May 26, 2004
Doctorow's Malpractice: Hofstra students use boos responsibly
May 25, 2004
I didn't really live through the Cold War. I mean, I did, but not in the way my parents did. I vaguely remember the Wall coming down, but it didn't really mean that much to me as a 12 year old. However, I do remember the era's movies. Superman IV. War Games. Rocky IV. I distinctly remember seeing these movies, and I remember feeling scared about the bad guys and cheering for the good guys.
We don't have movies like that anymore.
Lileks recently wrote that he'd like to see them make a movie about 9/11. I would too, but it'll never happen.
I think people would like these stories to be told, but we canÂ’t have war movies anymore unless itÂ’s an old war, or one that happened in some place with an oversupply of consonants. ItÂ’s not that Hollywood is unpatriotic or wishes America to lose; theyÂ’d bristle at the charge. But they want Bush to lose first and foremost, and after that weÂ’ll see what happens. To make a movie about The War admits that there is a war, and sometimes I think a third of the country rejects this notion out of hand. WeÂ’re only at war because Bush made us go to war! or weÂ’re only at war because we donÂ’t let Interpol handle it! or some such delusion. I swear: there are people who see the conflict in such narrow terms that if Bush on 9/11 had announced he was forcing Israel back to pre-67 borders, and the hijackers had heard the news in the cockpit, they would have hit the autopilot and let the planes resume their original course.
So what happens in Rocky IV? The Soviets challenge the Americans to a boxing match, and Apollo takes the bait. In the press conference, the reporters boo the Soviets for claiming they could beat Apollo Creed. Let me repeat that: the reporters boo the Soviets. Apollo dies, Rocky trains (and gets more muscle than humanly possible), and the arena is filled with Drago supporters for the big fight. Rocky holds his own, and suddenly the Soviets are cheering for Rocky. Rocky breaks Drago, and then he takes the mic and tells the Soviets they can change and the crowd goes wild.
Propaganda? Of course so. But it's a plot we all wanted to see at the time.
Our movies were optimistic. We thought we were the good guys and we wrote movies where the bad guys wanted to be us in the end. The Soviets cheer Rocky. He said he learned to like them and maybe they could learn to like him, and the crowd went wild. And when Rocky shook his American flag (which apparently is a no-no in 2004) the Soviets cheered and the Politboro stood up and clapped.
Look, I know it's just a movie, but movies influence our thinking. I strongly believe that those who fought back against the terrorists on Flight 93 would never have done so if they hadn't been raised on movies like Passenger 57 and Air Force One. What will our kids be raised on if they never see movies about the brave folks on 9/11 or the courageous soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan? We need a made-for-TV movie about Pat Tillman, not Jessica Lynch. Don't give us the victim-hero; give us the hero-hero. If our kids grow up on Fahrenheit 9/11 and the movie about Richard Clarke's book, we'll be in deep trouble in twenty years.
We made Cold War movies during the Cold War, but I don't think we'll see one War on Terrorism movie anytime soon. I think that's a travesty.
MORE TO GROK:
This wouldn't be so hard if I got to hear from him more often than twice a month.
Ironically, the same conservatives who believe that no decent American can sympathize with the other side during a war also generally believe that our troops in Iraq deserve the support of the Iraqis because we liberated them from an evil regime. Yet, following their logic, patriotic Iraqis would have had to support a homegrown tyrant over foreign occupation.
That is true, and I need to keep that in mind whenever I can't understand why many Iraqis are not overjoyed that we're there. I also found the corresponding Instapundit post -- perhaps the longest string of words Reynolds has ever uttered -- to be equally interesting:
I'm not a "my country, right or wrong," guy. But I do think that if patriotism means anything it means giving one's own country the benefit of the doubt -- of which, in the case of this war, there's not really much need for -- and that the people I was discussing in that post are doing quite the opposite and adopting a "my country -- of course it's wrong" attitude. To root for your own country's defeat is to separate yourself from its polity, to declare it not worth saving or preserving, to declare the lives of its soldiers less important than your own principles. It's not always wrong, but it's a very a drastic step, as drastic as deciding to mount a revolution, really, and yet it's often taken by superficial people for superficial -- and, as in this case, tawdry and self-serving -- reasons. [emphasis mine]
I completely agree with the Instapundit here. Many people these days don't seem to ever give the US the benefit of the doubt, and I have little patience for people who root against the US. But the phrase in bold particularly struck me: Isn't that what we all do? On both sides? On the one, we have the loonies on the Left who don't care how many lives we have to waste as long as Bush is no longer president:
The only way to get rid of this slime bag WASP-Mafia, oil barron ridden cartel of a government, this assault on Americans and anything one could laughingly call "a democracy", relies heavily on what a shit hole Iraq turns into. They need to die so that we can be free. Soldiers usually did that directly--i.e., fight those invading and harming a country. This time they need to die in defense of a lie from a lying adminstration to show these ignorant, dumb Americans that Bush is incompetent. They need to die so that Americans get rid of this deadly scum.
