Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Most Patriotic Movies Ever #5 Independence Day

“Welcome to Earth!”


It starts with a picture of one of this nation’s greatest achievements, our reaching the moon (you know I hear China now plans to do that…primarily with technology they’ve stolen from us).  And it just keeps getting better from there.  Yes, it’s not the deepest of films ever made, nor is every scene dripping with patriotism…but we all have to admit it’s a fun film…and that speech.  And I’ll get to the speech but let me cover some of the other things first.

One of my favorite, and often missed scenes is after they’ve come up with the plan to take down the alien force fields* and begin relaying the message to military divisions the world over.  The first group we see get it, which seems to be made up various powers in the Middle East, and for some reason the British, comment:

“It’s from the Americans.  They want to organize a counteroffensive.”

“About bloody time.”

Yep.  Everybody waits for us to do something.  And while that may seem like just an arrogant boast, look at the facts.  In the last 50 years, how often does anyone go into to stop any measure of tyranny or genocide if the U.S. isn’t involved.  The closest we’ve seen is when Tony Blair has to drag us into Bosnia…but then again, Blair always was a bit of an American at heart.  For better or worse, we are the nation that leads and others follow.  And that’ s not arrogance.  I would love it if other nations take it on themselves to realize that tyranny anywhere is an affront to liberty everywhere and not have to wait for others (and Eastern Europe does seem to be on that path, give them another decade to build up their economies and militaries and they may challenge the U.S. as bane-of-tyrants-in-chief…but not today).

“I saw… its thoughts. I saw what they’re planning to do. They’re like locusts. They’re moving from planet to planet… their whole civilization. After they’ve consumed every natural resource they move on… and we’re next. Nuke ’em. Let’s nuke the bastards.”

Another distinctly American belief.  We prefer diplomacy and treating everyone as equals in reason, it’s part of our capitalist nature.  We prefer to deal through reason, logic, discussion, and trade for mutual benefit. This is why for the first few years in the early years of the Republic it was the Secretary of State which was the jumping point for the presidency…because the President was supposed to be chief diplomat, which the State Department gave you the most experience.  We prefer peace by nature.  But when  confronted with evil, most, but not all Americans, understand there is only one way to deal with the violent and unreasonable…and it isn’t isolationism or appeasement…Americans, more consistently than any other nation understand that the way to deal with evil is to take it out, and we have few reservations about it (the President’s only reservation is the nuclear fallout, not the annihilation of a whole species of evil).

And of course there is the speech

“Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in the history of mankind. “Mankind.” That word should have new meaning for all of us today. We can’t be consumed by our petty differences anymore. We will be united in our common interests. Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation. We are fighting for our right to live. To exist. And should we win the day, the Fourth of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day the world declared in one voice: ‘We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!’”

It may seem to have nothing to do with America, but in reality it is the heart of America.  We were founded on the belief that “all men are created equal” and that this self-evident truth knows no boundary of nation, race, religion, or creed.  That all are endowed with the inalienable right of “life, liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” not that they magically stop at the border as modern libertarians seem to be arguing.  And notice the central line “Perhaps it’s fate that today is the Fourth of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom… Not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution… but from annihilation.” First we were fighting for the freedom from annihilation with the largest empire on Earth bearing down on us in 1776, had we lost, American patriots would have been killed to a man.  But notice the idea, that has been behind America since we first called on “a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence” and then proceeded to time and time again succeed when we should have failed, fate has always seemingly been on our side.  And if fate was behind an event like that seen in this movie, as the speech suggests, it would be to further put the ideals of this nation front and center.

And what could be more American than the last words:

‘We will not go quietly into the night! We will not vanish without a fight! We’re going to live on! We’re going to survive! Today we celebrate our Independence Day!’”

We are a nation that no matter how many times we’re knocked down, just keeps coming back.

*On a side note I love how everyone complains about how easy it was to hack the alien computers, ignoring that arrogance leads to less security and most computer programs would be fairly simple if you were so arrogant you didn’t put any security measures in…but nowhere have I ever seen those who loves to nit pick films has ever commented on the near scientific impossibility of energy shields.  Of course no one ever complains about how badly Jeff Goldblum’s understanding of his pet cause of environmentalism is—he gets really upset about the idea of using nuclear weapons against the 36 alien ships…because it will cause nuclear winter…wow 36 nuclear weapons…a little over 1% of all the nuclear bombs ever detonated…yeah I’m sure that will cause nuclear winter….where the some odd 2,000 bombs before it didn’t.

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The Most Patriotic Movies Ever #6 The Movies of John Wayne

It was just too hard to pick.  Just about every film this man did was inundated with love of country.  So I will say that if John Wayne is starring in a film you will, to one degree or another, see patriotism on display.  Patriotism was on display so much so in Wayne’s films and actions that, apparently, Stalin ordered assassins to take him out (Soviet competency, as usual, reigned supreme and the plan failed).

But since I should focus on a couple of examples of his patriotic movies let me focus on what is probably his best war film, The Sands of Iwo Jima, and his best western, Rio Bravo.

 

The Sands of Iwo Jima.

 

 

“Dear son, I guess none of my letters have reached you.  I thought I’d try again as I’m feeling that this may be the last time I can write you.  For a long time I’ve wanted to tell you many things.  Now that you’re a big boy, I will.  If we’d been together even for a while, I could’ve explained many things much better than writing them.  You’ve gotta take care of your mother, and love her and make her happy.  Never hurt her or anyone as I did.  Always do what your heart tells you is right.  Maybe someone will write you someday and tell you about me.  I want you to be like me in some things, but not like me in others.  When you grow older and get to know more about me, you’ll see I’ve failed…in many ways.   This isn’t what I wanted but things just turned out that way.  If there was only more time I…”


This film shows something that has been lost in modern Hollywood.  Predominantly in modern Hollywood, either you have films aimed at liberals that show the armed services to be little more than ignorant butchers out for the thrill of battle or films aimed at conservatives that show the armed services to be populated by larger than life heroes that appear more recruiting poster cutout than human (there are exceptions, but I think it’s fair to say that they are exceptions, not the rule).  In Sands of Iwo Jima John Wayne and the rest of the cast portray some very human Marines.  Flaws and human imperfection to the last man, but it also shows that for all their flaws they are motivated by their codes of honor and morals, by their belief and the best within them, and it is their actions that make them heroes, not just because they wear a uniform and we’re supposed to have a knee jerk reaction to that.  It’s a much more realistic depiction of why the members of our armed services are worthy of our devotion than what I typically get nowadays.

Rio Bravo

A response to the whining liberal High Noon which Wayne considered un-American, Rio Bravo is probably one of the best westerns of all time.  Unlike High Noon which has a sheriff spending half the film groveling for allies (reminds you of liberals always not wanting to make unilateral decisions), Wayne’s Sherriff John T. Chance actively turns down allies because he understand what his job is and refuses to let innocent bystanders get killed.  Nor does he ever consider running away or not doing what his job and justice demand of him.

And to top it all off you’ve got songs from Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson.

Even the song is uniquely American.  My three good companions “my rifle, my pony, and me”—the American habits of Westward movement, individualism, and willingness to defend yourself and what you believe in.  There is also a strong strain of the American Dream in the song.

A distinctly American attitude.

As with all of the films starring Wayne, you have a hero who embodies character, intelligence and strength of will.  Please tell me which other nation fits that bill for what it values?

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Greatest Patriotic Films Ever #7 –1776

1776

“I have come to the conclusion that one useless man is called a disgrace; that two are called a law firm, and that three or more become a Congress! And by God, I have had this Congress! For ten years, King George and his Parliament have gulled, cullied, and diddled these colonies with their illegal taxes! Stamp Acts, Townshend Acts, Sugar Acts, Tea Acts! And when we dared stand up like men, they have stopped our trade, seized our ships, blockaded our ports, burned our towns, and spilled our BLOOD! And still, this Congress refuses to grant ANY of my proposals on independence, even so much as the courtesy of open debate! Good God, what in hell are you waiting for?”

Long before HBO brought us the genius of John Adams there was another movie that showed how loveable the obnoxious and disliked second President of the United States was.

Unnamed Delegate: “Will someone shut that man up”
John Adams: “NEVER! NEVER!”

