(The first third or so of this piece appeared here for Memorial Day 2011. The rest did not.)
∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞ ∞
lay down last night
lord i could not take my rest
my mind was wanderin'
like the wild geese in the west
"Do you all come here from different places?"
"There are some here from Siberia, some from Lapland, and I can see one or two from Iceland."
"But don't they fight each other for the pasture?"
"Dear me, you are a silly," she said. "There are no boundaries among the geese. How can you have boundaries, if you fly? You humans would have to stop fighting, in the end, if you really took to the air."
"I like fighting," said the Wart. "It is knightly."
"Because you're a baby."
—T.H. White, The Once and Future King
One of the key indicators that I do indeed too often dwell in what William Burroughs identified as "an annex of Hell," is the local radio newsperson.
He labors out here in the sticks, in the near-invisible bush leagues, but he is in his heart a Fox person—his station a Fox affiliate.
I suppose his way of feeling as One, with those far-off Fox mandarins who don’t even know he is alive, is to endeavor ebulliently always to out-Fox Fox.
Thus, there is nothing too mental to come out of this man’s mouth. Nothing.
This man was on the air the morning that President Obama convened his extraordinary and unprecedented press conference to Stop The Madness. Obama deploying his long-form birth certificate as a sort of seawall, to break the tsunami of maniacal jabberers roiling with Knowledge that Obama is a nefarious foreign-born Manchurian Muslim out to outrage all that is America.
This man's radio station aired Obama's "Yes, I Am Not A Not-Person" statement, in its entirety, live.
The man himself then returned to the microphone, to declaim that Obama had just said things that he had not, in fact, said. Words were put into Obama's mouth; words were taken out of his mouth. And the sense of all these omissions and commissions was that Questions Still Remained, as to whether Obama might not truly be a nefarious foreign-born Manchurian Muslim out to outrage all that is America.
It was a jaw-dropping performance. I mean, mere moments had passed since we'd heard the words from the president himself. All had been recorded; the thing itself was even then available for playback to anyone with access to an intertube. Other tubes already bore transcripts of Obama's words. Yet this "news"man was boldly, methodically laying a track, along which chugged an alternative reality.
I mean, it's not like it was November 19, 1863, and this man was one of the newshounds burdened with receiving those remarks of Abraham Lincoln that would sometime thereafter become known as "The Gettysburg Address." Those people had no tape recorders, no video machines. They had but pad and paper; fingers, ears, and brains. With the latter trio, not working at all well.
Sobriety has never really been a virtue prized among American newspeople. But on this day, drink had cast down reporters into nearly Job-like suffering. Because the night before, they had consumed truly massive quantities of whiskey, enough to today fell even a human ox like Keith Richards. Too, they had compounded their enervation by goatishly disporting in various and sundry other ways.
The dedication of the National Cemetery at Gettysburg would for these men, then, be a balloon-headed, sweat-pouring, limb-palsied, throat-clenching, world-spinning ordeal. All of their powers would be required simply to live. Before Lincoln took the stage, these wraiths already had been subjected to shriekingly loud horn-band music, the somnambulent drone of prayers, and a two-hour-plus oration from Edward Everett that is now regarded as one of the most thuddingly dull assemblages of verbiage ever inflicted upon a living audience.
And Everett was not the featured speaker. Lincoln was. So, it was expected that the president would pour forth even more words than had Everett. Having barely survived the blatting din of the horns, the rousing god-flogging, and Everett's boundless oratorical crematorium, these men, watching Lincoln stride to center stage, dejectedly concluded that yes, truly, they might slide into unconsciousness, before ever they could awake.
Little wonder then that some among them might have misapprehended the first words out of Lincoln's mouth as something along the lines of "Four sores, and seven beers ago . . . ."
In anticipation of the cemetery dedication, Gettysburg had bloated with visitors that expanded the population to four times its accustomed size. On the morning of November 19, a procession of these people trudged towards the cemetery, raggedly forming on Baltimore Street, then moving towards Emmitsburg Road, lined with white pine coffins, piled high, awaiting interment. The air heavy with the smell of rotting horses, who lay still where they had fallen, more than four months before.
