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.