It’s a crazy idea that actually works. Turn the Second Continental Congress into a musical. As a musical this is not the strongest film you’ll ever find. In fact the musical numbers are kind of weak overall, but the film itself is quite strong. Primarily because so much of the time is spent covering the debates that occurred in the Continental Congress on whether or not to declare independence.

I first discovered this film in high school and this is where I began to see Adams as one of my greatest heroes (he may not have been the greatest President, but I would say he is possibly the greatest of the Founding Fathers.) The movie portrays Adams as arrogant, stubborn, obnoxious, disliked, principled to the point of being unwilling to budge on anything…and always right. Can’t imagine why I felt an immediate connection.

John Adams to God: “A second flood, a simple famine, plagues of locust everywhere, or a cataclysmic earthquake I’d accept with some despair…but no, you sent us Congress, good god sir, was that fair?”

The film spends a great deal of time in the debate between Adam’s pro-independence forces and the pro-Royalist force spearheaded by Pennsylvanian John Dickenson (the only man who had the opportunity to sign the Declaration and refused to on objections that he couldn’t in “good conscience”…yes endorsing evil he used the words “good conscience”…If I believed in Hell I would guarantee you he would be sharing a spot with Brutus, Cassius, and Judas…oh, by the way, the man also refused to sign and was opposed to the Constitution. Why they didn’t shoot this treasonous SOB boggles my mind.) It is this debate that makes the movie so patriotic. We revel in the ideals and debates that gave birth to a nation of ideals.

Dickenson makes bizarre claims, as many loyalists did at the times, that there must be better ways to solve the problems with the crown (ignoring that when the government starts sending the army after you for pleading your rights, there are few options left. Dickenson even goes as far as questioning George III’s status as a tyrant.

John Dickenson: Mr. Jefferson, I have very little interest in your paper, as there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ve all but heard the last of it, but I am curious about one thing. Why do you refer to King George as a… tyrant?
Thomas Jefferson: Because he *is* a tyrant.
John Dickenson: I remind you, Mr. Jefferson, that this “tyrant” is still your king.
Thomas Jefferson: When a king becomes a tyrant, he thereby breaks the contract binding his subjects to him.
John Dickenson: How so?
Thomas Jefferson: By taking away their rights.
John Dickenson: Rights that came from him in the first place.
Thomas Jefferson: All except one. The right to be free comes from nature.
John Dickenson: And are we not free, Mr. Jefferson?
Thomas Jefferson: Homes entered without warrant, citizens arrested without charge, and in many places, free assembly itself denied.
John Dickenson: No one approves of such things, but these are dangerous times.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Those who would give up some of their liberty in order to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

(I know some Brits even object to this point, but if you ever get in an argument with anyone on this point you should remind them that Mad King George got so bad that he had to be effectively deposed and only ruled in name for the last 18 years of his reign. We Americans were just ahead of the curve in recognizing what a useless ponce he was).

Dickenson also made claims to tradition (a poor substitute to reason), “Do you expect us to forget Hastings and Magna Carta, Strongbow and Lionheart, Drake and Marlborough? “ (From a nation whose traditions also included The Anarchy, Richard II, Richard III, Bloody Mary, Charles I, James II, Cromwell, John…it’s also ironic that you would list the Magna Carta, a document creating new government restrictions on a tyrannical King…so really America was just living up to its British roots of not suffering tyranny very well.)

And of course the movie describes what makes America special among nations so well.

John Dickenson: Fortunately, the people maintain a higher regard for their mother country.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: Higher, certainly, than she feels for them. Never was such a valuable possession so stupidly and recklessly managed, than this entire continent by the British crown. Our industry discouraged, our resources pillaged… first of all our very character stifled. We’ve spawned a new race here, Mr. Dickenson. Rougher, simpler; more violent, more enterprising; less refined. We’re a new nationality. We require a new nation.

One of the more ironic portions of the film is that when needing to take out the critique of slavery to get the South to sign on Adams advocates to not take it out as slavery is an abomination to the nation. But Franklin and Jefferson win the day arguing that they must have a nation first if they are to ever liberate the slaves, that to stand on principle on this issue will mean slavery for everyone.

John Adams: Mark me, Franklin… if we give in on this issue, posterity will never forgive us.
Dr. Benjamin Franklin: That’s probably true, but we won’t hear a thing, we’ll be long gone. Besides, what would posterity think we were? Demi-gods? We’re men, no more, no less, trying to get a nation started against greater odds than a more generous God would have allowed. First things first, John. Independence; America. If we don’t secure that, what difference will the rest make?

It’s painfully ironic that we have elevated them to Demi-god status. It probably was the wrong thing to do to take the line out, but it was the pragmatic thing, and it did lead to a nation that not only shed its own blood to end slavery within its own borders, but a nation that would shed its own blood to end tyranny in foreign lands because we do believe that “all men are created equal” and entitled to the right of liberty.

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Greatest Patriotic Films Ever #8 Yankee Doodle Dandy

“It seems it always happens. Whenever we get too high-hat and too sophisticated for flag-waving, some thug nation decides we’re a push-over all ready to be blackjacked. And it isn’t long before we’re looking up, mighty anxiously, to be sure the flag’s still waving over us.”

Nothing like good old, unapologetic flag waving.  This film is the story of the life of actor, writer, director, songwriter, producer George M. Cohan.  A stage-veteran from birth, born on the 4th of July, and a die hard patriot.  Writer of such songs as “Over There” and “Grand Old Flag” the man provided this nation with some of finest moments of patriotism in the first half of the century.

The film, made in 1942 and directed by Casablanca director Michael Curitz, the film is 2 solid hours of flag waving and joy.  Yeah, it’s a propaganda film for WWII—what’s a shame is that Hollywood no longer sees itself as having a duty to uplift the nation when times are rough.

I’d include clips from the film of Cohan’s stirring number “Over There” which he wrote to inspire and entertain the troops in WWI after they turned him down from joining the Army (at 39 he was too old)—yes the man was in the USO before there even was a USO—or a clip of the final scenes which are just as patriotic…but Turner pictures seems to have had the embedding function disabled on these, so you’ll just have to go to then links.

I can’t say too much about the film because it is all fairly blunt: America is the greatest nation on Earth.  However, I would like to point out that in addition to everything else, this is the usual great story of a man that started with nothing and made his fame and fortune on talent and drive.  Here in America these stories are a dime a dozen…in other nations they’re rather few and far between.

I can only say that if you’ve never seen this film, you should.

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Most Patriotic Films Ever #9 Casablanca

Yes, yes, it may be unquestionably the greatest movie of all time overall, but while very patriotic there are still, I think, 8 films ahead of it. But even if it isn’t the most patriotic film ever it is still very patriotic. Especially in a very broad sense.

Rick: Don’t you sometimes wonder if it’s worth all this? I mean what you’re fighting for.
Victor Laszlo: You might as well question why we breathe. If we stop breathing, we’ll die. If we stop fighting our enemies, the world will die.
Rick: Well, what of it? It’ll be out of its misery.
Victor Laszlo: You know how you sound, Mr. Blaine? Like a man who’s trying to convince himself of something he doesn’t believe in his heart.

In the broad sense it suggests that patriotism is an attitude that everyone should have. Patriotism is often the only thing that stands between a nation and tyranny. Be it that those in Unoccupied France fighting to end tyranny were the only real patriots (and their numbers were far lower than has since been claimed) and those in the German underground were the only true German patriots (none seen in this film, but the German underground was actually larger than the French, who, as a nation, were a little too eager in welcoming their Nazi masters and far to eager to hand over ever Jew they could find). Any true patriotism isn’t a desire for your country to be the most powerful, it’s a love of country for the good it does and the good it is capable of…loving your nation for anything else is a violation of basic ethics and morals. It’s just easier to love America when you’re an American than it is to love other nations when you’re a citizen of those nations…it’s a side effect of being founded on the ideal of liberty rather than the land we live on/conquered or the race we come from. America’s just better that way. Must easier to love such a nation dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal, which is why you would want to come here…or the nearest substitute, even if it’s only the Café Américain.


