Much was been written about this movie. To some, it re-creates what it was like to fight in Vietnam. To others, no movie can do that since there is no escaping the fact that you are not there, that your fear is of seeing something horrible, not of being killed or maimed. You cannot know the heat, the damp, the insects, the boredom, the fear, the terror.
— “The nightmare of ‘Platoon,’” Feb. 3, 1987
In the new millennium, Cohen contended with another loss of life that shifted the way Americans saw the world. When the planes hit on Sept. 11, 2001, he was in Manhattan. The next day, his column ran.
We are at war — some kind of war. The academicians . . . would call this a clash of civilizations, a fight not about territory or spoils but over how to look at the world. Some people would kill themselves and take so many others with them just to . . . to what? We still don’t know. We may never know. We are at war, all right, but with whom?
— “Beneath a cloud of death,” Sept. 12, 2001
Seven years later, the country changed again, but this time in what was for many a great triumph. From the night of President Barack Obama’s election:
History was out in the street, invisible but powerful, and it would, you’ll see, improve lives the way it had once ruined them. Change: It can happen.
— “History calling in Harlem,” Nov. 6, 2008
Obama’s election had particularly thrilled Cohen’s mother, whose excitement for him and vigor for life writ large — and the injustice she faced for being a woman — he wrote about in a 2012 column memorializing her the week after her death.
My mother could have been president of the United States. She could have been chairman of General Motors, chief executive of Apple in the morning and of Google in the afternoon — and home in time to cook something for my father, quiz my sister and me on our school day and then rush off for a nightcap of canasta. She was the most competent person I’ve ever known, and her problem, if you could call it that, was she was born way before her time.
— “The president America never had," June 18, 2012
The next month, Cohen commemorated another of the giants of his life: writer and filmmaker Nora Ephron.
Nora took my life and renovated it. She decided that I should become a columnist, and somehow it happened. She found summer rentals for me and made her friends mine, and she instructed me about love, writing, real estate and investments. I hardly made a move without her. When I wrote, especially if it was something we’d discussed, I felt her hovering over my shoulder: After 40 years, a “good column” from her meant the world to me. It was the best payday of all.
— “My friendship with Nora Ephron,” July 2, 2012
Cohen also aimed plenty of his columns at people he admired markedly less. In one of his final columns, he took on President Trump and his era — by returning to his mother and sharing how she would have felt about it all.
It is inconceivable to me that my mother would have approved of Trump, though as an inveterate gambler, she once liked him for his casinos. My only question is not whether she’d be furious at him, but how sad, as well. Next to her family, she loved America the most, and I think Trump would have broken her heart. He is the most un-American of all American presidents, a boorish man who has erased the distance between the mob and the speaker. He is both at the same time.
— “My mother loved America. Trump would have broken her heart," July 22, 2019