Friday, September 03, 2004

'The Purple Heart'

Before we get back to wrapping up the RNC . . . .

I grew up on old movies - many of them old war movies (thanks, Dad). I've probably mentioned one of my favorites, The Best Years of Our Lives, before.

This morning, I happened upon The Purple Heart, starring Dana Andrews (also the hottie flyboy in Best Years). It was the very end - and in a courtroom scene in front of a goofy Japanese tribunal, Andrews delivers the following rousing speech:

No your excellency. It's true we Americans don't know very much about you Japanese. And we never did. And now I realize you know even less about us. You can kill us. All of us, or part of us. But if you think that's going to put the fear of god into the United States of America, and stop them from sending other flyers to bomb you, you're wrong. Dead wrong. They'll come by night, they'll come by day. Thousands of them. They'll blacken your skies and burn your cities to the ground and make you get down on your knees and beg for mercy. This is your war. You wanted it. You asked for it. You started it. And now you're going to get it. And it won't be finished until your dirty little empire is wiped off the face of the earth.
Until he got to the part where he said "you started it," it could've been given by any number of RNC speakers. Or maybe even with that line, depending on which enemy we're substituting for the Japanese. But this was the tone of many wartime movies - propaganda - something to keep the working wives and victory gardening kids motivated and full of fresh American pride.

Bush's speech had such elements last night - and, in fact, so did every speech that touched on 9/11 and the justified fight in which we're now engaged. Of course, no one distinguished between Al-Q, Afghanistan, and Iraq. No mention of the still at-large Osama. No need to bring up that sticking point.

These speeches - the movie kind - are very much part of the American consciousness. But do they still work? In this global, outsourced, imported, intermarried, cheap travel world, are we limiting the future by miring ourselves in the rhetoric of the past?

All the pretty words and all the pretty memes, can't put the victims of 9/11 and the wars together again.

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