Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Snorehorse" and the Ron Paul campaign

Spielberg's Warhorse was released recently with much fanfare in London and around the world.  The film is based on the Michael Morpugo novel. The London stage production of Warhorse featured amazing stagecraft in its presentation of mechanical horses.  Spielberg's Warhorse features gorgeous cinematography of rural England as it tracks a horse named Joey through the horrors of World War I.  A terrific and disastrous cavalry charge is one of the film's highlights.  The senseless slaughter of World War I's static trench warfare that "put the lights out all over Europe" forms the backdrop for this movie.

The Germans of World War I, according to Spielberg, are quite a bit jollier than the Germans of World War II.  They are portrayed with sympathy and humanity.  They are the victims of the War every bit as much as the Brits and, of course, Joey.  Near the films' conclusion, in its "payoff" scene, an English and German soldier collaborate to rescue a stricken Joey caught in barbed wire in no man's land.  Joyeux Noel was frankly far more effective at showing an historically accurate telling of the German / English no man's land reconciliation on Christmas day 1914.

In London near Hyde park you will find a monument to animals in War featuring horses, donkeys, dogs and birds.  "They had no choice," is the motto.  Warhorse is the cinematic equivalent of the Animals in War Memorial.

Animals in War memorial, London
The first half of the movie in peacetime in the English countryside is bathed in the lambent glow of Spielberg's lens.  Even alcoholic poverty seems twee and endearing in this telling.  This deeply unsatisfying movie is guilty of bucketfuls of sentimentality and manipulation.  The pleasant myth of a rural pre-war paradise, as seen through the nostalgia coated lens of city slickers, is on full display here.

Joey seems to be the ultimate bad luck charm for all those who come into contact with him.  The human body count just keeps growing around him.  Warhorse suggests that all those who come into contact with war are its victims.  It is a celebration of victimhood.

What on earth does the anti-Semitic (I am still waiting to see the graph of how contributions from racists and anti-Semites to the Paul campaign dwarf the contributions of these folks to his Republican primary opponents!) Ron Paul campaign have to do with Spielberg's treacly film?  The apparent popularity of the Ron Paul campaign, coming as it does after the withdrawal of the US military from Iraq for political reasons, is ultimately an expression of war weariness.  The US and its allies in Afghanistan are now fighting the longest lasting armed conflict in American history--10+ years and counting--with no end in sight.   This administration's inability or unwillingness to clarify the goals of our mission in Afghanistan has created confusion and bewilderment among the American people.
But we do!

Ron Paul's campaign, like Warhorse, wallows in victimhood and helplessness.  Both visions regard all armed conflict as wasteful, brutal and unnecessary (right on 2 out 3!).  Ron Paul gets lachrymose in describing our casualties.  He tends to see Americans as pawns or dupes of a vast military industrial complex rather than as agents shaping their own destiny.  Quite curious for a supposed libertarian!

The truth is that we humans always do have a choice.  We have choice, for example, of which films to see and which candidates to support.  The choices that America's commanders in chief have made from Wilson to Obama have, at times, been exceedingly difficult.  They have not always been right.  Some Presidents have done a better job than others as commander in chief.  The question is "do we want to elect a man who is unwilling to make the tough decisions on intervening or not and would prefer to leave it up to the 535 worthies that make up our congress?"

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