My friends, I am not an optimist, but I never thought I’d be Writing a column like this.
I have Written huge rants about bad movies. About the popularity of reality tv shows, about the sorry state of comedy. Piddly shit.
Sometimes I have tried to tackle more sensitive topics, like a particular column I was always both proud and embarassed of, where I talked about a very sensitive medical procedure I had to get.
But I never thought I’d have to figure out what to say about this shit.
As I Write this it has been one week since the attacks on New York and Washington. For most americans and in other parts of the world, this is no fucking time to be reading a web sight about what some asshole thinks about movies. So if anyone is reading this I thank you for thinking about me, or for coming to my sight as a comfort or a distraction from what is going on in the world, or perhaps to hear what the hell I think about all this. (If that’s not what you want, you better click away now, I’m sorry to say.)
Before last Tuesday, I was preparing to dump a whole load of my movie review crap on the internet. I saw that movie “a knight’s tale” for example and I was gonna review that. It was from the director of Payback, a 1999 outlaw award winner, so back then it seemed important to check it out. And there was this dark Spanish comedy, Dying of Laughter, from a director I’ve been keeping an eye on, the guy who did Day of the Beast. I was pretty excited about that. Not anymore.
I don’t know what’s going to happen next. And I don’t know what our government should do. And I’m sorry to say this but it’s true, I don’t have any faith that they will do the right thing, whatever that is.
The people who have done this are miserable bastards, and they have taken so much life, and so much happiness. It seems they have managed to use a small group of people with knives to take out a piece of our nightmares, and make it reality. And every day there are moments when we think that maybe we’re dreaming this, and that we’ll wake up and everything will be back as it was. But we know that’s not true.
But in the big picture, in the battle between our government and those who seek to destroy it, this is not a case of good vs. evil, and it’s not about freedom and democracy. I wish I could see it in those terms, but I can’t. I can understand why people are rallying around our leaders, and our symbols, and our military, because who else can we hope to protect us?
Two weeks ago, George W. Bush was widely hated, and most people felt he was not even democratically elected. Now he is supposedly getting an approval rating somewhere in the 90’s. Oh lord how I wish I could approve of him. It would feel so much safer.
But I can’t help but think that this wouldn’t even be happening if not for him, or at least people like him. How many fucking times can we give weapons and support to madmen to serve our purposes, and then turn around and make them our boogeymen years later? We’ve done it again and again and now it looks like this one has not only bit us in the ass, it bit our whole ass off. And if we go in and start killing people in every country that is involved, we’re going to kill alot more people that have nothing to do with it and turn alot more people against us.
Let’s face it: all violence leads to more violence. I know as well as anybody, you kick one guy’s ass one night, you’re gonna pay for it some other night. Everyone wants to retaliate, and who can blame them for being angry? But they were retaliating against us! So what happens next, after our retaliation against the retaliation? It’s a very easy pattern to follow.
Look, I’m gonna say it. Let’s stop trying to be Badasses. I have a pretty sizable penis. That has nothing to do with it. I can still say, let’s stop fucking killing people, and training people to kill people! Now we’re finding out that some of these hijackers were trained at flight schools run by the US military. Kind of like Timothy McVeigh was a Gulf War veteran. And why did he commit his atrocities? As revenge against the government for the atrocities they committed in Waco, when they shot and then burned alive American citizens, many of them children, and perhaps even shot down those who tried to escape. (See any of the fine documentaries about Waco for details… or don’t, since you don’t need to be anymore depressed than you already are.)
How difficult is it to understand? All violence leads to more violence. ALL violence leads to MORE violence. EVERYBODY knows this deep down. But our government doesn’t fucking care. If they did, they wouldn’t have given $43 million to the Taliban last May, amid protests – here was the Bush administration, only four months ago, willing to become the biggest sponsor of yet another oppressive regime. They gave them the money “to fight opium”, while the rest of the world pointed out that the Taliban is the world’s worst violator of human rights, who were putting women under apartheid, and forcing non-Muslim’s to wear an armband identifying themselves, and also harboring america’s worst terrorist enemy.
Four months ago. If you don’t remember this, do a search for “$43 million taliban” on google and you’ll find many stories about it.
But obviously this didn’t start four months ago. It goes back at least to 1979, when Osama Bin Laden was funded by the CIA to fight off the Soviets in Afghanistan. That’s how he got his start.(And wasn’t George Bush senior the head of the CIA at that time? Probaly not – I’d have to look it up I guess.)
Mistake number two – the Gulf War. George Bush Sr. sends troops into Saudi Arabia, knowing full well that many Muslims will be infuriated by american military troops stomping through the holy lands. Bin Laden’s disagreement with the Saudi Arabian government, for letting this happen, is what led him to start the Al Quaeda network, which is now believed to have organized last week’s atrocities in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
And of course it didn’t help our case when thousands of civilians were killed in Iraq. On CNN at the time it seemed like a reasonably clean war, whatever that is. Lots of talk about freedom and democracy, and there was that shot of the missile going right into a chimney. Nothing but net! People started looking at it like a video game, or a movie, even laughing and cheering at aerial footage of some poor sap trying to drive a truck across a bridge that’s being bombed and not making it.
