Inglorious Basterds, Warfare and Terrorism

March 13, 2009 at 9:03 pm | Posted in American politics | Leave a comment

Take a look at the trailer for Quentin Tarantino’s new movie, Inglorious Basterds.

Note what Brad Pitt’s character says that his unit (apparently a part of the American military) will be doing. They will be dropping into France in civilian clothing and exerting violence upon anyone wearing a Nazi uniform. The kind of violence they will inflict is quite vicious, including supposedly scalping. And I’m quite sure Mr. Tarantino will do all in his power to show us his creative violence, the edgiest possible under an R rating (which is surely far beyond what would have been permissible years ago as R rated).

We’re a people fascinated with World War II, more so with the European front than with the Pacific. Many an American likes to revisit the war and essentially state what they would have done if they were, say, Neville Chamberlain, etc. For example, what could eight Americans have done dropped into France in civilian clothing with weapons and fury at Nazism. Surely those eight Americans would have given the Germans a run for their money (because of course the hundreds of thousands of American soldiers who did eventually make it to France needed a few more to sow chaos within Occupied France).

I’m not trying to discount Quentin Tarantino, nor his creative work (as I’m sure this film will be quite sensational and cinematic). I want to get to the point made by Brad Pitt’s character in the trailer. The point of these eight soldiers is to go to France and kill as many Nazis as possible, in essentially the most cruel way, and to do so in civilian garb. Noting in my head how most Americans think today of certain Arabs who do exactly that to our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, I have to ponder the contradiction. We’re furious as hell when our enemy doesn’t play by the rules but we’re fine with entertainment where the “good” guys do just that to our former enemies. Hell, Inglorious Basterds is not the first film that glorifies the “freedom fighter,” the one who belongs to a rag tag group, civilians by nature, not in any military uniform. I think back to “V” the miniseries from the early 80s that glorified just such people. In fact, the heroes of that miniseries employed numerous tactics used quite regularly by insurgent groups all over the world. Sabotage. Bombs. Raids. Anything to undermine the rule of the group you despise.

The point is that we like to have our cake and eat it too. We think it is okay for our side to fight any which way it can to survive but don’t think it is right for the other side to do the same. And I guess it is okay to have such a stance when survival is at stake, because you’ve gotta employ every tool in your arsenal, including propaganda, to win. But then we would have to stop claiming any right to calling ourselves a civilized society. We think it is perfectly okay to create a weapon that rips human flesh apart rather indiscriminately. We think it is okay to create these weapons launched from far away so that we don’t see with our own eyes the terrible destruction those weapons actually wreak upon those who were targeted. If we were to actually see that, we might start feeling something in our hearts telling us that there is something wrong here. When survival is at stake, you can’t have a soft heart, now can you. It must be hardened. Or at least it must not be allowed to see the destruction of your “enemies.”

In church on Sundays, I hear quite often the talk about how short our time is here on earth, and, in the grand scheme of things, how petty are the differences we have between each other. In the grand scheme of things, if we are righteous individuals, even righteous people, we have a promise from God that he will side with us. I bet that even means he will side with us against our brethren on this planet who are against us in one fashion or another.

My point is that we don’t need to employ such violence to survive. Not the violence glorified in Inglorious Basterds. Not the violence employed by our soldiers right now around the world. Hell, I posit that the methods we use right now are backfiring against us, creating more anger and fury at us than we deserve.

But I think I speak in vain. The current policies will inevitably and inexorably lead to the whole world being at war. Few think it is possible to actually live in a world in which their enemy lives. That includes Americans who think Iran shouldn’t exist. That includes Iranians who think Israelis shouldn’t exist. That includes Israelis who think Gazans shouldn’t exist. Go on down the list. How many people on this world can live in this world with the knowledge that their enemies still live? Even still plotting against them? Can we accept that? That’s what we will have to accept if we wish to live in peace. That’s the only way to get peace. You may not reconcile with your enemy, but you don’t have to kill him to live in peace in this world.

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