Ward Bond as Sgt. Maj. O’Rourke, “Fort Apache”
I was lucky. I grew up a half-century ago. As a kid I watched movies you see now only on video or cable. The films helped form my character and my view of the world. They portrayed America in a favorable light. They exemplified good values.
Then things changed. The anti-war movement of the 1960s degenerated into a frankly anti-American, anti-Judeo-Christian-values movement, which persists to this day.
For example, we have “Seven Days in May,” a 1964 film about a military coup that almost overthrows the president, because he wants to sign an arms-reduction treaty with the Soviets. And there is “The Package,” a 1989 film about a military coup that almost kills the president, because he wants to sign an arms-reduction treaty with the Soviets. Now we have “White House Down,” a 2013 film about a military coup that almost kills the president, because he wants to sign an arms-reduction treaty with Middle East nations. Sense a pattern here?
Then we have “First Blood,” a 1982 film about a mentally disturbed, unemployed veteran who is irritated by police and goes on a killing spree. And there is “The Hunted,” a 2003 film about a mentally disturbed, unemployed veteran who is irritated by police and goes on a killing spree. Yes, there’s a pattern.
In reality, there has never been an attempted military coup here. If anything, top military officers are too compliant with whatever politicians want. And veterans are no more likely to become murderers than are nonveterans. In reality, the homicide rate is as likely to fall as to rise after a war.
Don’t forget “Two Guns,” a 2013 film that shows Navy SEALs in league with drug cartels. Yes, the SEALs may have killed Bin Laden and rescued Captain Phillips, but even they are corrupt, vicious low-lives.
Not content with destroying respect for our military, Hollywood went on to heap contempt on our police. We saw “L.A. Confidential,” a 1997 film that shows police as drug-dealing psychopaths. We saw “Training Day,” a 2001 film in which the “hero” deals drugs and sets up his partner to be murdered.
And instead of “The Bells of Saint Mary’s” and “Going My Way,” which show clergy as a positive influence, we see films depicting religious people as ignorant buffoons. Correction: We see Christians and Jews as ignorant buffoons. But on the rare occasions we see Muslims, they are depicted sympathetically. Take “Syriana,” where American agents and businessmen are shown as greedy criminals and killers, while the only sympathetic character is a Muslim suicide bomber. You bet there’s a pattern.
“The Da Vinci Code” showed the Catholic Church as riddled with homicidal psychopaths, and Christianity itself as based on a fraud. Oh yes, that’s perfectly safe. But claim that Islam is based on a fraud? No, even anti-religious Hollywood wouldn’t dare do that. So we add cowardice to the list of Hollywood’s characteristics.
Then we have “JFK,” a 1991 film that uses invented scenes to blame conservatives for shooting John Kennedy. And there is “Bowling for Columbine,” a 2002 “documentary” that uses concocted scenes to blame conservatives for shooting nearly everybody.
In fact, Kennedy was shot by a leftist who had defected to the Soviet Union. In fact, the United States does not have a homicide rate that is “obscenely higher” than other nations, as the “documentary” claims. Many nations including Russia and Mexico have higher rates.
Today’s Hollywood blames Americans, and especially conservatives, for the problems of the world. It advances no moral values. It inspires not pride but shame in American audiences. It evokes not admiration but contempt in foreign viewers. Who knows if this motivated some terrorist acts?
But when I was growing up, I saw films that filled me with pride to be an American, and provided role models that I still recall.
There was “High Noon,” in which the marshal faces a gang of killers alone, while cowards make excuses. And there was “To Kill a Mockingbird,” where a white Southern lawyer defends a black man, despite threats from racist neighbors.
These films taught me that political questions can be decided by majority vote, but moral questions can’t. I learned that majorities can be wrong.
I knew as a teenager what many liberals still haven’t learned. They continue to rely on U.N. votes to answer moral questions. Perhaps they never saw “High Noon” or “To Kill a Mockingbird.” But Hitler came to power by democratic means. Didn’t this teach us that majority and morality have no necessary relation?