The reporters had badgered Lincoln's people for a preview copy of his speech, but these factotums had declined to provide one. When the suffering newsmen saw Lincoln withdraw from his pocket but a single sheet of paper, they despaired. This meant he would speak extemporaneously. And the reporters would be forced to take down every word. Truly, they were in Hell.
They tried to do their best, but they could not.
The booze-reduced Philadelphia Inquirer scribe, for instance, seemed to project his own condition into the president's mouth: "We owe this suffering to our dead. We imbibe increased devotion to that cause."
Charles Hale of the Boston Advertiser reported that Lincoln had vowed "the world will never forbid what they did here." The Philadelphia Press decided that Lincoln had noted "we are met on a general battlefield." The Associated Press presented a Lincoln who referenced "the refinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on," and concluded that he hadn't really said "poor" in "our poor power to add or detract."
And so on.
There is in truth no way of knowing for certain precisely what words Lincoln spoke that November afternoon, that are today known as "The Gettysburg Address."
In Bohemian Brigade, Louis M. Starr's ceaselessly entertaining account of the lives and libations of Civil War correspondents, the author, working from contemporary accounts, pieces together what he believes to be the closest possible approximation of the actual address.
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.Whatever Lincoln might have precisely said that day, of one thing we can be certain: it was a lie.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We are met to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place of those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate—we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here; but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have thus far so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that the nation shall, under God, have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.
In 1962, World War II South Pacific combat veteran James Jones had recently completed The Thin Red Line. While struggling with this novel, based on his experiences on Guadalcanal—a struggle that involved upending more bottles than had occupied the newsmen at Gettysburg, in pursuit of memories and emotions soul-searing to revisit—Jones had come to an inner understanding that:
[T]he dead, frozen like flies in plastic, realized—at the moment of death, when of course they stopped—that humanity must grow to feeling, to empathy, or become extinct.And so, Jones determined to speak for them.
But the dead cannot speak.
In 1962, visiting America from his home in France, Jones was invited by his friend William Styron to accompany him on a private tour of the White House, conducted by a high panjandrum in the Kennedy Administration. Jones might also visit the DC-area battlefield memorials erected to commemorate the Civil War, a conflict Jones had brooded on all his life.
And thus it was that Jones went out to Antietam, where he walked the grounds of "Bloody Lane."
The experience rocked him. As Styron relates:
A rather innocuous-looking place now, he said, a mere declivity in the landscape, sheltered by a few trees. But there, almost exactly a century before, some of the most horrible carnage in the history of warfare had taken place, thousands of men on both sides dead within a few hours. The awful shambles was serene now, but the ghosts were still there, swarming.Styron next moved the subdued Jones to the Lincoln Memorial, that titanic faux temple of Zeus. Styron again:
Jim's face was set like a slab, his expression murky and aggrieved, as we stood on the marble reading the Gettysburg Address engraved against one lofty wall, slowly scanning those words of supreme magnanimity and conciliation and brotherhood dreamed by the fellow Illinoisian whom Jim had venerated, as almost everyone does, for transcendental reasons that needed not to be analyzed or explained in such a sacred hall. I suppose I was expecting the conventional response from Jim, the pious hum. But his reaction, soft-spoken, was loaded with savage bitterness, and for an instant it was hard to absorb. "It's just beautiful bullshit," he blurted. "They all died in vain. They all died in vain. And they always will!"Styron and Jones completed their journey, with the people in the Kennedy White House. The significance of the juxtaposition of the visits to Antietam, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House, did not strike Styron until some years later. By which time Jones was dead.
Many years went by before I happened to reflect on that day, and to consider this: that in the secret cellars of the White House, in whose corridors we were soon being shepherded around pleasantly, the ancient mischief was newly germinating. There were doubtless all sorts of precursory activities taking place which someday would confirm Jim's fierce prophecy: heavy cable traffic to Saigon, directives beefing up advisory and support groups, ominous memos on Diem and the Nhus, orders to units of the Green Berets. The shadow of Antietam, and of all those other blind upheavals, was falling on our own times.
