Cruising the anti-war sites, I was surprised by repeated references to "Red Dawn," the 1984 Hollywood movie about a group of American teenagers who go underground as resistance fighters after a Soviet-Cuban surprise attack on America.
Supposedly, according to the lefties, this is our favorite movie, and it plays in a continuous loop in our heads. It's "xenophobic paranoia" ... "a patriotic breath mint to help teenagers feel proud of our country again" in the wake of Vietnam ... "right wing propaganda" ... "an NRA wet-dream." And that's just from a movie review site, not a political site.
The obsession is all on their side, of course. Long before 9/11 I sat in a tavern with our staff columnist (highly liberal, of course) and some other people and "Red Dawn" played on the TV over the bar. He refused to even look at it, and spent the rest of the night looking the other way.
I saw the film when it came out, when I was an anti-Reagan liberal. I enjoyed it. I thought it was stirring and thought-provoking, and a fun adventure flick. Not "Animal House" or "Outlaw Josey Wales," mind you, but it stayed with me.
It stayed with me mainly because, even while it made me appreciate the American values that the heroes in the movie upheld, it gave me an insight into freedom fighters/resistance fighters/partisans everywhere in the world.
After all, the "America invaded" plot was a fantasy, though it was imagined realistically enough if you suspended disbelief. But in reality Americans had been facing insurgencies overseas all through my life. In Southeast Asia first, in Central America at the time of the movie. It's one reason I embraced the cause of the Kurds, back in the late 1970s; for once, we were supporting the freedom fighters. When we abandoned them, I was bitter.
From the comfortable distance between here and there, it was easy for young people like me to see all these fighters as Marxist puppets, bandits, and terrorists, or else saintly Che-like figures. But to see them with the faces of American teenagers, in a situation that, if fantasy, was not utterly unthinkable, made the matter more complex. They were unlikely warriors, forced into the role by circumstances, and growing into it.
In fact, if the movie is dangerously subversive in modern terms, it is so from the point of view of the right. You watch "Red Dawn" and you root for the insurgents. You understand their motives, you cheer their victories of grit and wit against superior firepower. They even use some of the tactics of al Zarqawi (booby-trapped corpses, for instance). Their essential rightness is presumed, and the collaborationist elements among the Americans in the movie are even more evil than the invaders.
All insurgencies will look alike, on some level. Rural Boston rebels in 1775, Alabama Klansmen in 1866, the Maquis in 1944, Irgun in 1946, Iraqi al Qaida in 2005. They attract certain personality types, they gravitate to certain tactics.
And the resemblance is purely superficial. The difference in them is in their motives and goals. The essential thing is what they are fighting for, what their code of honor allows, what kind of nation they would create if they won. All the difference in the world is in that.
So what would it take to make leftists like "Red Dawn"? Here's some suggestions:
1. Instead of resisting communist invasion, the heroes should be resisting a Halliburton corporate coup in America headed by Dick Cheney.
2. Instead of all-American football players and huntin' and fishin' types, the heroes should be gloomy goth outcasts ostracized by the in-crowd.
3. Global warming. Lots of global warming. Tornadoes, tidal waves, ice ages [Ice ages? Warming? -- ed.]
4. Instead of the U.S. military resisting the invasion, the Cuban communists should be the cavalry riding to the rescue. Preferably with a Che-look-alike in command.
5. Michael Moore chasing people around with a camera crew and a big fat smile.
6. Sean Penn.