- Americans Cheer Fictional Insurgents, Real-Life Invaders
Americans Cheer Fictional Insurgents, Real-Life Invaders
Sounds like a movie, huh? "Red Dawn" is a classic document of
Reagan-era jingoism filtered through Cold War paranoia. Audiences
cheered American nationalist insurgents as they blew holes through
onscreen Soviet conscripts in 1984. Rent it today and you will too.
The mid-'80s were good for fictional American resistance movements.
The miniseries "V," which premiered in 1983, was followed by a 1985
sequel and eventually a full-fledged weekly TV series, focused on a
cell of underground resistance fighters who bombed police stations,
government offices and important infrastructure--including an oil
refinery!--in the course of a long, brutal and desperate war against
reptilian invaders from outer space. (The clever creatures disguise
themselves in human form to get the locals to cooperate.) The series'
writers kept things interesting by writing lots of moral ambiguity
into their scripts. Some aliens form a "fifth column" allied with the
human resistance movement while some earthlings sell out their
neighbors and relatives, but none of that matters in the end. You
still root for the men and women the government and official media
1985 saw the widescreen release of a remake of the '50s Red Scare
flick "Invasion, U.S.A.," this time with mullet-tressed action hero
Chuck Norris deploying heavy weaponry against fiendish commie
saboteurs wreaking havoc in the streets of, inexplicably, south Florida.
The more stuff Chuck blows up, the louder we applaud. After all, he
ain't no terrorist--he's a freedom fighter, albeit a poorly-directed
one clumsily reading incredibly stupid lines.
Cheering for the underdog is as American as fatty food. In the movies
we love heroes who simply want to be left alone--but are willing, like
Charles Bronson in "Death Wish," to dish out double-sized portions of
blazing revenge when the baddies cross the line. Why, then, don't we
pull for the Iraqi insurgents? They are, like Clint Eastwood in his
'70s and '80s action flicks, fighting back against overwhelming odds.
And most, like Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen in "Red Dawn," are
high school kids who, at first resigned to the U.S. invasion, take up
arms in disgust at an increasingly abusive and hostile army of
occupation. Americans play opposite roles in the two scenarios, yet we
identify with Americans in both. Where the heck is our sense of
empathy? Why can't we see ourselves in the faces of those kids firing
RPGs at convoys of Halliburton trucks stealing Iraqi oil?
Here's the rub: Iraq's resistance fighters are breaking a lot of eggs
to cook their omelet of liberation. They kill other Iraqis. They
kidnap and execute foreign aid workers, truck drivers, businessmen,
even diplomats and children. Americans, we tell ourselves, would never
resort to that kind of terrorism--not even to free ourselves from
Imagine America under the jackboot of, say, Icelandic occupation. At
first many Americans are happy to see Bush arrested and put on trial,
but it doesn't take long before we start to miss him. Promises of
rapid rebuilding evaporate. Two years after saturation bombing has
leveled Washington, Los Angeles, New York and other major cities, the
rubble is overrun with rats and wild dogs. America's natural
resources--coal, lumber, oil--are shipped back to Iceland without
recompense. Unmarked checkpoints spring up everywhere, transforming a
drive to the 7-11 to get water--faucets are dry--into a potentially
lethal exercise. Icelandic troops conduct house raids to take away
Americans' guns. Since there's no electricity for streetlights, the
night belongs to gangs, who rape and hold women for ransom. There are
no jobs, unless you count working for the hated police force of the
puppet regime, the Unified Nordic Republic of Icelanderica. UNRI
lackeys ride alongside Icelandic storm troopers to point out the homes
of "terrorists," who are bagged, beaten and dragged off into the
night, never to be seen again. Most of the victims are innocent
civilians, of course, but the Icelandics don't speak English. They
mistakenly trust their toadies, who use their authority to act on
These collaborators, as Karl Rove would point out, are fair game--for
attacks by American resistance fighters. As in "V." And "Red Dawn."
A few years pass. The Icelandic government turns over nominal
"sovereignty" to its puppet American regime, but nothing changes on
the ground. The checkpoint shootings, mass arrests and chaos continue
unabated. Almost everyone has lost a friend or family member to the
war. There's an "election," but members of the prewar Democratic and
Republican parties are barred from participating. America as we know
it has been rubbed out.
The humiliation is total. Icelandic forces pass out decks of cards
depicting the faces of former senators, governors and generals. They
shoot deposed leader George W. Bush's twin daughters and air images of
their bloody, mutilated faces on state television. They print photos
of Bush, haggard and obviously abused in his secret prison, wearing
nothing but underwear.
Adding to the anger of patriotic Americans is the willingness of the
rest of the world to forget what has happened. Other nations,
including former prewar allies like Great Britain and Italy, reopen
their embassies and post ambassadors to the "new America." The United
Nations recognizes the collaborationist regime as legitimate and meets
with its appointed leader, a man unknown in America because he spent
his entire life in exile in Iceland. Carpetbaggers (the
collaborationist press calls them "entrepreneurs") pour in from
abroad, scheming to line their pockets by prolonging Americans' misery
and poverty. Aid groups and other NGOs seeking to help hungry and
homeless Americans mean well, but their presence reinforces a sense
that things are back to normal--and the collaborationist media points
to their presence as tacit endorsement of the occupation.
Obviously the U.S. nationalist insurgents don't want to kill
civilians. They prefer that foreigners stay out of occupied America so
they can focus on driving out the Icelandics, but naive and greedy
intruders ignore their warning not to associate with the puppet
regime. Leaders of the resistance are forced to make a brutal choice.
They can kill a few diplomats here, a few aid workers there, but since
executions serve no purpose as warnings unless their horror is
publicized, the American patriots choose to distribute videotapes of
the killings. Similarly, they warn their countrymen not to join the
collaborationist police forces. But there's only one way to ensure
that the jobless won't sell out their country in order to feed their
families: suicide bombers who take out as many traitors as possible.
Yes, there would be an alternative to these brutal tactics. The
conquered Americans could simply accept that there will never, ever
again be a land of the free and home of the brave where the United
States used to be. But that would hardly be a Hollywood ending.
CORRECTION: Last week I described Feminists for Life, with which
Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' wife has been associated, as a
Catholic group. Feminists for Life says it is "a nonsectarian
organization, not affiliated with any religion."
COPYRIGHT 2005 TED RALL
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