“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.