Friday, October 21, 2005

Not So Funny Any More

I found myself, late last night, exhausted from another construction site and freeway day, collapsed in front of the TV set and watching one of those dreadful escapist action movies. Ellie had sensibly long since given up in disgust and gone to bed, but there's something about even a supid story that just grabs me, and I have to see the end. So there I was, watching Lee Marvin, Chuck Norris and their gang of American military heroes rescuing hostages from a terrorist Muslim group. Not much pretense at character development or motivation. Basically these were just the stockroom bad guys with Middle Eastern names and bearded faces--but they did hate those Americans. Well, not those particular Americans they had captured, they were at pains to say: they hated the imperialistic American government and the American way of life, as well as what America was doing to them.

Stock stuff, then. And all pretty stupid, as I say. But I did check in on the date of the movie: it was 1986. Somewhere right in the middle there, between the Iranian hostage crisis and, well, today. Things haven't changed much, Bush, in lo these forty-fifty years. And sadly, the image of America and Americans hasn't changed much in that time. Here, in this movie, was the image we choose to project of ourselves: tough guys with guns, intent on protecting our interests and our people against all threats, perceived or real, from the rest of the world. Ready to use brute force to resolve our problems. Ready to kill ruthlessly--and with apparent glee--whether by stealth or by "shock-and-awe" explosions, no matter who gets in the way. Ready to impose our will on others. Ready to rectify perceived injustices, our own particular vision of the "hero" in a world of villains. The penultimate scene in the movie, Bush, was utterly predictable: a hand-to-hand combat between our blond, if slightly grizzled hero and the most villainous of dark-haired villains, with the American administering justice with, first, his brave, bare knuckles, then--when threatened unfairly with a knife and, finally, a gun, outmanoeuvering his opponenent and, in the last resort, blowing him to kingdom come. Oh, and the ultimate, ultimate scene: the freed hostages, aboard an American aircraft at last, joining together for a rousing chorus of "God Bless America"!

Well, listen, Bush, there's still enough little boy in me to enjoy a shoot-'em-up action movie. But I was surprised to find myself in heavy judgment, and pretty much horrified by the values of this particular example. Perhaps it's because they were all too close to the realities that you and your people have been creating in that part of the world in the past couple of years. It felt too much like the "reality TV" that obssesses us as a nation these days. The stereotypes of the truculent Muslim bad guys too much akin to the "insurgents" in Iraq. The image of brutally efficient American military force--and of the enemy finally exposed in all his craven cowardice--too close to the fare to which your administration treats us in its propaganda.

Bottom line: it just wasn't funny any more, Bush. I sat and watched, mesmerized by my own fatigue as well as by the hook of an absurd story line, and realized that what I was watching, with all its senseless violence, was precisely what the majority of the rest of the world believes about us. And, Bush, sadly, not without reason. And it's not only the American military that, in its fearful righteousness, wields dreadful firepower: I see in today's headlines that the Congress passed a bill protecting gun makers and dealers from legal action arising from the use, or abuse, of their products. Incredible! What other industry--pharmaceutical, tobacco, automotive--enjoys that kind of immunity? Perhaps, the cynical mind suspects, those industries are next in line for blanket protection. There seems to be no end to your administration's coddling of business. In the meantime, though, we Americans now have a still greater license to run amok with our weapons of--yes, Bush--mass destruction.


PK said...

Went upstairs to clean the atic before the roofers got here. came across 2 old San Francisco Examiner's. Oct. and Nov. 1990. Oct. Bush Defies Congress As Services Cease. Across nation, parks are first to be closed. Poll finds voter ire aimed at lawmakers. Policy changes exclude the sick, protect the few. Nov. Vietnam, Beirut haunt U.S. in gulf. Indians oppose drilling on sacred Montana Land. U.S. and its allies are preparing for war against Iraq. The possibility that Saddam Hussein may soon be armed with a nuclear bomb. Front pages. Like Father, like Son. I miss Bill and Monica.

PeterAtLarge said...

Thanks, PK. Me too.