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BY LAVAGE SCARLIOTTI

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We all, all in this case being my six male friends who are just like me, remember the emotionally charged moment in the 1981 Ivan Reitman classic 'Stripes' in which Bill Murray exhorts his platoon mates to buck up and master the rudiments of parade grounds drill skills with a rather wordy pep talk, the nexus of which is the claim that "We are 10-and-1" referring to the United States war record.

I don't know if it is the finely wrought prose stylings of Len Blum and Daniel Goldberg or the riveting delivery of Murray that causes this line to stick in my head as the sole representative reference from this film, destined to fight against thousands of other Memorable Lines I have stored needlessly, or my confusion about the historical bases of this pronouncement. Having failed for years to reproduce a list that matched his claim (in silent confusion, too timid to announce my own clearly inadequate command of American History) , I finally turn to my six male friends who are just like me to consult on what exactly is the genesis of this line:

1. Sheer ignorance. All the way down the line, from Messrs. Blum and Goldberg, to the unsuspecting and history-deficient public, no one noticed bother to do the necessary research or noticed the error.

2. Clever scripting. To better underscore the irony that such a ne'er do well such as Murray would eventually be recognized as a national hero (our apologies if we gave away the ending to those heretofore uninitiated to the films charms ), this subtle error was inserted. We find this scenario unlikely, as most history-deficient viewers would take his claim as de facto truth and then not have the rich, irony laden payoff for which Reitman & Co. was working towards.

3. That Crazy and Extemporaneous Murray (a later comer, I admit, having only been able to generate theories one and two on my own). This scenario postulates that Murray was given wide latitude to ad lib during scenes, in deference to his comic genius, and Murray, the heat of comic inspiration or, again, out of ignorance, extemporized this fact in the course of his set piece. Some mixture of theories one or two, along with the possibility that such a spirited soliloquy could not be recreated after someone noted the error, mandated that the error be embraced and turned loose on an unsuspecting public.

To insure that this trenchant and sharply written piece did not go awry due to sloppy research, I gathered the council of six male friends who are just like me (though this was a 'virtual' council, in that they did not so much gather as visit in inconsistent, and not sequential, intervals) to make a list that, while by definition, was incomplete, was certainly exhaustive, as is as follows:

Victories:
Revolutionary War
War of 1812
Mexican-American War
Civil War (the council of six male friends, etc., overruled my assertion that this should also be carried in the 'loss' column)
Spanish-American War
World War I
World War II
Korean War

Losses:
Vietnam War

In the course of the research, we felt it important to include post-1981 military engagements:
Grenada
Panama
The Persian Gulf War

This puts us currently at 11-1, but it was pointed out the Grenada was more a police action than a war. That was countered with the observation Korea and Vietnam were 'technically' police actions as well. Armed with such incisive analytical skills, we concluded that Grenada was a Long Weekend in the Caribbean (surely to the dismay the makers of the cinematic gem Heartbreak Ridge), thusly providing us with a perfect correlation to Murray's claim.

We then wondered in awe if Murray was some sort of Oracle, and how, having crested the almost casualty free Gulf War, we could look forward to decades of peace. Others commented darkly that he may only be an agent of disinformation, and our current confusion was part of some complex, but still unclear plan to divert our attention from surely sinister activities elsewhere by some unnamed people. Still others observed wryly that if Murray was going to predict the future, he could have instead told his platoon mates to buy Cisco stock.

Hoping to do ten more minutes of valid research, the Internet was consulted, only to discover that others, possibly more thorough historians, possibly more given to hyperbole, have a more inclusive view of war, recognizing these little remembered 'conflicts:'

The Caroline Affair (1837-1842)
Catholic riots in Philadelphia (1844)
Mountain Meadows Massacre (1857)
Controversy of 1889 (1889)
mob in Valparaiso (1891)
miners riot (1894)

Imagine how aficionados of History, War, or those few sad souls who have mounted academic careers on, say, the Controversy of 1889, would feel if we elevated Murray to the status of Oracle on the basis of his evident elision of these small, but still war-like events? We then realized that such rich and ironic observations are the stuff of other council of Six, etc. activities, to be addressed with similar vigor at some unclear future date.

 

 



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