In the way of time, Styron had already provided, in 1952, a coda to Jones' 1962 Cassandra call at the Lincoln Memorial. In his novella The Long March. A work autobiographical, drawn from Styron's experiences when called up as a reserve for the "police action" in Korea. During maneuvers in the Carolinas, artillery rounds that had been allowed to rust in the rain since the cessation of WWII "fall short" onto a group of soldiers gathered in line for chow. Three officers arrive to assess the damage.
One boy's eyes lay gently closed, and his long dark lashes were washed in tears, as though he had cried himself to sleep. As they bent over him they saw that he was very young, and a breeze came up from the edges of the swamp, bearing with it a scorched odor of smoke and powder, and touched the edges of his hair. A lock fell across his brow with a sort of gawky, tousled grace, as if preserving even in that blank and mindless repose some gesture proper to his years, a callow charm. Around his curly head grasshoppers darted among the weeds. Below, beneath the slumbering eyes, his face had been blasted out of sight. Culver looked up and met Mannix's gaze. The Captain was sobbing helplessly. He cast an agonized look toward the Colonel, standing across the field, then down again at the boy, then at Culver. "Won't they ever let us alone, the sons of bitches," he murmured, weeping. "Won't they ever let us alone?"No. Never. Never. Never, will they leave us alone.
So, it is up to us. To leave them alone.
This is the worst place in the cycling of the earth for me. Because here I am reminded, that nearly all and every man, whose loins (allegedly) combined to make me what I am, was in war destroyed.
Every man, ever in any war, destroyed. This is just truth. Though never do we speak of it. Jeebus prevent, so that we can all pretend to go on, this truth. My father, nineteen, on a ship in the South Pacific, there he saw "the face of war." Also heard it, smelled it, touched it, tasted it, and swallowed it.
And that face was the face of his best friend. Blown off his head, and splattered onto my father's face.
Do you recover from that? No. Never.
My father was most often a friendly ghost, as he, with my mother, raised me, and my brother and my sister. But that's what he was. A ghost. In essence, in soul, he had died, at 19. Ever after, he was just living out his death. Which occurred there in the South Pacific, when his best friend's face, was blown into his mouth.
He tried to do his best, but he could not.
He married a woman he did not love, because erased had been his ability to love. And he beget children, because that is what she wanted, and what was from him expected.
As I entered adolescence, and neared Vietnam, he at first fiercely decreed that I must go and fight for "the country" . . . because that is what we had always done, there in our lineage, our lineage the dirt and the grubby cannon-fodder of our nations.
But then, as draft-day ever neared, he began to reverse course, until he said he would do whatever it took, to keep me from going, where he had gone.
In this, he was a giant of a man. An agent of evolution. He had twined up the spiral.
And so: I am here today. Instead of long-dead bones, dissolved into muck, in a paddy in Southeast Asia.
He died of drink, at 60, as all the warriors in our line had died before him, also of drink.
Among the many things I wish he had hung on for, is this song of Jim Malcolm's, which puts into art, the truth of what my father lived, and knew. Commencing, here, at 3:26.
Spring comes to Kirrie, all the world’s in bloom
Winter is forgiven now, fooled by April’s broom
Kirrie, oh Kirrie, you were aye my hame
Till Napoleon’s bloody cannon hit their aim
Jeannie, oh Jeannie, I am surely done
Stricken down in battle, at the mooth o Boney’s guns
Jeannie, oh Jeannie, aye sae dear tae me
Let me hold you in my mind afore I dee
For the cold returns in autumn
When the wind rakes the trees
And the summer lies forgotten
In the cold bed of leaves
As winter begins, aye mind Boney
It wasn’t only you
Who was broken on the fields of Waterloo
Surgeon, oh surgeon, leave me to my pain
Save your knife for others, who will surely rise again
Surgeon, oh surgeon, leave my blood to pour
Let it drain into the bitter clay once more
Daughter, oh daughter, listen dear tae me
Never wed a soldier, or a widow you will be
Daughter, oh daughter, curse your lad to die
Ere he catches the recruiting sergeant’s eye
Boney, oh Boney, war was aye your game
Bloody field your table, cannon yours to aim
Boney, oh Boney, we aye lived the same
Drilling laddies not to fear the muskets’ flame
For the cold returns in autumn
When the wind rakes the trees
And the summer lies forgotten
In a cold bed of leaves
As winter begins, aye mind Boney
It wasn’t only you
Who was broken on the fields of Waterloo
A thing I am glad that my father did not live to see, was September 11, 2001.