(the French have no right to have a song this powerful for a nation as pathetic as theirs…)

But this is a list of American patriotism in film. And as our resident American, Richard Blaine shows all the flaws and virtues

As with most things, everything only works out when you have the American on your side.

of the nation. Like America at the time he selfishly and foolishly wanted to be left alone, even though he clearly knew at one point what was right and wrong (fought for the loyalists in Spain, fought against the fascists in Ethiopia, earned a position on the Nazi black list). He shows that peculiar American sense of charity without thanks for a young couple. And of course by the end we understand what needs to be done and that evil needs to be fought. And by the end we love Rick, because once he gets over his cynicism he represents all that is good in America. And of course he points out to the Nazi’s the inevitable idiocy of trying to take on America

Major Strasser: Are you one of those people who cannot imagine the Germans in their beloved Paris?
Rick: It’s not particularly my beloved Paris.
Heinz: Can you imagine us in London?
Rick: When you get there, ask me!
Captain Renault: Hmmh! Diplomatist!
Major Strasser: How about New York?
Rick: Well there are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.

Another reason to love America—no one is ever going to take this nation by force.

And finally there is the fact that this film deals with how the rest of the world feels about America. There are some who recognize America’s virtues and like it, and at the far end of this spectrum they come here. There are those who just want what we have but disdain our culture and laws and either demand what we have in the form of foreign aid or come here in violation of our laws without taking a moment to realize the prosperity of this nation is because of our laws and our culture of individualism and reason and that you can’t have one without the other. And finally the extension of this second group is those who despise America and see us as nothing but a bunch of pompous, arrogant, classless, rubes…or as it is said in the film.

Major Strasser: You give him credit for too much cleverness. My impression was that he’s just another blundering American.
Captain Renault: We mustn’t underestimate “American blundering”. I was with them when they “blundered” into Berlin in 1918.

It should be noted that not only do we blundering Americans have a history of taking out tyrants from George III to

Is “American Blundering” one of the usual suspects?

Saddam…but that it was the blundering American who ended Major Strasser’s life. For some reason the world, and the American left, constantly underestimates the strength of character that America provides, always to their own downfall.  Our blundering, as they put it, is our determination in the face of unbeatable odd, our optimism in ourselves and the virtue of humanity, and our courage when others would turn back.  It may appear to be illogical blundering to those who don’t get it, but to us it the way to Happiness and success. And historically the results show we’re right.

“Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win.”

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Most Patriotic Movies Ever #10 How the West Was Won

We begin the Top 10 Patriotic films with one of the better westerns ever made…

(old trailers are always interesting)

“This land has a name today, and is marked on maps. But, the names and the marks and the maps all had to be won, won from nature and from primitive man.[…] The west that was won by its pioneers, settlers, adventurers is long gone now. Yet it is theirs forever, for they left tracks in history that will never be eroded by wind or rain – never plowed under by tractors, never buried in compost of events. Out of the hard simplicity of their lives, out of their vitality, of their hopes and sorrows grew legends of courage and pride to inspire their children and their children’s children. From soil enriched by their blood, out of their fever to explore and be, came lakes where once there were burning deserts – came the goods of the earth; mine and wheat fields, orchards and great lumber mills. All the sinews of a growing country. Out of their rude settlements, their trading posts came cities to rank among the great ones of the world. All the heritage of a people free to dream, free to act, free to mold their own destiny.”

An epic film that spans three generations of American pioneers from the early days of westward expansion along the Erie Canal circa 1840 to the waning days of the West in Arizona circa the late 1870’s early 1880’s. The story is broken up into 5 parts telling the story of the farmers who traveled into what is now the Midwest to start a new life, of the wagon trains hell bent on gold in California, of the Civil War which seemed to halt westward expansion for a bloody moment, of the coming of the railroad which joined both halves of the nation and heralded the end of the wilderness, and finally of the last days of lawlessness in what was left of the West.  Every stage is shown to be filled with victories and loss, but each stage brings about something greater than what came before it.  From the earliest mountain men who first ventured east to the Marshalls who brought law and civilization to the wilderness, all of the characters are exemplars of what makes America what it is.

Patriotism or not it’s a great film.  It is the kind of all star epic that Hollywood doesn’t seem to make anymore.   Gregory Peck, John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, Debbie Reynolds, Henry Fonda, Eli Wallach, Robert Preston, to name a few but not all of the stars in this film, and to top it all off the narration of Spencer Tracy.  It’s kind of hard to top that…oh wait John Ford directed part of it.  Okay it’s kind of hard to top that.

But what makes this film patriotic?

Well first it is the simple story of who Americans are.  No matter what problems they are dealt, be it being literally stabbed in the back, literally going down the rapids without a paddle, war, Indians, stampeding Buffalo or being shot at, the heroes of this film always not only recover but pick themselves up and achieve a better life than anything they had before their temporary miseries.  They look at disaster, shrug it off and succeed in spite of misfortune and always with a constant stream of optimism….or as one character put it, “We made and spent fortunes together.  If he’d lived a little longer, we’d have made and spent another.”

Nothing could better exemplify what the heart of America was at its best. Yes, other nations have people who act like this, and other nations have had their day….but what is different about America is that other nations build themselves up to a great power, dominate for a while, fall and never seem to come back…America has been knocked down time (we started out as a bunch of rejects, criminals and unwanted) and time (crushing blows during early years of the Revolutionary War) and time (having our capital burned to the ground in the War of 1812) and time (a horrific Civil War…do I need to keep going?) again.  Any one of these events would crush most nations for all time, (remind me how long ago it was that Sparta conquered Athens, that Rome fell, that France was a nation worth giving a care about?) yet Americans don’t just recover from adversity, we thrive on it.  In a perverse way, as a nation, we embody the idea that what does not kill us only makes us stronger (which I guess will mean the term of 45th president will be the strongest years in American history). In this movie and in reality nothing seems to stop Americans from growing and getting better, even their own worst moments.

I could go on, there are a hundred little moments that I could discuss, but I think you would get a better impression watching it yourself than having me relate them.

“But that’s what I like about this country.  There’s always greener grass over the next hill.”

Not to spoil the ending,but the scenic views are breathtaking…

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The Most Patriotic Films #11 To Kill A Mockingbird

Now, gentlemen, in this country, our courts are the great levelers. In our courts, all men are created equal. I’m no idealist to believe firmly in the integrity of our courts and of our jury system – that’s no ideal to me. That is a living, working reality! Now I am confident that you gentlemen will review, without passion, the evidence that you have heard, come to a decision and restore this man to his family. In the name of GOD, do your duty. In the name of God, believe… Tom Robinson.

 

Okay first off, I’ll admit the central theme of this film is not the greatness of America, there is no denying that, but the theme is there.

 

First off this is a great patriotic film, because as I have said before we Americans are able to admit our mistakes, own up to them, learn from them and then move on.  And this film makes clear some of our worst behavior without giving a blanket indictment to all Americans past, present and future.

 

Think about it, which other countries are so open about their flaws?

 

I looked around and I couldn’t find that there were any monuments in England to their treatment of Catholics or to their actions in India (I could be wrong and if I am please tell me).  And if you go to Japan try and find public acknowledgement of Nanking, Bataan, or Pearl Harbor…that has some very interesting selective amnesia.  And let’s not forget Russia seems on the verge of re-embracing their darkest days.  But as America is a nation that does not believe in pedigree or the idea that the sins (or virtues) of the father automatically fall to the son, we aren’t told to feel personally guilty for the actions of our ancestors (like the German education system seems to be based on a near daily dose of “We are terrible evil people”—I’m sorry but the children nowadays, while they should knows what happened, shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about something they didn’t do).  Only America has, more or less, a history of admitting their flaws and mistakes but not dwelling and wallowing in them—just as an individual should.  Yes there are people in this nation that want to make us likes the dregs of Europe either denying our wrongs or wallowing in them as if no redemption is possible, but these people never seem to gain any long term traction because ignorance and guilt are not the American way.

 

Now, as the opening quote suggests, this is a movie tied heavily to our legal system. Its flaws and its strengths.  Atticus’ speech speaks to the hopes of its strengths.  Its flawed verdict speaks to the weakness of depending on people who are by nature imperfect for justice (but you come up with a better system).  But I think there is a point missed in all the injustice here.  The majority of the people act within the rules of the law.  Atticus of course always follows the law to the letter (even to the point where he thought he would have to bring his son to court for murder charges)—but it is not just Atticus.  The Judge of the story, who could have given any lawyer to Tom Robbinson, ensures he gets the one lawyer in town who will not allow a man he knows to be innocent to be railroaded without even mounting a defense. Further the character of Sheriff Tate when limited by the rules of the law charges a man he doesn’t believe to be innocent, because a complaint has been filed and it is not for the police to determine guilt or innocence…but when it is in his legal power to determine what happened he makes it quite clear “Bob Ewell fell on his knife”…Arthur “Boo” Radley Who?  For all the flaws of the legal system shown in this film, it is shown that it is a system worthy of following in this nation because even when it has gross injustices it is still better than the alternative. (Further let us not forget this film was made in the 1960’s and worked as a powerful piece of propaganda to help pass civil rights reform that ended the kind of injustice seen in this film.

