One of 2010’s most powerful docs is The Tillman Story, which finally tells the whole truth about what really happened to pro football player Pat Tillman when he was shot by friendly fire while hunting down the Taliban. The military tried to cover it up. Worse, they used his death, or attempted to use it, as a public relations ploy to bolster support for the war. Meanwhile, the liberals also tried to use it to bolster anti-war sentiments. It is an interesting, heartbreaking story about the politics of war, but also about the loss of a truly great person.
Pat Tillman’s brother will appear on the Bill Maher show this week.
There is a sense of urgency with this, just as there is with Inside Job and Waiting for Superman. Pat Tillman really WAS an American hero if there ever was one. What is so compelling about this doc, though, despite what the conservatives want to make of it, is Pat Tillman’s life before his untimely death.
An article in the American Spectator attacks the filmmakers, accusing them of brainwashing the Tillman family:
As earnest of their bona fides, the filmmakers have taken the Tillman family with them into automatic conspiracy mode — an assumption of deceit and coverup that goes well beyond the evidence supplied by the original deception, which claimed that Cpl. Tillman had been killed by enemy fire while heroically rescuing some of his fellow Rangers caught in an ambush. But neither the nobility of Pat Tillman’s sacrifice nor the family’s bereavement nor the fact that they were lied to about it should put them beyond criticism. The vitriol of their angry exchanges with the Pentagon, in which they appear to have been egged on by the filmmakers and other anti-warriors, and their assumption, shared by the filmmakers, of the corruption of America’s political and military establishment may be gratifying to the kind of people who make up the majority of movie-goers these days but it will strike those outside that community of opinion as being almost as graceless as the drunken eulogy at a memorial for Pat of his younger brother Richard who, with glass of beer in hand, informed those gathered to pay their respects: “He’s not ‘with God,’ he’s f***ing dead!”
That line resonated with me particularly strong, when his brother said “He’s not with God, he’s fucking dead,” because it is true. It isn’t what people want to hear nor is it what most people believe. But that was a moment of truth. A hard and painful moment where he is speaking about his own flesh and blood who isn’t there anymore. He isn’t thinking about a military hero, a football star or a national symbol – his brother was shot. If it had been me, and it was my child or brother who’d been killed, those would have been my words.
The justification for such boorish behavior is that Pat “wasn’t religious,” a fact which, to Richard and others, means “he’s not what these people” — that is, patriotic Americans who want to honor American heroes — “wished he was.” Fair enough, perhaps, but how is that a justification for insulting and repudiating those who seek to honor someone whose deeds, truly, speak more loudly than his words? To believe either in nobility and sacrifice or in God and the afterlife where the truth is murky — as it so often is on the battlefield and in religious faith as elsewhere in life — is not discreditable and certainly not the same thing as “lying.” It is, rather, an act of faith and generosity. And with all due allowance for the fact that the family were lied to in the initial story of Tillman’s heroic death, could not the same charitable construction be put upon the Pentagon’s mistaken fabrication?
No. There was more going on than just “honor and sacrifice.” There was carelessness. It was a tragedy that can’t be smoothed over. But the real crime here wasn’t so much the accidental death; it was what followed.