It wasn’t until years later that americans started paying attention to the reports of hospitals and daycares being bombed, of specially designed bulldozer tanks that were used to bury people alive. And in retrospect is there any reasonable person who thinks the Gulf War was about freedom and/or democracy? No, it was about oil, mostly. Which happens to be the Bush family business.
Bin Laden is a millionaire too. This is a war between rich people, but it’s not the rich people who are dying.
And now we’re watching our own people being destroyed on tv, up close and personal, instead of some tiny little toy car all the way across the world representing some racial stereotype that somehow allows us to not be concerned about the loss of innocent human life. Why can’t we make the connection? Why can’t we say no more killing civilians, here or anywhere?
Because we’re too angry, I guess, and too scared. I don’t want to say we’re too stupid.
Everything in this world now is different. And it’s hard to figure out how to deal with it. Here in Seattle there was a public memorial service, which 15,000 people attended. But it was held in the heart of the business district, in front of a shopping mall, overseen by huge Gap banners and Starbucks logos. Everywhere you looked, there were people wearing American flag t-shirts – but they said “Old Navy” above the flag. It was hard not to be creeped out when even our memorial services, with all this talk about God and country, seem to have corporate sponsors.
It was comforting to hear various religious leaders talk about peace, especially the Muslim leader (what do you call them? ministers?) who said that killing one innocent human is equal to destroying all of humanity. But most of the crowd was uncomfortable with that notion, and it didn’t get the same kind of applause as any comments about retaliation. At one point some yahoo on an office building balcony got the crowd shouting “USA! USA!” like they used to do when the Iron Sheik came out at wrestling matches, or in Rocky IV when Ivan Drago came out. And all the politicians kept talking about fear. The terrorists want us to be scared, they said. But they’ve failed. We’re americans. We’re not scared of anything.
And every time a plane flew over, all the heads in the crowd went up nervously.
I really realized how strange things were getting on Wednesday night when one of my friends heard a plane flying over and got scared. “Don’t worry,” I said. “It’s a fighter jet.”
You know what? Fuck that. I am scared. I’m scared as hell. And anyone who’s not is a robot. Hell while I was Writing this I saw all the kids in a nearby schoolyard running in one direction. My heart sunk and I had to watch to make sure it was just recess, and not something else.
How could you not be scared when you watch Late Night with David Letterman, but David Letterman doesn’t tell jokes – he just talks about how badly he wants the war to start. I think about that day last year when I had to go in for a medical procedure, my naked ass sitting on a cold metal chair with a big space in the middle, knowing they were about to stick a tube up my ass and another in my dick, and then the lights went dim and the radio started playing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” and they told me I looked white as a ghost.
Last night, watching David Letterman was rougher than that.
I hate this! I hate having to turn on the radio every once in a while to make sure there’s music on, and not news. I hate going through long periods not being able to laugh or smile. I hate knowing that any dissenting opinion against our government will be seen as siding with the terrorists. I hate hearing people on the news and on the streets giving their opinions, and saying, “Make no mistake about it…” Like it’s necessary to use dramatic language when talking about something like this. Like it won’t be dramatic enough if you don’t say some stupid shit like “Make no mistake about it… blah blah blah blah blah.”
Make no mistake about it, then. As if there’s some chance you will. We’re in the shit. God damn it I hope I’m wrong about how bad this is going to get.
And I’m sorry to anyone who doesn’t like to hear the negative things I’ve said about our country, or to anyone who read this and just got more depressed, or who is sick of wasting their time reading yet another Writer’s cathartic emptying of their thoughts on this matter. But here is the real reason I Wrote this column:
To anyone who lost their life, or a loved one, or an acquaintance, or a dream. To all the children who may have to live their lives in fear of airplanes and car bombs and deadly gases and viruses. To the people anywhere who lost faith in humanity, and to the americans and afghans and everyone else who will die in this horrible fiasco that will begin any time now and probaly never end, really. My heart goes out to all of you. I am so sorry this is happening.
And more than that – I want to tell my readers how much I love them. I hope I didn’t lose any of you. I am just a schmo with a filthy mouth and a bad temper who happens to love the films of Cinema. I don’t imagine that my works are a big part of anyone’s lives, but the fact that you’ve read them has always made me so happy. Thank you so much to all my friends who have Written me from across the country and in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Greece and elsewhere.
I hope some time soon it will seem okay to continue Writing crap about movies, if not the films of Badass Cinema than at least something. But until then, or in case that day does not come for some of us, I just want you all to know that I love you and you’ve made a difference in one motherfucker’s life.
Now get out there and spend time with the people you love, enjoy the world, and hope for peace.
your friend always,
VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.