Then there were biographies. There was “Madame Curie,” the story of a scientist who discovered radium. Who says women had no role models in 1944? And there was “Young Tom Edison,” the story of a poor kid who became a great inventor.
And I saw films about the military. True, they weren’t fully realistic. But they were no less realistic than the anti-military films the current generation was raised on.
“Gunga Din” didn’t give an accurate portrayal of the British in India. But it taught me that homicidal cults must be opposed by force – a lesson we are relearning today at great cost. And it taught me to love the sound of bagpipes. So when I saw a photo of the Black Watch pipe major piping tanks across the Euphrates River in Iraq, I felt a sense of kinship.
The film I recall best was “Fort Apache.” The story involves a captain, played by John Wayne, serving in the West under a martinet colonel, played by Henry Fonda.
But the character I identified with was the sergeant major, played by Ward Bond. Unlike the colonel, he had the respect of his men not because he demanded it, but because he earned it. He had a quiet dignity that I hoped to achieve when I grew up.
One day the colonel learned that the sergeant major’s son had been admitted to West Point by presidential appointment. The colonel said, “It is my impression that presidential appointments are restricted to sons of holders of the Medal of Honor.”
The sergeant major replied, “That is my impression too, Sir.” He had our nation’s highest award for valor, but he didn’t wear it. He let his actions speak for themselves. After all these years, I still recall this scene vividly. What did it teach me? How did it affect my outlook on life?
● It may have some relation to my dislike for braggarts and show-offs, and why insincerity grates on me, whether in personal or public life.
● It may have something to do with my appreciation for the plainspoken and sincere, and my distrust of the eloquent but inauthentic.
● It may have a correlation with my esteem for real leaders who tackle difficult problems, and my disdain for phonies who hope in vain that our enemies will mistake posturing for strength.
● It may have some connection with my respect for genuine religion, and my dislike of hypocrites who have no conception of the importance of an oath to God.
● It may have some relevance to my admiration for those who speak with sincerity, however awkwardly, and my intolerance for those who tell lies, however smoothly.
● It may have a bearing on my regard for those who are loyal to comrades and to their principles, and my contempt for the disloyal, however creative their rationalizations.
● It may have pertinence to my respect for those who risk unpopularity to do what they believe is right, and my disrespect for those who decide what to do only after putting a finger to the wind. A leader is one who leads, and you can’t “lead from behind,” no matter what some politicians claim.
● It may be the reason I reject those who claim to “support our troops,” yet who oppose every appropriation for newer weapons, better training, or adequate pay. And then they bitterly condemn what the troops are risking their lives to do. If that’s support, I hesitate to think what hostility would look like.
A review of the film “World Trade Center” described a former Marine who risked his life to rescue two buried police officers as looking like a companion of Freddie Kruger. When our “news” papers can’t tell heroic Marines from homicidal maniacs, we know we’re in trouble.
Polls show that 16 percent of Americans are veterans, and 50 percent know someone who has been or may be sent to serve in the Middle East. But reporters make blatant errors on military topics, revealing their ignorance. The media “elite” are disconnected from large segments of our people. They not only don’t vote Republican – they don’t know anyone who does. They have as much in common with the huge “red” area on the election map as they do with Mongolia.
I saw role models in films. So do today’s kids. The difference is that instead of scientists, inventors, clergy, and brave soldiers, they see drug dealers, murderers, crooked businessmen, abusers of women, corrupt cops, bloodthirsty soldiers, and other assorted sociopaths.
I was inspired and empowered by the films I saw. Can today’s kids say that?
Consider how many boys act like gangsters, while imitating their favorite sports stars or rappers. Consider how many girls dress like sluts, while imitating the latest TV or music stars. Consider how young people learn to be adults – or not.
If a film made in 1948 still influences me, what kids watch today could well influence them all their lives. Yes, you learn a lot from movies. The question is what.
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