August 22, 2005

Starship Troopers and Independence Day

Television audiences get lots of chances to watch military movies in which the United States (of the World) goes to war with unspeakably malevolent, literally heartless, infinitely squishable bugs. We see how patriotism might develop, if the army was battling for the fate of our species against a totally icky and implacable enemy.

Movies about Nazis used to nourish our patriotism. Now it's this simple-minded bug thing, maybe because the Nazi analogy got too slippery: our folks also are detaining folks for years without trial, making them live in filth, sometimes kicking them until they die. The notion of cruelty doesn't get as much of a foothold with a bug.

Watch Starship Troopers. If you have cable, it's hard to avoid. Imagine what it is like to take one's marching orders, one's model of how things are, from this movie.

I think some line gets crossed here. No one would sanction, I think, a fictionalized revival of that Jewish conspiracy story about The Protocol of the Elders of Zion. Even a fictionalized revival of such a story would encourage dangerous attitudes totally inappropriate to our current situation. But Starship Troopers can be dismissed as just a fantasy.

It is not just a fantasy. It is a convenient and dangerous fantasy. We are not fighting bugs, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, anywhere.

Posted by shea0017 at 11:38 AM

August 6, 2005


Delafield shows the last days of a little rural congregration in southwestern Minnesota. The church is moved to an open air museum. The community disperses.

One could derive many lessons from this documentary about the value of small congregations and about the human costs of changes in the farm economy. I want to point to something else: the sparse buildings and skeletal towns in the middle of vast expanses of land speak a particular language about the place of people in the world. As clusters get bigger, those living in them cannot naturally learn that language any more. Everything shifts when one's reality is: mostly there are built up things, with little patches of nature in between.

It is nearly impossible to find human things small, in a city. But their being small and yet improbably assertive -- the little steeple reaching up to the sky -- is their particular charm.

Posted by shea0017 at 11:37 AM