A man who stands up for what he believes in, even in the face of certain violence,is almost always to be admired (so long as his cause is right and just…which is a given in with Atticus.)

And then there is Atticus Finch.  A heroes hero whom we all wish we could be more like.  And he is a distinctly America kind of hero. He doesn’t care about what the community at large thinks, he doesn’t care what his neighbors say, he doesn’t care when he personally is threatened.  He care about his children and what is right.  There is no other consideration for the opinion of community or loyalty to society, only what is right.  Some countries may ask devotion to “king and country” others demand obedience to race or religion…but America is the nation that glorifies loyalty to self, to reason, and to right. Which is the reason why we love Atticus and admire him so deeply.

Also, a very subtle theme that is tied to the core of America is that action and principle must go hand in hand.  Yes Atticus Finch is a man of morals and virtue and character that we should all aspire to.  His guiding light of  “The main one is that if I didn’t, I couldn’t hold my head up in town. I couldn’t even tell you or Jem not to do somethin’ again” is a belief that far too many are lacking in the modern world (clearly no one in France or Greece has any conception of this kind of thinking).  But the fact of the matter is that there is a certain lack of action in his moral. He stands tall when a piece of filth like Ewell spits in his face and doesn’t give in to the provocation to fight…which if it were just Atticus who was in jeopardy would be fine…but he failed to take into account that Ewell had a history of attacking the defenseless and innocent. Which is why it is Boo Radley who shows the very American propensity for knowing that sometimes you have to put evil people down and make sure they can never get back up again.

 

—-

 

 

Oh, and not on the issue of patriotism…but a fun fact.  There is a portion of the movie (and it’s in the book too) about the arrogance of teachers who think that they know everything because they’ve been to college and that parents know nothing.  One might call it ironic that this is a book almost every English teacher loves, even though it is insulting the arrogant mentality of most teachers…but they would have to be bright enough to get that point, and, at the least most of the union hacks certainly are nowhere near that bright.

 

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The Best Patriotic Films #12 Cinderella Man

“I have to believe that when things are bad I can change them.”

If you’re a consistent reader of this blog, you’ll probably know that I am not the biggest fan of sports the universe has ever known.  But while most sports bore me, movies about sports can still be great. And Cinderella Man is one of those films.  (Also despite the very patriotic undertones of Far And Away and Apollo 13 I felt those were more centered on the characters than the nation that gave rise to those characters, but I really thought a great director like Ron Howard did deserve to be on this list somewhere).
For those who don’t remember this film, it is the story of Jim Broddock, a boxer who lost everything in the early days of the Great Depression, including his promising boxing career…only to make a miraculous comeback after being called on to fill in last minute for a fighter who had to bow out.

It is an American story for many reasons.  The least of which is that it is the story of an underdog.  Americans for all their strength in economics, military, this or that field, love an underdog, because that’s what we are.  We are band of misfits who created a great economic power.  We are a band of untrained militia who beat the most powerful military in the world.  We are the place where someone can through willpower and skill change their life for the better.  We are the place that gets knocked down time and time and time again, and always comes back stronger than before.  And we love to root for underdogs like ourselves.

But like any great underdog story, this is the story of a man who survives and excels because of willpower and drive.  The America Dream is not the American Dream because lots of people here can win the lottery or just find success by dumb luck—it is the American Dream because we have control of our own lives, power over our destiny—we don’t live as the victims of our circumstances but as the master of them (or at least that’s what we preach…but at least we preach this bit of truth, rather than some froggish countries that preach dependency.)

And it is again the simplicity of the American Dream that makes this movie stand out.  The final title cards show that Braddock did not just blow his money (it should be noted that according to the movie he didn’t squander the money he earned early in his career…he just invested it right before the crash), but rather lived the modest American Dream most of us have in mind for ourselves and one day for our children:

“Two years later Jim Braddock put his title on the line against Joe Louis. Jim knocked him down in the first round though Louis went on to win the bout. Joe Louis would always call Jim Braddock the most courageous man he ever fought.  Jim served honorably in World War II. He later owned and operated heavy equipment on the same docks where he labored during the Great Depression. In the early 1960’s he helped build the Verrazano Bridge. Jim and Mae bought a house in New Jersey with the winnings from the Baer fight. They raised their children in that house and lived there for the rest of their lives.”

Of course what really makes this movie stand out is Braddock’s behavior to the relief money (today we would call it welfare).  Yes he needed to take relief money to keep the power on so that his kids could stay with him and his wife.  There is nothing wrong with welfare when people are desperate and no one in this country would begrudge legitimate need (as opposed to making no effort to get on your own feet, to control your own life, to educate yourself, or to get a job…those lazy couch potatoes we have a real problem with).  But what makes Braddock’s story interesting is what he did when he was back on his feet:

Reporter: Bob Johnson, Boston Globe. Two days ago, we ran a story about you giving your relief money back. Can you tell our readers why?

Jim Braddock: I believe we live in a great country, a country that’s great enough to help a man financially when he’s in trouble. But lately, I’ve had some good fortune, and I’m back in the black. And I just thought I should return it.

While there may be cases like this elsewhere, it is only the most charitable nation in the world that you will see this as not being an act of insanity, but rather an example of the best that this nation has to offer.  We don’t glorify need, but we do glorify those who are able to pick themselves up to a point where they can help themselves and those around them.

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The Greatest Patriotic Movies: Tie for #14 The Outlaw Josey Wales

An icon of American individualism

Bounty hunter: You’re wanted, Wales.Josey Wales: Reckon I’m right popular. You a bounty hunter?

Bounty hunter: A man’s got to do something for a living these days.

Josey Wales: Dyin’ ain’t much of a living, boy.

This is as close as this list is going to get to an anti-war movie.  Liberals and isolationist libertarians, I don’t care if you’re offended by that, your foreign policy beliefs are an offense to everything this nation stands for.

Now, certainly an argument could be made that many of Eastwood’s movies (and I mean his work as a director) have a strain of patriotism.  The virtue of the common man as seen in Gran Torino, the somewhat dark take on the American Dream in Million Dollar Baby, the blatant patriotic high of Space Cowboys, the high and low points of war in Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, even his mildly sympathetic treatment of J. Edgar  showed Hoover, for all his faults, as being motivated by love of country.  But while I think Gran Torino is Eastwood’s masterpiece, it is a work that focuses more on the man than the nation…meanwhile The Outlaw Josey Wales is very much a film that looks at what makes America America.

Now, unlike some of the previous films, I feel this movie might be one of those some people may not have seen recently.  So a quick recap.  The movie begins with Josey Wales a Missouri farmer with a wife and young son being set upon by a Kansas guerrilla division known as the Red Legs.  The Union soldiers knock out Wales, kill his wife and son and burn his house to the ground.  When he recovers he takes out a gun and re-acquires the skill of using it in only a few hours and spends the rest of the Civil War attempting to get revenge.  His unit is the last to surrender at the end of the Civil War and are massacred by the Union, with only Wales making it out alive but chased by federal authorities.  As he tries to go South and West and stay out of the hands of bounty hunters, soldiers, Comancheros and the Comanche he acquires an odd family of an old Cherokee man, a Navajo woman, a Kansas woman heading west and her granddaughter.  Finally this small group settles in a ranch somewhere in the Arizona territory where Wales, just as he was about to head further southwest has a final battle with Union soldiers who killed his family.

Now so what makes this a patriotic film?

Well first off is it’s recognition of what makes America.  Near the end, after having avoided a battle with the Comanche, Wales’s group celebrates and revels in the new family they have put together.  By this point you have Northerners, Southerners, two different tribes of Indians, plus the most recent additions the local town folk which include an Irish prostitute, two Mexican gentlemen, and an Easterner.  It’s quite the American melting pot of people from all different origins and walks of life.  And Eastwood isn’t very subtle about making this melting pot imagery clear.

