…Parallels the Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 classic Japanese film Rashomon, where in the case of the recently deceased Robert Strange McNamara on July 6,the crime committed, the guilty party and the sequence of events varies widely depending on the credence given to differing accounts of his life and actions. McNamara was Secretary of Defence during the Vietnam war while serving under Presidents Kennedy and Johnson before perhaps bailing ship to assume the post of the World bak after his resignation in November, 1967.
Like Rashomon, the story of McNamara and the ensuing interpretations are often mutually contradictory sides of the truth, leaving us to determine which if any is the truth and if the truth even exists after its distortions and numerous escapes from context. Much like the film on McNamara, The Fog of War by Errol Morris, we are left in a mist, like the ghost of the dead Samurai in Rashomon whose own depiction of events is shrouded in ambiguity, much like McNamara’s own dictum that ”belief and seeing are often both wrong.”
Essentially, the death of McNamara is about memory. Like Rashomon we are confronted with the nature of truth and an investigation into the philosophy of justice in both cases as the result of a heinous crime.The crime itself is not easily understood. Like Kafka, is there charges without guilt or guilt without charges? At stake is collective memory, and history and the myth to be created from it.
Vietnam was a flashpoint in terms of its influence on social culture, history and personal identity. The fact that his life was so contentious is healthy since there are no pre-fabricated necessary illusions to be spoon fed with. Like the plot in Rashomon, the witnesses to the murder of the Samurai and rape of his wife follow another of McNamara’s lessons, ”never answer the question that is asked of you. Answer the question that you wish had been asked of you”.
In the case of McNamara, we have memory within memory, like a Russian doll, or like climbing the levels inside a pyramid, intoxicated by the our own curiosity and impatient to learn the truth…