On the other hand, you have people like me who think that no matter how many soldiers we lose and how many memorial services we have to have here on post, we need to persevere and set things right in the Middle East. So, in some sense, we both feel that our principles outweigh the soldiers' lives.
Trust me, I think there's a whopping difference between the two, but in a way the soldiers are being used by both sides. In a way. I'm not sure if I like that thought.
President Bush, seeking to convince skeptical Americans that he has a plan to bring stability to Iraq, outlined a five-step program calculated to articulate his objective of a sovereign Iraqi government, and to begin to reverse the damaging fallout over U.S. soldiersÂ’ abuse of Iraqi prisoners.
Positively dripping. It gets even worse when they talk about his poll ratings.
May 24, 2004
I think all Americans would love their country if they had to live abroad for a while. -- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia
Amen. While living on a military post in Germany gives us Americans a taste of what Europe is like, there is no substitute for actually living the European life. And getting garbage thrown at you on the public bus. And having young boys threaten to rape you. And having your director of study abroad repeatedly tell you she hates the United States. And being banned from speaking English in the apartment you pay for by the couple who chose to host an exchange student. And being singled out and ridiculed by your teacher for daring to raise your hand and try to participate in class with your ugly American accent. And did I mention the garbage and the rape?
There was no day I loved the United States more than the day I left France.
I have no idea what kind of person florian is -- man, woman, old, young -- but I know florian doesn't live in the same America I live in. I also know that we don't have any common ground, and you all know how important that is to me. I can't figure out what florian intends to accomplish here.
I'm not trying to be snarky at all; I seriously am curious why florian keeps reading my blog. I obviously care more about the American military than any other in-group I belong to, so posting links about turncoats is not going to make me re-evaluate how much I value our loyal and selfless servicemembers. Moreover, I obviously know that there are a few bad apples in the barrel, but I am absolutely certain that most servicemembers are not targeting civilians, as florian has tried to get me to admit. Every time florian comments, I tend to sigh and shake my head. I don't for one second consider re-thinking my position.
Which leads me to wonder about the in-between: I have basically given up on any hope for grey area. I see the world in black and white these days. There are good guys and bad guys; there are rights and wrongs. Researching, reading blogs, and trying to grok every day for the past eight months has been a double-edged sword: the more I learn about the world, the less likely I am to compromise on what I believe. When I am faced with looney imams, kids with AKs, and auctions of Jewish body parts on LGF every day, I am way less likely to give any credence to someone's argument that radical Islam is not the enemy. And, when faced with soldiers who organize charitable organizations, beg to return to Iraq despite the four-inch bullet hole in the forearm, and turn in their idiot buddies who torture prisoners, I am not at all likely to happily sit by and let florian sully everything they stand for. The more I read and learn, the less likely I am to be wishy-washy on my positions.
I do want to continue to grow as a person, and I do want to hear if someone disagrees with me on some details of my thoughts. But I don't learn anything from comments that are completely polar from my worldview. I could consider conceding some middle ground, but I'll never switch over to the other side. That, to me, seems to be what florian wants to accomplish.
I'm very curious, florian: why do you read my blog?
MORE TO GROK:
Florian responds in the comments, and then I respond above.
And is that really Steven Den Beste? I'm honored if it is.
May 23, 2004
After much stress, plagiarism, number crunching, agony, booze, and back-ache, I think I've finished grading my students' papers.
(No time to blog: I have been slacking majorly this morning and still have 11 final papers to read.)
May 22, 2004
(For those who get rap references, there's a WMDeezNuts joke out there somewhere...)
May 21, 2004
May 20, 2004
It's very hard to know the facts about the carnage on the Iraq-Syria border, but whatever the occasion, it appears that the U.S. military was responsible for the deaths of several Iraqi women and children. It was almost certainly a mistake - either of target or of provocation. But it's another blow to the prestige of the U.S. military and their ability to avoid the kind of action which will, in fact, make their mission harder rather than easier. There are now many reports of U.S. soldiers feeling so beleaguered and jumpy that their first instinct is to fire, capture or mistreat captives. And so the cycle of distrust in some areas appears to deepen. [emphasis mine]
Blaming the military for events that make life harder for the military is a big mistake, in my opinion. They are well aware that what happened near Syria is going to be a huge problem. They are well aware that prison scandels and imprecise bombing will cause the anti-war faction to shriek. They are well aware that their every action is watched under a microscope. They don't need Andrew Sullivan to point out the blow to their prestige.
When soldiers feel that the media and the world are watching their every move, they will indeed get jumpy and nervous. The last thing we need are jumpy and nervous soldiers. If you put a basketball team out on the court and then fill the stands with hecklers and let the announcer use the mic to point out every little mistake they make, don't you think that might start to affect the team's performance at some point? That's what we do to our soldiers, only this is life-and-death, not a game of hoops.
Our soldiers know they've potentially made a huge error near Syria. Do we need to rub their faces in it over and over and point out that it's their inabilities that make the war worse?
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