Now I said this movie is anti-war and to a degree it is.  It is not anti-war in the sense of all war is wrong and all violence must be avoided at all costs, as many liberals and libertarians (cough cowards cough) would have it, even if that cost is the liberty of others or themselves.  Wales is not afraid to fight to survive or to protect those he loves.  But the movie does not delude itself into portraying war as not having consequences (as Flags of our Fathers would do again many years later).  The fact that out of it come people who only know how to fight; the emotional scars and the all around suffering.   The last lines of the film between Wales and a man he thought had betrayed him recall the pain of war.

Fletcher: I think I’ll go down to Mexico to try to find [Wales] [at this point Fletcher is pretending to not recognize Wales]

Josey Wales: And then?

Fletcher: He’s got the first move. I owe him that. I think I’ll try to tell him the war is over. What do you say, Mr. Wilson?

Josey Wales: I reckon so. I guess we all died a little in that damn war.

And disgust at the horrors of war is actually one of the strengths of this nation.  The odd thing about America is that (1) we have the ideal of spreading liberty no matter the cost and (2) we have no stomach for war.  And that’s a good thing.  Probably more than any other nation we tire of war very quickly, even if we’re winning, even if we’re doing the right thing (for instance did you know that we never lost a battle in Vietnam?  Or that in some of the battles for every U.S. soldier we lost the VC lost 50+…logically it would be hard to portray a war like that as a loss or a hopeless cause, yet somehow we did it.)  Even in Eastwood’s Flags of our Fathers it’s pointed out that by Iwo Jima America had just tired of war (a whole 4 years in a battle against unquestionable evil) and just wanted it over.  (And the same is true historically of the Civil War).   For all the liberal BS that Americans love war and bloodshed, there is no historical proof of that.  Any war we get into we try and get out of it as quickly as possible.  It’s why American Imperialism (a silly term, when compared to the historical reality of European Imperialism) amounted to a few islands, most of which don’t want to leave the U.S.  And dare we forget that our biggest gain from our “imperialist” Spanish-American war was Cuba, which we immediately gave up so the Cubans could have self rule (that one worked out well).  And, I’ll admit, it’s a good thing we tire of war easily.  There are cultures that don’t tire of war quickly and just keep throwing wave after wave of people into suicidal assaults all for the glory of their county or their perverse ideal of God…can you imagine the bloodshed if it was mixed with an actual just cause from a country whose national anthem includes the line “and conquer we must when our cause it is just”…it’s a good thing we tire of war.  It allows us time to take stock of our losses, to let the world try and progress without us saving it every time, and hopefully, to learn from our mistakes (like next time we invade a country maybe we could have a plan on what to do after their military is defeated.

And finally the film is patriotic because it expresses what is best in both our foreign policy and our economic behavior, that we deal with everyone pretty much in the same way, we “hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.”  Or in the words of the film.

Ten Bears: These things you say we will have, we already have.

Josey Wales: That’s true. I ain’t promising you nothing extra. I’m just giving you life and you’re giving me life. And I’m saying that men can live together without butchering one another.

Ten Bears: It’s sad that governments are chiefed by the double tongues. There is iron in your words of death for all Comanche to see, and so there is iron in your words of life. No signed paper can hold the iron. It must come from men. The words of Ten Bears carries the same iron of life and death. It is good that warriors such as we meet in the struggle of life… or death. It shall be life.

Notice also the typical loathing of government in this conversation, and the mutual contracts of individuals placed as highest…the beauty of American Capitalism.

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The Best Patriotic Films: Tie for #14 Air Force One

 

“The dead remember our indifference; the dead remember our silence. I came here tonight to be congratulated. But today, when I visited the Red Cross camps, overwhelmed by the flood of refugees fleeing the horror of Kazhakstan, I realize I don’t deserve to be congratulated. None of us do. The truth is we acted too late. Only when our own national security was threatened did we act. Radek’s regime murdered over 200,000 men, women and children and we watched it on TV. We let it happen. People were being slaughtered for over a year and we issued economic sanctions and hid behind the rhetoric of diplomacy. How dare we? The dead remembered: real peace is not just the absence of conflict; it is the presence of justice. And tonight I come to you with a pledge to change America’s policy. Never again will I allow our political self-interest to deter us from doing what we know to be morally right. Atrocity and terror are not political weapons, and to those who would use them, your day is over. We will never negotiate. We will no longer tolerate and we will no longer be afraid. It’s your turn to be afraid.”

I will vote for anyone who speaks like this about foreign policy and has the courage to back it up.

This is the American ideal.  A country that does what is right not is what is convenient.  A nation that stands for principle not rank short-sighted avarice.

Dear god, have we failed to live up to that ideal.

The last good film Harrison Ford made.

But at least we have the ideal; whereas with most nations the majority considers only saving its own hide…we at least keep that feeling here in the majority (I hope.)

But the movie does point out that there have been times we have not acted in our self interest. The villain smugly remarks, “You who murder a 100,000 Iraqi’s to save a nickel on a gallon of gas are going to lecture me on the rules of war.”  This is a typical liberal piece of bull (Blood for oil) because it ignores the basic rules of economics.  Economics states that if you want cheap things you deal with dictatorships, as they somehow have much lower production costs (something about slave labor being very cheap).  Any idiot who has taken more than a nanosecond to think about it knows that if we really wanted cheap oil and only cheap oil we would have (1) let Saddam have Kuwait instead of driving him out and (2) lifted the embargoes on Iraq rather than invading it.  We in fact did the thing guaranteed to raise oil prices; we protected one nation and tried to bring democracy to another.  We stood on principle, not greed for cheap goods.  (Now if only we could stand on principle AND bother to come up with a plan for rebuilding the nation after we defeat the military, that last part was kind of lacking in Afghanistan and Iraq).

But it is not jus the speech that embodies the best in American ethics that makes this movie great.  It is its understanding of patriotism, and the interesting way it goes about showing how American patriotism is actually different than most forms of patriotism.

When justifying his actions of killing a defenseless man to the captured first daughter, the villain, Korshunov (played by the ever chameleon like Gary Oldman) states:

Korshunov: That’s the first time you ever seen a man killed, huh? You think I’m a monster? That I would kill this man? Somebody’s son? Somebody’s father? I am somebody’s son too. I have three small children. Does that surprise you?

Alice: Why did you kill him?

Korshunov: Because I believe. And when I shoot this man I know…how deep was my belief. That I would turn my back on God Himself…for Mother Russia. My doubts, my fears, my own private morality…it dissolves in this moment…for this love.

You may think this is extreme and farcically overblown…but then you realize that good little Nazis, and good little Brownshirts, and followers of Franco and Saddam and Tito, all probably decent people from supposedly Christian nations, did unspeakable things in the name of country. And the in the east, the Chinese crucified Tibetan monks for the glory of China, the Khmer Rouge created the killing fields for the greatness of Cambodia and the list goes on.

And up front, yes we’ve had our insane sons-of-bitches.  No doubt, no question, no argument there.  But we tend not to hold them up as our great patriots.

Our great patriots don’t “would turn [their] back on God Himself” and don’t put their “private morality” below country.  No our patriots tell their nation and their king, ‘Up yours George, we’re leaving the nation we loved with all of our heart and starting our own.’  Our patriots head north, saying, ‘my love of state is nothing compared to my love of what is right, and the Union is what is right.’  Our patriots go to Britain and fight the Kaiser and the Nazis when our country says no it’s not our fight.  Our patriots go to China and fight the Japanese when our nation says it’s not our problem.  Our patriots understand that when it comes to a choice between country and personal morals, it’s time to tell the country and its leaders something that ends with “…and the horse you rode in on.”  Because America isn’t a just a nation of borders and history, it is a nation not founded on where one race or tribe settled or conquered.  It is a nation of ideals and if the people that inhabit the land betray those ideals, a patriot’s duty is to the ideals before “king and country.”

Also the movie points out very important part of America:

“The Presidency is bigger than any one man.  Didn’t they teach you that at Yale?”

I don’t know about Yale but they clearly don’t teach it at Harvard these days.  Yes, the presidency is an important office (not really, it’s supposed to be the weakest of the three branches), but while the office is important, the person who holds is human and very easily disposable (we get rid of them every 4 to 8 years), and even the best of them are replaceable and flawed.

