I’ve seen this movie before and it sucks
“War. What is it good for? Absolutely nothing. Say it again.”
War offers us an intense if perverse spiritual experience with its myth-making drama of life lived at the extremes of human experience. America has always been susceptible to this kind of religious fervor particularly when we need to forget all of our deep internal divisions and our failure to address even the most elementary social problems. We have pushed the uneasy knowledge of our own wars and war crimes deep into the recesses of our souls but we still long for absolution. There is nothing like a really nasty enemy to restore a sense of our own high moral character. Of course, the thrill of this spiritual revival is usually experienced from the comforts of home far from the blood, guts, and gore.
I’ve seen this movie before and it sucks.
The first time was 1979. I was ten years old, in Omaha, Nebraska, which was an intolerant, ignorant place, and insolent about it, to boot.
It was called, “Hostage Crisis.” In Iran, some students took over the US embassy and held a bunch of Americans captive for 444 days. The bad guy was the Ayatollah Khomeini. Everybody hated him. Everybody hated “Eye-Ran.” It was popular, this hatred. It was a bandwagon you were supposed to jump on.
I didn’t get it. It felt faked. I mean, people were really into it — very enthusiastic with their stupid jokes and name-calling and all that — but the way it was suddenly everywhere, like flipping a switch, seemed artificial. How could everyone despise someone so much who they’d just heard of for the first time?
I was smart enough to keep these doubts to myself, or rather, intimidated enough. I could tell that asking questions could get me into trouble, and maybe beaten up.
Over the years, there were more movies and more villains. The biggest stars were Brezhnev, Gaddafi, Milošević, Hussein, and in Laden. More minor ones included Castro, Arafat, Noriega, and Chávez. These were men whose names you were supposed to spit out, men you were supposed to curse, men you were supposed to want dead.