THE FEDERALIST: ‘Mending The Line’ Illuminates Marine’s Struggle To Overcome PTSD
June 20, 2023
Afundamental idea of conservatism is that it is easier to destroy than create. This is why Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France is a central conservative text. Institutions, families, nations, and traditions cannot be created overnight. They need time and energy to grow, but they can easily be destroyed overnight.
“Mending the Line,” a recent film about a U.S. veteran recovering from PTSD, beautifully demonstrates this principle.
It takes years to build a U.S. Marine. Technically it takes 224 years, because the Marine Corps is bigger than any one Marine, and without the Corps there are no Marines. These men are brothers, part of a familial martial tradition dating back to 1798. But sadly it only takes a few moments of violence to destroy one.
This is exactly what happens to John Colter, played by Sinqua Walls, at the beginning of the film. One moment he and his brothers-in-arms are on a mission in Afghanistan, talking about what they are going to do stateside, and the next they are all dead, except Colter. He is horribly wounded.
The narrative then continues in the mountainous West at a Veterans Affairs clinic. Colter struggles to come to grips with his PTSD. In a group therapy session, he becomes enraged when he finds out the group leader never served in combat. His doctor decides that rather than return to therapy, Colter should learn how to fly fish instead.
This is the essence of the film: the rebuilding of a broken man through fly fishing. The movie’s title comes from a fishing term. When the line is out of whack, it drags the lure unnaturally against the current. Fly fishers want the lure to move with the water so it tricks fish into thinking it is something they want to eat. Mending techniques allow the lure to drift naturally with the flow of the water. For Colter to mend his soul, he needs to focus on something beyond himself, so he can learn how to move with the natural rhythms of life again.....
“Mending the Line” does not victimize combat veterans or romanticize them. It allows them to be fully human. It gives a voice to a group in our society that has often been voiceless. And, maybe most importantly, it gives a method for them to heal, for helping them mend the broken lines of their very valuable lives. That method is time, patience, and finding something to do outside oneself — finding something that makes life worth living again, something as simple as fly fishing.