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The Best Patriotic Films #16 Glory

“There’s more to fighting than rest, sir. There’s character. There’s strength of heart. You should have seen us in action two days ago. We were a sight to see! We’ll be ready, sir. When do you want us?”


I mentioned in the honorable mentions films like The Tuskegee Airmen, Go For Broke, and Windtalkers as films that show that unique American habit of even people whom we treat terribly will still fight with all they have for America, because America is greater than her worst flaws.  But the problem with these films was that the production were REALLY lacking…and if you looked at some of the other items earlier on this list, well, then you know how my standards aren’t astronomically high.

But Glory is an excellent of this theme and it is done well.

And it is not  just that this is a movie showing that the those treated worst by the American government are still willing to fight to preserve it that makes this patriotic.

Glory acknowledges both the flaw (and dear God do we have them) and the strengths of this nation.

America has a relationship with it’s history that few countries.  We acknowledge, memorialize, and apologize for our mistakes.  Go around D.C. sometime.  You will find monuments begging our forgiveness for our treatment of Americans of Japanese decent during WWII, monuments begging our forgiveness for the treatment of slave, and I could go on.  We acknowledge our flaws.  Glory is very much proof of that.  Not even counting the slavery issues which is always in the background, there is the fact that the racism of the Northern side is not hidden in the least, nor is the often vicious behavior of the Union to Southern civilians that would nowadays be considered war crimes.

We don’t hide our flaws, like some cultures, but neither do we focus on them.  The movie is first and foremost a testament to the fact that even some of our darkest points we can make giant leap forwards and begin to treat all people as equals.

Colonel Robert G. Shaw: Sgt. Mulcahy!

Sgt. Mulcahy: Sir!

Shaw: I have no doubt you a fair man, Mulcahy. I wonder if you are treating the men a little hard.

Shaw: You may speak freely.

Mulcahy: The boy is a friend of yours, is he?

Shaw: Yes, we grew up together

Mulcahy: Let him grow up some more.

The movie shows that even some of the heroes of the film still had some of the paternalism that racism bred to get over…but that in the end they did.

But back to the original point that this movie shows that America is worth fighting for, even to those whom America has been less than just.  It says a lot when Broderick’s Col. Shaw announces that the Confederacy will not take prisoners of black soldiers but rather just kill them, he expects to see many of the men in his unit request discharges…none do.  And when the Union in despicable, but not unexpected for the times, move cuts the pay of black solider Shaw reciprocates this loyalty by refusing to take pay.  (I’m not sure the historical accuracy of any of this, but it makes for a great movie).

The last full measure of devotion…

Of course  anyone who has seen this film knows how it ends.  They all die.  It’s been two decades I don’t think I’m spoiling anything.  I do however think this is meant to parallel a line in the often forgotten third verse of The Battle Hymn of the Republic: “As [Christ] died to make men holy, let us die to make men free, our God is marching on.”  I have no proof of this, but he last scenes of text that suggested their sacrifice helped turn the tide of the war, it is not to far fetched.

Colonel Robert G. Shaw: So what do you want to do?

Trip: Don’t know, sir.

Shaw: It stinks, I suppose.

Trip: Yeah, It stinks bad. And we all covered up in it too. Ain’t nobody clean. Be nice to get clean, though.

Shaw: How do we do that?

Trip: We ante up and kick in, sir. But I still don’t want to carry your flag.

And finally this scene speaks for itself…

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Most Patriotic Movies #17 National Treasure

“To high treason.  That’s what these men were committing when they signed the Declaration. […] Here’s to the men who did what was considered wrong, in order to do what they knew was right…”

Okay it’s a silly and fun movie.  It’s lacking in depth and real history…oh who am I kidding it’s The DaVinci Code in America.  But that doesn’t change the fact that for all of historical inaccuracy (I’m being polite) it still places ideals of America first and foremost.

“Of all the ideas that became the United States, there’s a line here that’s at the heart of all of the others.  ‘When a long train of abuses and usurpations pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to render the under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government and provide new guards for their future security. ‘  People don’t talk that way anymore. […] It means that if there is something wrong those who have the ability to take action have the responsibility to take action.”

Americans in the early days of the nation through the hay day of the Monroe Doctrine and off and on since WWII has understood this principle.  All men are created equal and their rights aren’t tied to a Declaration or border, they are inalienable to all…and you have if you wish to be ethical and have the power to do something, you do it or you are not ethical.  This is why our government was one that in the early days laid to waste three nations that engaged in piracy and extortion of all of Europe, not just for our own shipping rights, but because it was the right thing to do.  And this why this nation above all others believes in personal charity, because it is not the duty of some government bureaucrat to help people, it is the ethical responsibility of people to determine not just need but also worthiness so we do not throw away money on those who would waste it.

And it’s nice to see that this movie understands that ethics are not some bygone passé idea that along with chivalry we have move past, but rather the guiding light and loadstone of our lives.

I will be honest I cringed every time they touch the Declaration in the movie. I know it wasn’t the real thing, but even the thought of putting the Declaration in harm’s way was a horrifying idea to me.

The movie also makes clear the true value of the Declaration.  The sanctity of the idea of bringing it back to Independence Hall, the willingness to do anything to protect it, going so far as when Abigail agrees that dropping her (possibly killing her) was the correct move to save the Declaration.  Now maybe it’s just me who understands this reaction to the Declaration, but then again I choke when I read it aloud, but I cannot find any holy book on earth, even my beloved Course In Miracles or Bhagavad-Gita, that seems to divinely inspired as to recognize the value of individual human life and the power it has.  And this movie, through the character’s reverence for the document, at least shows that I’m not alone.

The movie also shows the American way of thought in the character’s dialogue:

Ben Gates: “No, but I hope it’s real. I mean I’ve dreamt it’s real since my grandfather told me about it. But I want to hold it.  I feel like I’m so close I can taste it. But I just…just want to know it’s not just something I my head or in my heart. “

Abigail Chase: “People don’t really talk that way you know”

Ben Gates: “I know.  But they think that way.”

Thinking in these grand idealistic ways is a distinctly American trait.

And finally, even the treasure itself becomes just another way to show the greatness of America in the film:

Agent Sandusky: The Templars and the Freemasons believed that the treasure was too great for any one man to have, not even a king. That’s why they went to such lengths to keep it hidden.

Ben Gates: That’s right. The founding fathers believed the same thing about government. I figure their solution will work for the treasure too.

Agent Sadusky: Give it to the people.

That we have entrusted the people of the republic with an awesome power and responsibility (maybe they should try living up to it once in a while).

Overall for all of simplicity and flaws, it is a deeply patriotic film.  I’ll be honest I was less impressed by the sequel…but I always have hopes for the third which they keep promising.

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God Bless Citizens United v. FEC

So while liberals have been throwing hissy fits for over a year about the Citizen’s United (Really the creation of Super PACS owes a lot to various relegation and legislative changes and to just Citizens United v. the Federal Election Committee, but Democrats know their base doesn’t do well with complex ideas, so they just pick on Citizens United, and I always try and play in the opposition’s ballpark, so we’ll just refer to Citizens United). But the night of the Wisconsin recall hit a new level of pathetic from the left with the whimpering of possibly the whiniest human being on earth decrying the death of democracy.

You know personally my first inclination is to slap the little loser and tell him we’re a republic not a democracy. But we are a democratic-republic, and despite his inability to use words properly, the dimwit meant that the democratic feature of the republic died. He’s wrong, but what do you expect from idiots.

Now first off let’s deal with the lies. The Democrats claim they were outspent 7 to 1…if you actually look at real statistics the number is closet to 3 to 2 or 1.5 to 1. Now they were outspent, but it wasn’t by much.

Also I failed to notice that they complained all those years they had almost limitless funds from unions and big time contributors like George Soros, Warren Buffet, and 90% of Hollywood…not to mention the glory days before FOXNews and when you only had the Big 3 to get your info from…or the glory days before the internet and the news outlets were your only source of info…or the glory days before talk radio when there literally wasn’t any choice but what the mainstream media fed you. Let’s be honest there is just a lot of corruption on the left that they like to ignore…
…and some take it even worse than the whiner in Wisconsin…

(I love Downfall parodies, they’re hilarious)

But let’s ignore the minutia and get to the heart of the matter.

