yet, Suicide drew me in, again. And now, I watch four times a day. I get the comedy, the inevitable clown, the ability to face the farce in the space of dire sadness.
I was speaking to someone whose son would be soon leaving to Iraq:-for a tour of duty, which would last a year. As we spoke, certain things, very unpleasant were revealed. Since “Mission Accomplished”, soldiers who have been injured in Iraq now receive half the “disability” compensation per month, as those injured during “Shock and Awe”. So for example, for a mere $1600.00 per month, these injured troops will now receive $800.00. Not only that, but all troops' wages have been cut (this friend's particular son's decrease amounted to a pay cut of 20%, since the “Accomplished” status). Considering that more troops have been injured since “Flight Suit Day” (close to 3400 in total as of printing), and casualties since then are outnumbering those fallen during “Wartime”, the troops who are sacrificing most for supposed freedom, are being the least compensated. Quite unlike the large conglomerates-such as Halliburton and VP Cheney's energy consortiums, much less the Texas chums of “W”-all of whom are gaining the fruits, and they truly are “Fruits of War”.
Speak to these discrepancies, these tragedies, Democrats.
For all of it is really hardly a comedy. And yet, we know from our “Day to Day Shakespeare Calendar”, we as an audience have honed in on the concept that everything is either “tragedy or comedy.”
Tomorrow, Dad, I will have black rings painted round my eyes, and the chalk white cheeks of a corpse. I will try to be all those whose laughter ended in the beech forest, in the birch copses far away, just before dawn-those whom you tried to bring back to life. And I shall try to be you, too, you who never forgot.
As best I can. I'll play the clown the best I can. And maybe, in the name of you all, I'll manage to play the man too.
-Michel Quint, In Our Strange Gardens
Perhaps “Suicide is Painless.” And the face of death, not just of individuals, but ideals, governments, people, is the visage of the clown, because that of man is too painful to bear.
The game of life is hard to play
Gonna lose it anyway
The losing card I'll someday lay
So this is all I have to say
(Repeat Chorus)
-Suicide is Painless, M*A*S*H theme song


Devon Dikeou
editor/publisher