The dignity of freedom

As regular readers of BoomerCafé know, we generally stay away from politics. But right now, we think there is a general mood that we live in a crazy world, a widespread fear, a sense of indecision in Western society that transcends politics. That’s why today we are giving you this short piece from our friend, award-winning author and journalist John Laurence, a longtime network news colleague of both of BoomerCafé’s founders, David Henderson and Greg Dobbs. And because Jack has seen more than his share of war, he understands the relevance of what you are about to read.

There is an old war movie called “Sahara” that came out during the woebegone days of World War II (1942) starring Humphrey Bogart as a sincere, battle-toughened American tank commander–a sergeant–who is lost in the Egyptian desert with a mixed group of Allied soldiers and their prisoners who are out of water and desperate to find some. They make it to a desolate oasis just ahead of a German infantry battalion that is also out of water.

Humphrey Bogart (right) in Sahara.

Humphrey Bogart (right) in the film Sahara.

The scene is set for a battle in which Bogart’s tiny band of Yanks, Brits, a South African, a French North African, an Italian and a few others try to hold out against the 500 Nazis until help can arrive. Whether they will survive or not is the central question. No one in the camp, especially Bogart’s sergeant, expects to make it.

At this point in the b&w movie, Bogart is staring out from behind a heavy machine-gun during a lull. Half his odd little squad is dead. A British Army doctor who has befriended the sergeant joins him. They talk:

Bogart: “Come on in, doc. Sorry I can’t give you a tall one.

Doc: (We’re) running low on ammunition. If we run out, what are we going to fight with?

Bogart: Bayonets, gun butts, fists…

Doc: (indistinct) …control. Keep on that way.

Bogart: I don’t know, doc. It sounds impossible but you gotta do it. Looks like somebody will have to work a miracle.

Journalist and author John Laurence.

Journalist and author Jack Laurence.

Doc: Miracle? What kind of miracle?

Bogart: You got me there, doc.

Doc: It seems to me four of us holding off several hundred of them is nothing short of a miracle. (pause) You know why we’re able to do it? (pause) Because we are stronger than they are.

Bogart: What d’ya mean, stronger?

Doc: Oh, I don’t mean in numbers. I mean something else. You see those men out there (the Nazis)? They’ve never known the dignity of freedom.

Bogart: Dignity … That’s a funny way to put it … But maybe you got something there, doc.

Doc: We’ve all got something.”

Jack Laurence reporting years ago from the Vietnam war for CBS News.

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