Life

what is your battle cry?

Come on, you sons of b****es! You wanna live forever?”
Daniel Daly, Motivational Speaker

I'm in the upper left, making my War Face, circa 1989.
I’m in the upper left, making my War Face, circa 1989.

I have a guilty pleasure, which I can cheerfully lay at my Dad’s feet. I enjoy some pretty violent movies. I was raised on spaghetti westerns, weaned on Dirty Harry and cut my eyeteeth on Arnold and Sylvester. I’m not the only one; there’s a reason my older younger sister used to practice in a ballet studio with a large portrait of John Wayne on the wall.

And I’ve done my share of passing it along – as I armed my middle daughter years ago to go and participate in the live-action-role-playing Ring Game (a re-enactment of Lord of the Rings done every year here in Madison) she asked me if I had any advice. “Come back with your shield,” I told her, “or on it.”

Huh?” she said, quite legitimately, and I explained that was the way Spartan mothers had said goodbye to their sons before they went off to battle. She was inspired enough to actually be named one of the most “hard-core” players that year (that windy, cold, rainy year…). In fact, they gave her whatever role she chose the following year, which is why I can claim to be the father of Arwen. Which either makes me the lead singer of Aerosmith or the star of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

Fill Your Hands, You Sonuva -”
– Rooster Cogburn, Equestrian

But enough pandering to the film geeks amongst my readers. The point is that I went to a very bad movie, one that was embarrassingly filled with glorified action sequences of violence and brutality painted over with a thin veneer of honor and duty and then dusted with a fine gloss of historically inaccurate heroism and sadly inadequate feminism. I won’t even honor the movie with a name; it would be like describing the last time I ate a twinkie. There’s really nothing redeeming about it.

Except. There was this one part, a climactic scene, in which the leader of one of the armies watches her troops engage their foes. She sees some fall; she sees some triumph; and finally, she’s had enough, and she draws both her swords and screams:

“I am not here to be a WITNESS!”

…and charges into the fray.

That, frankly, made the entire movie worthwhile. Because I leaned over to my partner and whispered “That is a good battle cry.” Not that I have anything against witnesses, mind you. But just imagine saying that every day, before you walk out the door. Before you go to your job, before you enter that classroom, before you open up your computer. Imagine, as the bard says, taking arms against a sea of troubles and oppose and end them.

There are lots of great battle cries – Stan Lee’s “Excelsior!” comes to mind. Some are not so good – “Remember the Alamo!” pretty much relies on the fact that you actually won’t. “Confusion to the enemy!” and “Dum vivimus, vivamus!” are two of my favorites from the realm of science fiction. Ok, yeah, and also “By the Power of Grayskull!”, but I’m kinda biased.

What’s the battle cry for your life? What gets you to charge into the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune? Trust me, you need one. Because, as both Sergeant-Major Daly and Marshal Cogburn will tell you, fortune is a…

Well, you get the idea.

 

3 thoughts on “what is your battle cry?”

  1. I finally remembered it after reflecting on it all morning. When things become unbearable (there is usually a canoe or tent involved) I tell myself “This is not the hardest thing you’ve ever done.” I don’t yell it, I just say it as a matter of fact. I don’t take the time to reflect on whether the statement is true; in that given moment it is the truth. This is not the hardest thing you’ve ever done.

  2. It was a battle cry for a rock climbing group I was in as a teenage whose context is lost to the ages:

    “Stand on it, Dwayne!!”

    I don’t think there ever was a Dwayne, but the battle cry remains.

    Just look up at yourself, waaaay up there on the rock face, toes straining on the tiniest of ledges, yell it and you’ll understand.

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