Three Burials

I saw The Three Burials of Melquíades Estrada earlier this week, and liked it. I did not think I had a great deal to say about it beyond what has already been said in the voluminous press it has generated. I could have said something about this voluminous press, yes. I could have said that the official website of this film is worth visiting for the sake of the music it plays. I could have said a few things about South Texas desolation, which I have viewed in person, about white ‘American’ consciousness, or about machismo in general. I could have mused on the oblique connections between this narrative and others with which I am familiar, wherein the characters embark upon treks for meaning to remote Mexican villages – and find there the shards of their own deaths. Juan Rulfo’s Pedro Páramo is one such, and Danny Anderson has written an excellent introduction to it. But all of this would have been mere talk.

Looking at the news today, however, I realize that I do have something serious to say about the film. Norton, the green Border Patrol agent who beats up the people he apprehends and eventually shoots Estrada, is a regular kid, a recent high school graduate from Cincinnatti. See the film and observe his character, think about what he is up to, and how he justifies it. Where might he have learned these attitudes, do you think? Then – no matter how fully you support our troops, or even their mission, or how well aware you are that economic circumstances and lack of information are what lead many into the military – consider that our troops are being Norton and worse, on the daily. It is their job. It is not doing them, or us any good. It goes without saying that the crimes which are being committed abroad as you read this, including those being committed by the students I look forward to welcoming back home, are unhealthy for their victims.

Norton’s adversary, Perkins, ultimately becomes a role model, and leaves him a horse. Fewer of our troops than you would like to believe, do not have adversaries as kind, role models they can reach out and touch, or anyone at all to leave them a horse. This matter is very serious. It has already had grave consequences abroad and at home. It will have more. I am informed, however, that it would be possible to remove all troops from Iraq in ninety days.



Filed under Arts

4 responses to “Three Burials

  1. luisa

    I was standoffish about the film for some time, untill, finally, I rented it last week. Tommy Lee Jones’s “The Missing” was so horrible that it turned me away from his name for a while. “The Missing” is about a colonial white girl who is kidnapped by satanic Native Americans who eventually plan to sell her to Mexicans (“After they sell her to the Mexicans, we’ll never see her again!”–line from movie). The only way to tell the ‘bad’ natives from the ‘good’ natives in one of the actions scenes was that the good ones had a white stripe of paint on their face. (!) So When I heard Jones had made this movie, I took my time to see it. Especially knowing that it was the story of border plight likely told through the eyes of a white American.

    I was happily surprized that I enjoyed “Three Murders…” and thought it was a needed step in the right direction. It is interesting to think about where the patrol man got his anger. The movie sort of made him look like the ultimate evil (as movies do with bad people). He was very sexually aggressive as well which I think says a lot about how he sees people in general–as objects. I read once that police officers have a high rate of spousal abuse. It is definately all connected. And he lived such a boring, uneventful life (all except his abuses). Maybe this has something to do with it. The police, border patrol, prison guards, army etc. all spent a great deal of time doing nothing. So when something happens, they shoot all their energy into it. They can’t let any people get away or disrespect them–it is their ‘time to shine.’ I think a lot of it is built on insecurity issues. When I was a child, an older boy jokingly pulled a knife on me to show off in front of his friends–he became a police officer. I don’t know.

  2. One of the teenagers on my block, the one with the record, wants to be ‘a police’. His cousin says he ‘just wants to crack some heads’.

    I do think the boring, uneventful life has something to do with it … it could be one of the reasons for the extreme aggression when something does happen, as you say.

    Something else I have noticed, though, is that abusive people sometimes do have boring, uneventful lives. If what they are interested in, what makes them feel alive, is abuse, then regular leisure activities or regular work will not seem interesting, so why develop these? (That’s just a theory which came to me as I read your comment, I’ll have to think about it.)

    Where the anger comes from: PZ says, from Da Whiteman Upbringing! Be repressive to a child, limit his access to other points of view, teach him that however inferior he may be to you, he is still superior to women and Mexicans, and that the United States is #1, and there you go. You now have an excellent lynch mob member, Abu Graib torturer, or whatever else you may need. (Sorry to sound so sarcastic, but I think it’s true.)

  3. luisa

    I agree. I read a couple really interesting posts about that stuff over at bfp which I think relates:

  4. I’m caused to think of Zimbardo’s prison experiment at Stanford University years ago, when the students randomly chosen to be the guards in the simulation turned brutal in less than 24 hours, despite the fact that they had successfully “passed” a psychological evaluation before they were allowed to participate. And these were young, well established, well-to-do, educated White boys…?

    Your closing remark reminds me of the 1970’s, when our standard response to the exclamation, “Well, you can’t just turn the troop carriers around!” was “Of course, you can.”

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