RANGER AGAINST WAR: That's a Big Stick <

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

That's a Big Stick

Callie: You got a warrant?

Buford: Yeah, I keep it in my shoe!
Walking Tall (1973)

These boots are made for walking, and that's just what they'll do
One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you
--Nancy Sinatra

With shows like "Heroes" and "24," and cartoonish movies like "Unbreakable," media maintains the vision of tidy episodes featuring people invested with superpowers who will mop things up for us.

"24" reminds one of Dale Carnegie's "daytight boxes"--neat packages for life bookended by two sunrises. Life becomes much easier when we can call it a day and have something to show for it (a bad guy in a cell.) And because our nemeses are super villains, we need the likes of them, those who will contain the encroaching toxic threats with a little moxie.

I realize "Unbreakable" predated 9-11 (2000), but the trend toward such magical protection was already well-emplaced. The only problem is, as Pogo said, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

I blame the guy with the boots, L. Paul Bremer--the guy who as head of the CPA gave away 360 tons of shrink-wrapped $100 bills--for a lot of this
. As though his office boots were going to save him should a bomb come ripping through his office or motorcade. Perhaps they were invested with some superhero-type powers, which would spirit him away, a la Mercury, with wings that would pop out of his boots, something like the new skate/shoe hybrids.

It was life imitating art, straight out of
Wag the Dog, a film about another presidency fomenting a war to distract the public from discovering crushing internal corruption, and another pair of shoes. In that movie, "Old Brown Shoe" became the motto and the symbol for the war. It was a brilliant marketing construction.

A pair of old boots, supposedly belonging to a soldier, became the war's rallying cry. Willie Nelson was hired to do the soundtrack of an ersatz "long lost recorded version" which never was, complete with a "discovered"
scratched up 78 cut which dovetailed nicely with the visual, paying homage to old brown shoes. In a New York minute, people began displaying their old brown shoes everywhere, collecting them at rallying points to show solidarity with the media-created soldier and the cause.

Dedication to symbolism--the kind that necessitates allegiance lest you be branded traitor--is the New Patriotism. Much easier than the old thinking version, and more lethal. For once you abjure the voice of dissent, you give your leaders free rein, thereby removing one of the most important checks in a democracy on runaway power.

We now have the Homeland, which we are protecting from some unseen menace whose passions we are nonetheless assiduously stoking. It is not far removed from Hitler's Fatherland in its sense of uniqueness and
pride, necessitating preemptive strikes upon vulgar and unsophisticated enemies.



Blogger Mike said...

There is a reason shows like 24 have such broad support, and that is because many Americans are willing to sacrifice a significant amount of liberty for a small amount of protection (not that the notion of such a conflict is not absurd and unhelpful). They will give in to their impulses for authoritarian rulers, just as many in the U.S. believe in angels, and just as many in the U.S. believe another large-scale terrorist attack is in the immediate vicinity.

The only reason we are repelling these authoritarian impulses is because Iraq went so badly. Imagine how many people would have had a problem with Bush is the Iraqis constructed some glorious new Zion.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 6:43:00 PM GMT-5  
Blogger rangeragainstwar said...


As Erich Fromm said, man is in flight from absolute freedom. That is why the existentialists offer such a challenge--that the only moral compass you have is within you.

That is why the New Agers are so vilified by the authoritarian members of the church. Not that I am one, but they are peddling the (shocking)idea that the temple of god is within you.

You are right about the angel lust in this country, too. We are the most pious of the industrialized nations. We're also fickle, so if a president can't deliver on the goods within a few years, I think we're ready to hop ship. Not that we shouldn't have refused to get on this ship in the first place.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007 at 8:29:00 PM GMT-5  

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