And September 16, 2001: when, in those first heady, halcyon days of the War On Terra, George II stepped out of his helicopter onto the South Lawn of the White House, there to inform the scribblers assembled:
[W]e need to be alert to the fact that these evil-doers exist. We haven't seen this kind of barbarism in a long period of time. No one could have conceivably imagined suicide bombers burrowing into our society and then emerging all in the same day to fly their aircraft—fly U.S. aircraft into buildings full of innocent people—and show no remorse. This is a new kind of—a new kind of evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.The crusader spirit then atavistically rampant across the land. For on the evening of September 11, members of Congress publicly called upon the crusader deity to bless and preserve the nation, singing "God Bless America" on the steps of the US Capitol.
George II was particularly enamored of the crusader notion. This a man who ran for president because his god told him to. Who doesn't much listen to other human beings—yea, verily, not even his own father—but instead takes counsel from his "higher Father."
Who in early 2003, appealing to their "common faith," informed French President Jacques Chirac that Iraq must be invaded and conquered to thwart "Gog and Magog": "[t]he biblical prophecies are being fulfilled; [t]his confrontation is willed by God, who wants to use this conflict to erase his people’s enemies[.]"
Who later in 2003 delivered a similar message to Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath: "I am driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, 'George go and fight these terrorists in Afghanistan.' And I did. And then God would tell me 'George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.' And I did."
Who had wanted to be "a war president," and who now, by golly, was; his sacred task, as he framed it, also there on September 16, 2001, to "rid the world of the evil-doers."
However, some in the court of George II, those who had read and understood history books, were nervous about the "crusade" business.
They accepted that they could never get George II off his "evil" fixation (the man a binary-encaged Manichean, either/or to the bone; see, as example, "[e]ither you are with us, or you are with the terrorists"). But "crusade," they knew, would tend to seriously rile several hundred million people, people already inclined to regard the United States as a sort of witless Baby Huey, piously believing itself under the protection of an Almighty Beard-Winged Celestial Paperweight, as it lumbered about the globe raining bombs upon whomever it decreed to be Wrong.
These several hundred million people retained a historical memory of crusaders as a motley crew of true believers, opportunists, looters, and fifteen-cylinder freak-flag-flying nutters, who, over the course of some 200 years, periodically boiled out of Europe to rampage south on a mission to "free the holy places." They were beaten like gongs, these crusaders, every time, but they left behind a lot of bad memories.
Besides bent on butchering Muslims, or anyone else perceived as Weird or Brown, these crusaders would occasionally pause at their labors to slaughter Jews and "Eastern" Christians. They uprooted, stole, and carted away anything and everything that weighed less than the Pyramids. They evinced a peculiar fondness for eating the dead bodies of their enemies.
And so on.
As Arab historian Osama Ibn Mungidh wrote, crusaders were regarded as "beasts superior in courage and fighting ardor but in nothing else, just as animals are superior in strength and aggression."
And they did all this, these crusaders, for the greater glory of their god.
In Arabic, the word for "crusader" is still clearly seen to contain as root word "cross." Arabic speakers, then, know exactly what the word "crusade" invokes: holy war on behalf of the Sauloid conception of Jesus of Nazareth.
As George Saliba, a scholar of medieval Islamic history at Columbia University in New York, observed in the wake of George II's September 16, 2001 pronouncement of his new crusade: "It says, 'I will recruit God to my side.'"
Too, Osama bin Laden had already monikered his outfit "The World Islamic Front Against Jews And Crusaders."
George II, then, with his South Lawn mouthings, blundered eyes wide shut right into that: "We Are The Crusaders You've Been Waiting For."
Finally, there existed Mean People, like Sheikh Yassin of Hamas, ready to remind these new, would-be crusaders, that they should "look back at the experience of the crusades. In the end, they were defeated."
