The Price of the Drug War – Part 1

I had my second viewing of the remarkable 2016 sci-fi movie Arrival. That was recently, when I used it as a “reflection trigger” for a semi-directed retreat I gave for an engaged couple preparing for their wedding day. I noted the nuances of the film with more intensity this time, with its many layers opening up for analysis, reflection, and interpretation.

SPOILER ALERT — The key plot point, the climactic one in fact, is in that crucial conversation between the protagonist Dr. Louise Banks — shown at the scene of the book-launching reception, that of her book-masterpiece — and the surprise guest General Shang, the commander-in-chief of the Chinese military forces. While the movie scenes are shown interspersing with each other in the midst of the past, present, and future (rightly so, in non-linear fashion!), we the audience more-or-less “get it.” It has something to do with the “clincher sentence,” told to General Shang by Dr. Banks, which in turn made him “change his mind” concerning the attack against the alien forces which eerily invaded Earth.

To cut the almost-two-hour-long story short (so to speak), it was a sentence told by General Shang’s dying wife, “echoed” to him by Dr. Banks. In a wonderful coup (revealed in the movie’s behind-the-scenes), director Denis Villeneuve removed (or deliberately didn’t put) the English subtitles in that crucial part of the exchange. It was actually spoken in Mandarin. At first I thought it was a famous quotation from someone, like a great statesman or a military genius or something. Again according to the behind-the-scenes, the director simply requested screenplay writer Eric Heisserer to come up with “a line that would save the world.” And so there you have it, the clincher/game-changer that would convert General Shang (and eventually the rest of the world), “In war there are no winners, only widows.”

It’s very thought-provoking. Like with the effect of a “last song syndrome,” it lingered within me. And I couldn’t bring myself to exhaust its full import. Indeed again, “in war there are no winners, only widows.”

In the next, concluding part of this blog entry of mine, I will extend and connect this reflection onto the ongoing drug war in the Philippines.

(Prior to that, let me just include here in case you still haven’t come across it the link to “Lord, Heal Our Land,” the statement by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, published last Sept. 12, 2017.)

Read the conclusion.

MartYM or Fr. Martin Macasaet, SDB, SThD is a professor of Youth Ministry. He received his Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.

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