From: A Few Good Men
Who said it?: Col. Nathan R. Jessup
The story behind the quote: The quote comes from the film A Few Good Men. While this may be considered spoilers since it happens pretty much at the end of the film (and is actually “the big thing” of the entire story), a lot of people don’t seem to recognize this fact.
Here’s a quick summary of the scene…
Lt. Jr. Grade Danny Keefe (played by Tom Cruise) has pretty much determined that Col. Nathat Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson) given a “code red” (essentially an order to punish soldiers without any hearing) which led to the death of Officer Santiago. However, Keefe is without any form of proof. He devices a plan to call Col. Jessup to the stand during the trial and get him angry. In this way, he hopes that Col. Jessup will incriminate himself by admitting that he ordered the code red.
Keefe’s finds a flaw in the Col’s initial statement that Santiago should have been safe since there were orders not to harm him. Yet, at the same time, there were orders that he should be transferred for safety reasons. Keefe repeatedly asks the Colonel why would there be a need to transfer Santiago if there were standing orders not to hurt him. He eventually gets Col. Jessup to admit that he ordered the code red. However, the Colonel makes a speech saying that he gave the order to make sure that our freedoms are kept safe.
Geek wisdom: There are actually two pieces of Geek Wisdom we can pull from, not just the quote, but the entire monologue…
Like Col. Jessup said, there are some secrets that you think you want to be privy to, but in reality, the weight of those secrets can be too much to bear. There are going to be things that we believe that we can handle but we really can’t. We will have to rely on others to bear these (sometimes) terrible burdens and perform terrible actions because of them.
However, as Col. Jessup also said, we do have the liberty to condemn others for doing these terrible things, but we don’t know the full story. We may think that there may have been another way to prevent such horrible actions but there may be details that prevented a peaceful resolution. We do have to keep that in mind before we totally rally against something.