And so those in the court of George II who had read history books, persuaded the rest that it would be best to can the "crusade" talk. Put a cork in it. George II, and his people, were, over the course of their War On Terra, mostly content to sound instead numberless variations on "evil." The fuller Reality—that these people did indeed believe themselves on crusade—was shut up in a box.
Occasionally, of course, a particularly fervent crusader would come flying right out of the box. As when General William Boykin, former functionary of the Delta Force sickness, crusader in Iran, Panama, Grenada, Columbia, Somalia, Iraq, and points unknown, partial architect of the War on Terra mutation of the Vietnam-era Phoenix Program, did wander the land, informing the faithful of such Essential Truths as the decision of De Lord to deliberately place George II in the White House, for "we're a Christian nation[,] and the enemy is a guy named Satan," and, as he told one Somali Muslim, "I kn[o]w my God [i]s bigger than [yours]. I kn[o]w that my God [i]s a real God, and [yours] [i]s an idol."
Or when we are recurrently reminded that the US military is rotten with Christian dominionists, spiritual heirs of the fifteen-cylinder freak-flag-flying nutters who rampaged across the "Holy Land," all those centuries ago.
For, in truth, it's all kabuki: that the United States, in its War on Terra, is not a crusader nation. All bollocks. Crusaders they are, crusaders forever shall they be.
We learned most recently that the crusader spirit still animates the War on Terra in the August 8 New Yorker, in Nicholas Schmidle's"Getting Bin Laden."
This piece informs us on three essential matters.
First, as touched on here, the nation's military, and its intelligence agencies, are today as one. The wall of separation that once divided the two has, like the wall of separation intended to divide church from state, crumbled into dust.
Though purportedly a military operation, the Abbottabad assassination of Osama bin Laden was run out of CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. This, it seems, was hardly anything new.
"These people grew up together," a senior Defense Department official told Schmidle. "We are in each other's systems, we speak each other's language."
Former CIA Assistant General Counsel John Radsan told Schmidle that the bin Laden raid marked "a complete incorporation of [special forces] into a CIA operation." And, vice versa.
Second, and notwithstanding the bumbling, three-legged messaging hobbling out of the White House at the time, the assault on bin Laden's home in Abbottabad was quite definitely an assassination mission. When bin Laden was shot (in the chest) and killed (bullet blasting open his brain), this is how it was:
A second SEAL stepped into the room and trained the infrared laser of his M4 on bin Laden's chest. The Al Qaeda chief, who was wearing a tan shalwar kameez and a prayer cap on his head, froze; he was unarmed."There was never any question of detaining or capturing him," a special-operations officer told Schmidle. "No one wanted detainees."
Third, bin Laden was assassinated by a crusader.
The first round, a 5.56mm bullet, struck bin Laden in the chest. As he fell backward, the SEAL fired a second round into his head, just above his left eye. On his radio, he reported, "For God and country—Geronimo, Geronimo, Geronimo." After a pause, he added, "Geronimo E.K.I.A."—"enemy killed in action.""For God and country."
So what, exactly, makes this crusader, who killed bin Laden, any different from a Muslim who takes life with "Allahu Akbar" on his lips?
Nothing. There is no difference. They are the same.
One kills a human being, who did exist, on behalf of one variant of the Almighty Beard-Winged Celestial Paperweight, who never existed.
The other kills a human being, who did exist, on behalf of another variant of the Almighty Beard-Winged Celestial Paperweight, who never existed.
But perhaps—maybe you're thinking—this crusader who killed bin Laden was some sort of rogue element, a non-representative Christianist freakazoid, not reflective of the military as a whole.
No. So sorry.
For according to Schmidle, the unit containing the crusader who killed bin Laden consists of but 300 people. Nearly 50, or one-sixth, were deployed, in some capacity, on the mission to assassinate bin Laden.
And on May 6 of last year, President Obama met with all those people. At which time they presented Obama with an American flag: three-by-five, stretched, ironed, and framed. They had affixed their signatures to the back. On the front were the words: "From The Joint Task Force Operation Neptune's Spear, 01 May 2011: 'For God And Country. Geronimo.'"