The central liberal argument is that Citizens United v. Federal Election Committeewas wrong—that money is not speech

Every so often they get something right as they did in Citizen’s United…now to overturn Kelo

and therefore cannot be protected under the First Amendment—that whoever has the most money always wins. The first point is just obviously stupid, but this is an argument from people who don’t get why we have to have the legal fiction of corporate personhood. They also don’t understand that your property rights are sacrosanct and under the theory of natural rights (which is kind of the basis of our entire legal system); that your property, including money, and what you do with it is an extension of your person legally, ergo spending money is speech if you choose it to be.

But let’s ignore the unspeakable idiocy of the argument that money isn’t speech. Let’s focus on what they’re saying about democracy, because that is even more laughable (or frightening).

The argument against Citizens United is based on the argument that who has the most money wins.

Let’s look at this argument.

Certainly if I have half a trillion dollars and my opposition has $10 I will probably win. But seldom in American politics are things so lopsided. And do you really think that if the Klan or the American Nazi Party had a trillion dollars they could actually get any real power in this nation? Logic tells us that at a certain point you can spend all the money you want and if the people hate you, you’re screwed. You just have to look at advertising…Hollywood occasionally spends the GNP of third world nations hyping some piece of crap that almost no one goes to see…if the logic of Citizen’s United opponents were applied then everyone should just follow the hype.

But let’s look at some extremes. On the one side did we forget that a felon in West Virginia and a challenger in Arkansas, both with no money to speak of, gave a sitting president a run for his money this year in the primary? Or on the other side let’s look at a man like George Soros. Now I don’t have to believe that Soros is some evil mastermind on the level of Lex Luthor or Ernst Stavro Blofeld to admit that (A) his politics are somewhere to left of the current French president’s and (B) through direct contributions and contributions to PACs like Moveon the man has dumped an obscene amount of money into U.S. elections. I don’t buy the conspiracy theories, but the fact is the man is very progressive and very giving of money to causes he believes in. As is his right. But here’s the funny thing…if the people who oppose Citizen’s United were right, then all the money he has spent combined with all the money unions have spent over the years then it should never have even been close in 2000 or 2004, and the country should already be so far left that Obama would look like Reagan right now. Strangely I failed to see the retirement age lowered to 50 or minimum wage raised to $20 an hour, universal public health care, or a 70% tax on income above $100,000 here in Sorosandia.

Money helps. No doubt about that. If you can get your message out it certainly is more effective. However in a day and age of twitter, blogs, and YouTube, it’s not just money that matters. It’s having a message that resonates with people…even if that message is the mentally retarded statements of “Yes we can” and “we are the ones we have been waiting for.”

But there’s a deeper problem than the common sense issue that money can’t buy everything in politics. It’s the implications of human nature.

Notice what is implicit in the argument that money is all that matters to democracy. Notice what is says if you believe that the person with the most money, not the better argument, always wins. It means that all people don’t have stupid and shortsighted moments, as I believe it means that people are incapable of rational thought. That they will follow the shiniest piece of polished metal provided by the person with the most money—that there is no rational thought, that no matter how extreme an idea, if it has money backing it, it will win. Ummm…if people are actually that dumb, then why do we have any democratic elements in our government? Democracy is based on the idea that the majority of the people, when put together will more often than not make the right choice, not because they believe the shiniest lie, but because reason will win the day with the majority of people more often than not. It is a premise based on the idea that a human being and human reason has value. If your argument is that money drives everything, then you must state you believe that humans on a whole have no ability to reason. Now is human reason perfect? Hell, no. That’s why we have always been a republic that limits the momentary whims of the masses and forces compromise and slow deliberation.

Now I will admit that human reason is not perfect, but taking money out of the equation will not solve the problem of imperfect reason being a driving force in our elections.

Now if you actually wanted a functioning democratic election, as the critics of Citizen United claim they want, what should they be arguing for?

Well, how about Voter ID check or clearing the voter rolls in every state every two years and making everyone re-register. You know to prevent fraud, and felons, and illegal immigrants from voting in mass numbers and making sure that the democratic principle of one man, one vote was actually allowed. As for making everyone re-register, if going down to the post office or going to a web site to pick up a form and sending it in is too much work for you, then dear God, you are not qualified to be deciding the future of this nation.

Or how about this one I know would never pass, but you would have to admit would get rid of the majority of influence of money in elections…require people to earn a high school diploma before they can vote. Okay liberals, get all the insults out now…I’m a racist, I’m a bigot, I’m closed minded, I don’t know anything about democracy, blah, blah, blah…I teach high school, I have been working in schools for nearly 14 years, and have been working consistently in alternative education with at risk youth for the last seven…do you have any idea how easy it is to get a high school diploma? Or a GED? I’m sorry but you seriously have to try to not pass high school. And I’m sorry given how much the income difference is between a high school diploma and having nothing, you’re an idiot’s idiot to not get a high school diploma. And when you put those two sentences together you realize that high school dropouts are actively trying to be an idiot’s idiot. Can’t imagine why I would want these losers voting. I mean who do you think falls most easily for flashy ads, the person with a bare bones education or the person who actively tried to remain ignorant. And if voting is really that important to you, getting a GED is not that difficult, really it’s not. If we were to institute this, you would find pandering by politicians drop quite a bit, and low and behold you might see better legislation.

Or you might go back to what the Founders correctly envisioned for the Senate: State legislatures and governors working together to nominate and elect the most qualified in the state (as opposed to the most popular) to the upper house of Congress. It would completely eliminate money’s influence on Senators themselves…and if people are so worried about SuperPAC money influencing federal elections…right now to influence the Senate you have to influence maybe 40 statewide elections (I figure about 60 seats are safe Republican or safe Democratic seats) going back to pre 17th Amendment republican ideals you would have to influence the same 40 state wide elections but this time for governors, plus influencing one to two houses of the state legislature. Even the most well funded SuperPacs would go bust before being able to make a dent in the long term. But to do that you would actually want to try and take out the influence of money…instead of say, hypocritically just wanting your traditional sources of money to be the only ones that counted.

Or how about this one: Get the government out of the economy. If you placed legitimate restrictions on how far the government can get into the economy, then guess what, all those businesses and business people wouldn’t care about elections. As long as the government has the power to pick winners and losers, you’d be a bit of an idiot to not do everything in your power to make sure you’re not the loser…but if you got the government out of the economy you get rid of the incentive to be so involved in elections…at which point why would business waste their hard earned profits on silly things like elections.

But the people who bitch about Citizens United don’t care about any of that…they’re just unhappy that now other people have a chance to fight their endless union coffers.

***
One last note on a pragmatic side issue. I’ve heard that nearly a trillion dollars will be spent on the 2012 election (when you count all the elections at all levels). Given how crappy the Obama economy is (and yes it is his fault, if it wasn’t for him we’d be in a full recovery by now) I want you to think how bad it would be if you took out a trillion dollars. Yes that trillion is going to a limited sector in the advertising business…but those people who get the money then spend it on other things and it moves through the economy…I want you to imagine what the economy would look like if you took yet another trillion out of GDP. Just a pragmatic consideration to keep in mind.

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The Best Patriotic Films #18 A Few Good Men

Lt. Weinberg: Why do you like them so much?

Lt. Com. Galloway: Because they stand on a wall and say, “Nothing’s going to hurt you tonight, not on my watch.”

I know it’s an odd choice.  Yes, no one will deny it’s a quality film, and Cruise’s impersonation of Nicholson alone makes the movie priceless, but few would initially think of this movie as patriotic. Neither the writer, the director nor any of the actors are ever going to be on a who’s who of patriots (although the three lead actors might be on a who’s who of the mentally unhinged).  Yet strangely for the most part this movie shows parts of what makes this nation great, namely the admirable and honorable nature or our armed services.  (I also could go on about how this shows the beauty of our legal system, for all its flaws, but I’ll save that for a later film).

Specifically the idea that people join the armed services not because they can’t get jobs (which ignores the fact that your average enlisted man or woman is better educated than the average civilian, and doubly so for the officer corps…oh by the way, in case you’re an idiot who should never be allowed anywhere near the chain of command it’s pronounced “core” not “corpse”), or the violent brutes who just want to kill people, or whatever other lies and insults isolationists want to hurl on the military.  No as it is made clear people join because they believe in their country, they believe that they can serve something greater than themselves, or as one of the accused Marines puts it when offered a deal to get out of his trial,

“We joined the Marines because we wanted to live our lives by a certain code, and we found it in the Corps. Now you’re asking us to sign a piece of paper that says we have no honor. You’re asking us to say we’re not Marines. If a court decides that what we did was wrong, then I’ll accept whatever punishment they give. But I believe I was right sir, I believe I did my job, and I will not dishonor myself, my unit, or the Corps so I can go home in six months… Sir.”

