Zero Dark Thirty

ohb-lobby-cia-memorial-wall-219

ohb-lobby-cia-memorial-wall-219

Good art has the ability to transcend beliefs and capture emotions. Once in a lifetime a work of art comes along and is able to do just that as well as define a moment in time. Zero Dark Thirty is such a movie. Now, I won’t extol the virtues of this movie because this isn’t a movie review. But I will say:

  • This is the best movie of the year. Make no mistake. I don’t suspect it will be recognized as such because it is too politically charged.
  • How Jason Clark got overlooked for an Oscar nomination is a sin. I suspect this had more to do with the actions of the character more than the performance. Rest assured, this is a performance people will pick apart for years.
  • Anyone kicking up dirt about the torture scenes would be missing the point. It’s a dramatic device used to move the story forward and convey the screenwriter and directors personal philosophy. In other words, it’s art. Did those things take place? Yep. No one denies that. Are the scenes an accurate description? It’s not relevant, it’s a movie.
  • It tells the story we need to hear as Americans. Is it 100% factual? No, it’s a movie. Are there elements of truth? Yes.
  • If you don’t see this movie, you are missing a defining work of art with every artist involved operating at the top of their game.
  • Art should connect with you emotionally and personally and this movie does both.

There is a scene in the movie where the Jennifer Ehle character of Jessica goes to Camp Chapman, a key CIA facility in Afghanistan, to interview a high ranking Al-Qaeda operative in the hopes of getting him to flip and give up Osama Bin Laden.  The scene ends with an explosion. That happened.

On December 30, 2009 seven CIA operatives were killed at Camp Chapman in Afghanistan when a man, who was considered trusted enough by base security not to be searched on arrival at the gate, detonated a suicide bomb in the camp. Some of the names of those killed are:

Elizabeth Hanson
Harold Brown
Scott Roberson
Jeremy Wise
Dane Paresi

Harold Brown hired me in January of 2001 to work for a company called Shareholder.com. At the time I lived in San Francisco and the company was headquartered in Maynard, MA. After a couple of phone interviews and an interview with the San Francisco office Sales Manager, Harold made me a job offer. I accepted.

I flew into Providence, Rhode Island on a Sunday night to begin three weeks of training at the Maynard, MA headquarters.

Over the next three weeks in Maynard and one week in San Francisco, I got to know Harold Brown pretty well. Some of the things I remember about Harold were:

  • He loved country music.
  • His passionate explanation to me of the importance of Dale Earnhardt and why he mattered in NASCAR (and his ability to laugh at my “Isn’t NASCAR just rednecks turning left?” joke)
  • Harold was honest and a genuine God rearing republican.
  • He was a married father of three who loved his family as much as he loved his God and country.
  • Harold was fearless and a natural born leader.
  • He was a man who had faults and was neither ashamed to acknowledge them or embarrassed by them.
  • Harold was always willing to actively listen and engage in a dialog even if his mind was made up.
  • He had a terrific sense of humor and a laugh that was loud and infectious.
  • Harold loved structure.

Easily my favorite personal moment with Harold involved us driving to meet my San Francisco counterpart when she flew out to Maynard one week after I did. He picked me up at the hotel and we immediately got to talking about music. At the time there was a bunch of hubbub about Marilyn Manson being a devil worshiper or something inane like that. Before we got too involved, I had to stop this, so I said “Harold, you and everyone who talks about Marilyn Manson is missing the point. It’s bad music. Done. That is it, nothing more than that. It is musically, artistically and culturally insignificant. It simply doesn’t matter and the more you talk about it, the more credence you give it.”

He thought about it and started again and I interrupted him, “Stop it. It doesn’t matter. There is no value in discussing it. If you simply ignore him and the music, it will end up where it belongs. Nowhere.”

We sat in silence for a minute before he started again. And once again I interrupted him, “Harold, seriously, stop. Wait a minute, do you like the song?” The Harold Brown smile I had come to know over the  past week crept up on his face. I laughed and said “So like it, who cares? It’s a song not a belief system.” But we were apparently not done with our discussion.

Harold shuffled around looking for the song again (seriously, I have no idea what it was) so he could explain what he liked about that damn Marilyn Manson song. He eventually found it and we went back and forth. Harold had an uncanny ability to get me to see and appreciate his perspective, even if I disagreed. On that trip to the airport, I learned a lot about Harold. What resonated the most was his passion and just how genuine and real he was. Not one ounce of pretense. Harold and I were different, wildly different, but I know that didn’t lessen any of the respect or like he had for me or I for him.

About six months after I had started Harold left Shareholder.com to go do something with the National Guard and what it was escapes me but I do recall him wrestling with his decision. About six months after that, I left and moved to Los Angeles. Over the years, I would think of Harold and wonder what path he took, especially after 9/11. I found out in late December 2010 when I did a Google search and discovered he was killed the year before in the Camp Chapman attack. On that day, while I did not know the other six, I can say with complete certainty, we lost one of the good ones.

Did Harold Brown do or participate in things I may find questionable? More than likely. But I feel a little better knowing that he was one of the guys doing them.

I’m learning that if you live long enough, history begins to impact you. For me, the goal should be to impact history.
Harold Brown impacted history.

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