And so we see: they're all crusaders. Every one. Indistinguishable from those waging war with souls aflame for Allahu Akbar.
Crusaders killing for one variant of the Almighty Beard-Winged Celestial Paperweight; jihadists killing for another.
No difference. None at all. They are the same.
Obama told the crusaders assembled that he would stash their relic "somewhere private and meaningful to me."
What he should do, is stuff their relic into an old tire, haul the tire out onto the White House lawn, douse it with lighter fluid, and set it on fire.
It is time to end the US military.
There is no reason for it.
The United States is at peace with its neighbors, Canada and Mexico. Therefore, it does not need an army. So the army should be eliminated.
The Founders did not, anyway, intend this country to maintain a standing army. Which is why the Constitution specifically prohibits army appropriations of more than two years. No such prohibition, on any other expenditure, appears anywhere in that document. This was something they felt strongly about. Strongly about it also should we feel.
As the only legitimate use for an air force is in support of ground troops, the Air Force should be eliminated as well.
The Marines need to be folded back into the Navy, from whence they came; Marines are support troops for, and crazed amphibious invaders from, ships; that's all they are; that they are sent to fight in landlocked countries like Afghanistan, is madness.
Since the US already possesses a Coast Guard, perfectly capable of patrolling the waters of the continental United States (Alaska and Hawaii are imperial possessions, and should be encouraged to break free, as should all overseas territories, possessions, protectorates, and the like), the US should go ahead and get rid of the Navy, too. Marines and all. Make a clean sweep.
If such a thing were to be accomplished in stages, of course the Marines would be the first to go. As Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, a more or less decorated veteran of the United States armed forces, observed in 1987, upon the revelation that Marine guards at the US embassy in Moscow had been responsible for the most humiliating foul-up in the entire Clouseau-like history of American "intelligence":
The whole Marine Corps should be disbanded, finished off with other useless relics like the Sea-Bees, Hitler Youth and the Lafayette Esquadrille. The USMC has been useless as tits on a boar hog since 1951, when they led the famous “Inchon Landing” for Gen. Douglas MacArthur and saved America from total disgrace in Korea.It may seem like a tall order, eliminating the US military. Because American culture is so these days so permeated with invocations of the will to slaughter. It is embraced in this nation, the will to slaughter; the military; lovingly. Ecstatically.
That was  years ago, and since then they have done little more than hang around foreign embassies like drunken peacocks and get the nation into trouble. The US Army’s 1st Airborne Division could eat the whole Marine Corps for breakfast and take the rest of the day off for beer and volleyball. The only solution to the “Marine problem” now is to croak the whole corps.
Abolishing the Marines would have no real effect on national military preparedness, and it would cut [billions] off the bloated national defense budget—which now must include the billions it will cost to raze the entire new US Embassy compound in Moscow and build another one—a huge concrete igloo with no windows, or maybe a deep underground bunker like the ones Albert Speer used to build. All we really need over there is a roomy place with no bugs or spies or sex-crazed whiskey-wild women from the KGB, or even the ghost of a US Marine. Res ipsa loquitur.
But it's going to happen. Already has. It's simply a matter of waiting, until time has caught up with, what is.
In early 1977, two films were in post-production at a film studio in England.
The first was Cross of Iron. Which Orson Welles later pronounced, correctly, the finest anti-war film ever made. But when it was released, no one wanted to see it—except in Germany, where it was perceived, wrongly, as a vindication of the German army.
Down the hall from the Cross of Iron editing crew labored the Mordorites who inflicted upon the world Star Wars. A film that ebulliently spread mass sunny slaughter into outer space. That offered a final sequence which, as German director Wim Wenders noted, with no little outrage, aped frame-for-frame a celebrated portion of Triumph of the Will.
A film that opened with the obliteration of an entire world, and all the creatures on it, an event which the filmmakers asked the audience to accept with less emotion than the later Perils-of-Pauline tribulations of a pair of bumbling robots.
Nick an R2, and the heartstrings are tugged. Exterminate a planet, and the billions of people upon it, and blithely chew the snack-bar cud. So you’ll be ready, the day that they come for you, to tell you that it’s time to drag or be dragged, out on the killing floor.
