That was Edward R. Murrow, reporting from London during the Blitz, describing the sound of stoic British feet calmly making their way to bomb shelters. According to City at War: London Calling, the PBS documentary about reporters in WWII London, which aired in May, Murrow then put the microphone to the ground so that the rest of the world could hear what he heard.
I have crushes on journalists, particularly war correspondents, the way other women have crushes on movie stars. (Not that I don’t have crushes on movies stars—two in particular: David Straitharn and George Clooney*, who, coincidence?, both starred in the Murrow biopic Goodnight and Good Luck.) Partly, it’s blind admiration. Writing is hard enough to do, and then you add in bombs dropping and gunfire and things you just don’t want to see and will never end up showing the world, and on top of this, you have to write about it all quickly and with some eloquence?
I don’t know if the reporting from WWII had the same kind of sad fatalism that, understandably, hovers over the heads of today’s war correspondents in Iraq. It is such a different war. Every time I see Michael Ware reporting on CNN, I’m worried that he’s headed for a nervous breakdown. And Arwa Damon seems semi-catatonic. I wonder how Murrow would have covered Iraq. What would he say about Abu Ghraib, about Fallujah, about our exhausted soldiers and the shell-shocked Iraqis? In times of darkness, the best among us find sparks of beauty; they see a single slender flower crushed in the sand and pick it up and show it to us all. They hear ghosts shod in steel shoes.
I leave you with an excerpt from Murrow’s epic fuck-you-Joe-McCarthy March 9, 1954, broadcast:
“We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine; and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate, and to defend causes that were for the moment unpopular.”
I ::heart:: Edward R. Murrow.
*Remind me to tell you my George Clooney story sometime.
[Author’s note: The giant cartoon Jesus hand sign, which I promised for today, will appear at another time when I have a photo to do it justice.]