Resistance as a lifestyle.
By David Hamilton
You may have noticed that a whole series of anti-Iraq War movies was recently released. We saw the reviews, got a bit excited, saw “Rendition” and loved it, and then, before we had much chance to check out the others, they were gone. They came, they tanked and they went to foreign distribution and video, where the producers will have a better chance to at least cover their costs. These films included “Lions for Lambs” with Tom Cruise, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, “Rendition” with Reese Witherspoon, “In the Valley of Elah” by the director of “Crash”, and Brian de Palma’s “Redacted”. Big stars, big productions, big directors and a big antiwar message equaled big flop at the box office. “Fred Claus” and “Enchanted” are, however, doing well. This prevalent avoidance and denial mentality may be analogous to the fascination with movies about rich people during the Great Depression. Meanwhile, large-scale antiwar militancy has largely disappeared, although next year’s Democratic and Republican party conventions may change that.
Paradoxically, these antiwar films’ failure to achieve commercial success occurred in a context where almost 70% of the American public willing to respond to pollsters, indicate that they consider the war to be a big mistake based on lies that we should extricate ourselves from at the first available opportunity. We are also in the midst of a presidential election campaign that has until recently centered on the Iraq war. Somehow, the antiwar forces won the argument in the arena of public opinion and it didn’t make any difference. How can we explain that?
When we go out to distribute “For Peace” yard signs, we try to situate ourselves in a compatible human environment, a “First Thursday” on South Congress for example. Unless the crowd is overtly political, however, such as at a demonstration, the overwhelmingly most common reaction we get from people is obliviousness, a vacant stare occasionally punctuated by chitchat. In this brave new world, there are an awful lot of pod-people who have been successfully transformed from citizen to consumer unit by the soma of corporate capitalist culture with its prevailing credo of he who dies with the most and biggest toys wins. That will probably be the case until the toy machine breaks down and fundamentally violates their conditioning.
So what is one to do when faced with a wall reaction ranging from indifference to hostility when outside our comfortable cult of the American Left? Leaving aside the issue of expatriation, one either resists or sinks into the muck, last seen wandering the back isles at some Wal-Mart. In accordance with the 60’s insight that all things are political, resistance to the now dominant zeitgeist should manifest itself in all aspects of our lives. Another 60’s insight was that militancy is in itself an effective organizing tool. Hence, we each should devote at least a small amount of our valuable resistance time to publicly bearing witness to the fact that another world and another consciousness are possible.
Resistance against numbing commercial and oppressive patriarchal mindsets becomes a life defining existential imperative. It becomes second nature and can be a continually enriching experience regardless of any direct evidence of its immediate impact on events in the larger world. Minimally, it creates a positive Karma that, in largely imperceptible ways, I have faith will eventually come around, both for ourselves and for our grand children.
Hope to catch up with you at the vigil Friday afternoon.