A very different film, if we had heard the cries of the billions of souls extinguished. As Willi Heinrich, a combat infantryman in the German army during WWII, who tramped over 8000 miles of Russian territory—to the suburbs of Moscow, and back again—and who watched everyone he knew die around him, as he himself was severely wounded on five separate occasions, wrote:
When we sing the national anthem in a military cemetery it is, of course, a very moving event, but it distorts the true nature of the matter. We should rig up giant loudspeakers and relay recordings of the screams of the wounded and dying and then no one would ever forget that cemetery[.]Mr. Lucas let us hear the screams of no one. We simply moved right on.
We ought not to play anthems over their graves or make solemn speeches in remembrance of them. A people which is proud of its war dead has learned nothing from the war. This is only my personal opinion, but as long as we have no stronger feelings than a bad conscience about our dead when we talk of them, then there will always be other wars. It all began with falsehood and it will one day finish with falsehood: that is what I mean by inevitability. Lies breed death, death breeds lies and so it goes on. By distorting the meaning of our existence we have legitimized mass murder.
And here we will move right on to Mr. Wenders, from his 1984 "American Dream":
The American State philosophy.
Entertainment: advertisement for America.
The German word for that is hardly comparable.
"Unterhaltung" is something nice.
"Entertainment" is a totalitarian thing.
The entertainment industry is probably already
the next biggest sector of the American economy
after armaments, so it's only logical
to suppose that one day
it will become the biggest economic factor bar none.
The more impossible and unthinkable wars become,
world-wide ones in particular,
the more evident world-wide entertainment will appear
as the "continuation of politics by other means."
A film like Star Wars, truly "entertaining,"
makes that perfectly clear, not only
because it's about war, not only
because it supplies new images of war
and a new mythology of war
to a whole generation of children "world-wide,"
because in the end it reveals, in all innocence,
where those images come from and where they belong:
the final sequence is a faithful copy
of a sequence from Hitler's greatest propaganda film
Triumph of the Will.
Let us behold, the Triumph Of The Hope:
Everybody loves Star Wars. I know that. It is cute and cuddly. Wouldn't hurt a fly. PG. Benign. Everybody says so. Sure.
Used here, only as example, that when we think we're not hurting a fly, we're actually blithely blowing right past the deaths of billions of beings.
Humans were built poorly. They have a lot of wrong impulses. One is the impulse to kill one another. And nothing whatsoever will get anywhere at all, until that impulse is stifled.
Kenneth Patchen, marooned on this crazy stone, saw this:
It's simple. There's nothing at all complicated about it.
War—There won't be war when you decide you won't murder other human beings.
You cannot hate without hating all; and you cannot kill some without killing all—because the welfare of any man is the welfare of all men. Through violence men are made to enslave and murder one another; through violence the world has been turned into this unimaginable hell; through violence the rulers of this hell are enabled to maintain their positions.
Have you ever looked at a man?
There is something helpless and majestic about a man.
If you believed in anything, you could not kill a man.
A man has two legs. He'll build a house—from cellar to rooftop, with his own hands. He'll put seeds in the ground. He'll watch the sun and the rain at work. He'll take a woman to bed. He'll find enough tenderness and love to get him through the day. You'd think that man deserved a little something. You'd think that man was worthy of a jot or two of sympathy and consideration. You'd think that maybe someone would say, Let's just let him alone for a while, and see what he can do.
They try to fix it so nobody'll care what happens to a man anymore.
I don't mean millions—I mean any one man anywhere.
If anything is worth anything it's because one man is worth something.
If any one man isn't worth something, then nothing whatever is worth anything.
It's all got to come back to any one man anywhere or it isn't going anywhere.
Don't tell me how interested in Confucius or Jesus Christ you are.
Tell me how interested in any one man anywhere you are.
You don't get it.
You'd cry if you could feel that.
It's all got to come back to one man or it isn't going anywhere at all.
This house. Do you see this house?
It is a house where human beings live.
There is a strange dignity about them.
They are looking at you as I talk.
I want you to leave them alone.