Friday, August 10, 2012

Red Dawn

Back in 1984, if you had asked my teenaged friends and I what our favorite movie was, we probably would have replied, "Red Dawn." The fictional film follows the exploits of a group of high-schoolers in a Colorado mountain town who become guerilla fighters when Russians invade America. The plucky teens, outgunned, out-equipped and outnumbered, fight dirty in order to drive out the invaders (or at least make them miserable and scared while occupying American soil).

According to Wikipedia, "At the time it was released, Red Dawn was considered the most violent film by the Guinness Book of Records and The National Coalition on Television Violence, with a rate of 134 acts of violence per hour, or 2.23 per minute."

The right-wing magazine National Review ranks Red Dawn at #15 in its list of Best Conservative Movies of the Last 25 Years.

Amazingly, a remake of Red Dawn is about to be released, starring Chris Hemsworth (Thor). This time Spokane is invaded by North Korea.

"We inherited our freedom. Now it's up to all of us to fight for it." says Hemsworth's character to his group of underground fighters as they commit to take back their homes by any means necessary. Teenaged boys and Libertarians will love it, no doubt.

But here's the irony...

What if you were to keep the story the same but change the location to Palestine and the ragtag ad hoc freedom fighters to Palestinians and the invaders to Israelis?

A group of young Palestinians fighting to take back their homes = Terrorists.
A group of young Americans fighting to take back their homes = Heroes.

Or how about if we set the story in Afghanistan or Iraq? Who becomes the invader then?

We celebrate the patriotic freedom fighters when it's us and revile the terrorist insurgents when it's them. But just how different are they? To what degree is the difference one of perspective depending upon which side you're on? Who gets to assign the labels?

Whether they're called "freedom fighters" or "terrorists"; "heroes" or "insurgents", the truth is that they are all misguided. It is a myth that redemption can be achieved through violence--that glory and honor can be found in killing--that taking back by force what was taken from you by force will make things right. The message of Red Dawn is that retributive violence is good and right when we do it--because, well, we're Americans. It is only evil when others do it--particularly if they do it against us or our allies.


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