The good and wise people at David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine have asked a number of serious, intelligent and important people to suggest what President Obama might say in his State of the Union address. Then, for some reason, they asked me. Just to show the O-Man there are no hard feelings about the whole destroying-the-republic thing, I agreed to write his speech in its entirety. Here’s my version:
“My fellow citizens of the world. I come before you today to gaze into the middle distance and speak in ringing phrases. For make no mistake: the time for phrases that do not ring is past. Already, in only the first year since I have fulfilled my awesome destiny, I have created millions of jobs—not just ordinary jobs that you have to work at for pay, but jobs beyond your wildest imagination, over the mountain of your deepest desires, and down the hallway of your fondest dreams. I have sent many troops to Afghanistan—many, many troops who are running here and there with serious faces, shouting “Let’s go,” and firing their rifles so that the isolated extremists who have gathered together in great numbers to attack us will know that I am become Shiva, destroyer of worlds.
“But there is much still to do. Even as we speak, a child is crying—a little, sad, pitiful child with big eyes, crying enormous tears that will cost hundreds of billions of dollars to dry. So let me be very clear: the bridge from yesteryear leads to the cloudbanks of a golden perfection where the prospect of a horizon awaits a mighty century. At this, we must not fail. Thank you—and God bless us, every one.”
For more serious and important efforts, go here.
I had to lay out six bucks to watch Inglorious Basterds on Pay Per View because the wait on Netflix was just too long. So clearly Quentin Tarantino’s fantasy adventure about a band of Jews who wander around occupied France killing and torturing German soldiers is doing well on DVD. And listen, there’s no denying the director’s skill or the fine acting or even the entertainment value of the film’s first half. The first scene, in fact, is worthy of Hitchcock.
But I found it an appalling movie – really; appalling. I can’t remember the last time I used the word offensive about a work of art. Art never offends me – well, hardly ever. But this film isn’t offensive in any petty Piss Christ way – you know, where some adolescent vandal scrawls obscenities on the sacred to annoy the grown-ups and get some attention. This is offensive in the moral, “Let them eat cake,” sense: that is, it exhibits an understanding of human suffering so shallow it falls outside the bounds of civil discussion.
Look, you don’t need me to tell you this: there was this thing called the Holocaust, right? I mean, right? Where people not so different from you and me acquiesced to the logic of Satanic evil? We do remember this, I know. How they built factories for killing children like your children and parents like your parents and lovers like your lover and people like you because those people had this name instead of that name, this bloodline instead of that. A city’s-worth of crucifixions. I know we haven’t forgotten.
Okay, so I don’t want to overstate this. I understand time passes and we move on and books like Night and films like Shoah are almost too true to bear and we need sentimental, less true stuff like Schindler’s List and Life is Beautiful and some shallowness and forgetfulness are part of the triumph of life and hooray for that.
But for Tarantino, no matter how talented, to address the issues inherent in the event as pure fodder for storytelling, to think his squirrelly man-on-man torture fantasies or his video geek understanding of life provide an adequate moral response to that level of history – I don’t know, man – it just felt to me like he was molding toy soldiers out of the ashes of the dead. Even real Jews torturing real German soldiers would not provide a profound or even interesting resolution, but this stuff?
Which is not to say Tarantino’s a bad guy or a bad director or that there’s a special room in hell or whatever. It’s just to point out what I think is an extreme example of an everyday problem in today’s Hollywood film-making. When you ask yourself how our creative class could have responded so shabbily to 9/11; when you wonder how they could’ve made movies that gave aid and comfort to our enemies while our soldiers were in the field; when you wonder why so few of them thought to reconsider their ideology in the face of so horrifying a disproof, you may be able to find the answer in a film like Inglorious Basterds.
Whether it’s because of money or celebrity, a fierce leftist miscreed or isolation among their own kind, too many of our artists seem to have been sapped of their understanding of suffering and history. They have lost their feel for the passion and pity of life. They think it’s all only a movie.
On Saturday, the United States Marine Corps ended nearly seven years in Iraq. They left victorious, due to their own valor and to the steely resolve of their former Commander-in-Chief George W. Bush. Their battle against Islamic terror in the region included the fight for Fallujah, a triumph of martial skill and courage that will stand with Iwo Jima among the greatest battles in the Marines’ storied history.
If you are fool enough to turn to the New York Times for your news of the world, you have no idea any of this took place. The Times buried the withdrawal of the Marines at the very bottom of a story about Vice President Joe What’s-his-name visiting the region to whine about some Blackwater guys not being prosecuted for something or other.
Now, of course, an American can reasonably oppose our military’s presence in Iraq. But by what reasoning can a so-called newspaper declare that our Marines’ triumphant withdrawal is not front page news? None, except that it serves the purpose of obscuring the Marines’ heroism and the heroism of Bush. The New York Times presents the news the same way some piece-of-garbage thug in a police interrogation room explains where he was last night. The Times editors know that if they tell the truth about a lot of little things, they might just be able to obscure the one big truth that condemns them: that the world is not at all as they say it is.
Their paper is a living lie.
A website called “A Passion for Books” features a brief but kind of pithy interview with me keyed around the Feb 2 release of my new Homelanders novel, The Long Way Home. The first Q&A:
Q: Describe your book in five words or less.
A: Five words??? Okay: “A face-full of flaming Awesome!”
Ha! Who says I can’t handle the tough ones? Read the rest here.
The Winter 2010 print edition of City Journal is now available and contains Andrew’s profile of Los Angeles minister Jesse Lee Peterson. Peterson, who heads the Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND) has been fighting for morality and personal responsibility in the black community and stands opposed to Jesse Jackson, the man he calls a “racist demogogue.” Andrew’s profile should be available online soon.