And I don’t know if it was intentional or not by the writers but even the movie’s villain, Nicholson’s Col. Jessup did what he did, initially, out of right intentions.  He ordered what the movie calls a “Code Red” (although I think this is not really a term used by military personnel) or soldiers punishing their own for being screw-ups (minor beatings, hazing style humiliation, and in the case of the movie forcibly having your head shaved…oh the injustice, he inhumanity, someone call the UN Human Rights council).  It’s a time honored tradition in military organizations and I’m sure still going on to this day although officially looked down upon…probably because it works in ensuring the cohesive workings of a military organization.  And Jessup orders it because he wants to ensure that the Marines under his command are capable of doing their duty and defend the lives of Americans that they have sworn to protect.

“Maybe we as officers have a responsibility to this country to see to it that the men and women charged with its security are trained professionals. Yes, I’m certain that I read that somewhere once.  And now I’m thinking, Col. Markinson, that your suggestion of transferring Santiago, while expeditious and certainly painless, might not be, in a matter of speaking, the American way. Santiago stays where he is. We’re gonna train the lad! […] We’re in the business of saving lives, Matthew. That’s a responsibility we have to take pretty seriously. And I believe that taking a Marine who’s not quite up to the job and shipping him off to another assignment, puts lives in danger.”

The man may be a complete jackass, as are many people, but he was right.  The Marines have a duty to protect America, and as a Marine Colonel he has a duty to make sure every man under his command is able to do that. *

Hell, he even has a point, after his famous “you can’t handle the truth line”

“You can’t handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lieutenant Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom! You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives! You don’t want the truth, because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall! You need me on that wall! We use words like “honor”, “code”, “loyalty”. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline! I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it! I would rather you just said “Thank you,” and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon, and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!”

Now what makes him the villain of the movie is that he says “We use words like ‘honor’, ‘code’, ‘loyalty’” but rather than living those words he only uses them.  Rather than fessing up to the fact that he ordered the punishment when it all fell apart and probably just getting a slap on the wrist and losing his impending high profile promotion, he chooses to dishonorably let two men under his command take the blame for something he ordered.  But the movie actually does make clear that the hypocrisy of those who hide behind these words is not the majority of the Marine Corp,

Kaffey: Oh, thanks, Jack. And I want to tell you that I think the whole fucking bunch of you are certifiably insane! This code of honor of yours makes me want to beat the shit out of something!

Capt. Ross: Don’t you dare lump me in with Jessup and Kendrick just because we wear the same uniform. I’m your friend and I’m telling you, I don’t think your clients belong in jail but I don’t get to make that decision! I represent the government of the United States without passion or prejudice and my client has a case! There you go.

Now some out there make this bizarre logical jump that if there is one bad apple in the military then all of them are bad.  Others seem to suggest that just by wearing the uniform you are in a rank somehow higher than sainthood.  The truth is there are assholes, criminals, and idiots in Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force and Coast Guard.  The truth is also that, unlike some nations, these dregs of civilization do not even constitute a fraction our armed services—they’re the few and far between exception and their presence does not taint the honor of those who serve a higher purpose (which you’ll notice all the people you hate in this movie are only out for themselves and don’t care who they hurt…okay with the exception of Sutherland’s character, that guy was just crazy).

Now, I have some issues with some of the more liberal overtones of this film, but we can leave those for another day.

Kaffee: Harold.

Dawson: Sir?

Kaffee: You don’t need to wear a patch on your arm to have honor.

*The real villain of this movie is the doctor who through gross incompetence failed to diagnose early on that the victim suffered a serious and eventually fatal heart condition.  Every action that led up to the character’s death was based on the fact the doctor said all of whining about medical problems were just that whining and not based in a medical reason, and he just needed to toughen up (although given that the victim was willing to sell out a fellow Marine to get his transfer by falsely accusing him of a crime, I can’t see why the other characters wouldn’t assume he was dishonorable and weak willed). But the fact is, that in the context of this film, if the doctor had done his job, no one else would have come close to crossing any lines as the kid would be have given a medical discharge and that would be that.  But rather than own up to incompetence, the doctor falsely accused the two Marines of using a poison.

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Filed under American Exceptionalism, Art, Movies, Movies for Conservatives, Patriotism

The Best Patriotic Films #19 Star Trek—The Original Series: The Omega Glory

Jim Kirk, Constitutional Scholar

Now some may find this an odd choice.  Isn’t Star Trek a fairly liberal show?  No, as shown here, here, and here it understood conservative principles quite well.  But nowhere is it more conservative and more patriotic than the episode “The Omega Glory.”

Remember how when talking about comedy films, and I picked out the Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles” that original series Star Trek episodes tended to fall into one of two categories: Category A (mainly in the third season) crap beyond the telling of and Category B some of the greatest moments of science fiction television ever.  But there are some rare middle ground episodes, not spectacularly great, but with one or two really redeeming qualities…the patriotism of this episode is its redeeming quality.

The plot of the episode revolves around Kirk and the crew of the Enterprise finding a world that developed with the exact same history as Earth but with only a few differences (that might be a cool topic, if it wasn’t like the fourth time they used that plot…Star Trek may have been groundbreaking in many ways, but original plot points weren’t always their strong points).  On this planet, after an apocalyptic war between Chinese Communists and Americans most of the world has been destroyed.  Kirk, Spock, and McCoy come in just to find the final victory of the Communists, or Kohms, by the American Yankees, or Yangs.  And the most holy of holies to the Yangs is a document that over the years they’ve slurred the meaning of…luckily for them Kirk came just in time to explain what it really means”

KIRK: This was not written for chiefs. (general consternation) Hear me! Hear this! Among my people, we carry many such words as this from many lands, many worlds. Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way. Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before or since. Tall words proudly saying ‘We the People’. That which you call Ee’d Plebnista was not written for the chiefs or the kings or the warriors or the rich and powerful, but for all the people! Down the centuries, you have slurred the meaning of the words, ‘We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquillity, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution.’ These words and the words that follow were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well!

CLOUD: The Kohms?

KIRK: They must apply to everyone or they mean nothing! Do you understand?

CLOUD: I do not fully understand, one named Kirk. But the holy words will be obeyed. I swear it.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  In fact, did you know that there are legitimate college courses out there that use this scene to help teach the Constitution? 

“So he quotes the Constitution, what’s so patriotic about that” I’m sure some liberal out there is saying.

First it puts the primacy of the Constitution over all other attempts at democratically-republican government, “Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way.”  Unlike some of our dumber Supreme Court Justices, the writers of Star Trek, realized that for all of it’s flaws and places where it could be improved (let’s start by reaffirming the sacrosanct nature of property and contracts or maybe the limited nature of government, we seem to have forgotten those), the U.S. Constitution is one of the greatest documents ever produced.

It is patriotic because the writers understood that “They must apply to everyone or they mean nothing!” “We the people” through our representatives at the Constitutional Convention may have created this document for this nation in 1787, but its principles were not meant for just the citizens of the U.S.  The posterity they saw wasn’t just the future generations of the U.S. but hopefully for the world, that we would be the beacon for all to learn from so that all may have “secure the blessings of liberty” (or are you so foolish and closed minded as to think blessings, which the Declaration clearly points out come from God, are only for America.)  No, it was meant for all the people.  Liberty is a right, not just for Americans, but for all people.  Which is why in this episode Kirk skirts the Prime Directive and shows the people of this planet what the words mean.

Of course, as science fiction is best when used to make a point to the audience, one must ask to whom this episode was being directed at.  I would say it would be the bigoted, small minded, worthless excuses for Americans who say such unquestionably evil things like “our obligation is to defend Americans, not people under a different flag. Let those people fight for their own freedom and establish their own government” otherwise known as taking the side of tyranny and thus being morally guilty of all the evil which you choose not to stop when you have the power to do so.  Nowadays we call them liberals and Paulbots, and make no mistake they are as opposed to what makes the Constitution worthy of admiration as it gets.

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