But What End?
Last night I went to see Apocalypse Now, the new cut, at The Grand Lake Theater. I'd forgotten they still had a woman who played a concert on the organ before the feature, one of those big ones that rise up out of the floor in front of the screen. Apocalypse Now. Apocalypse, perhaps, coming. Echos of September 11th in dialogue written 25 years ago.
Yes, I've seen the film. I saw it when it was released. Apocalypse, along with The Deer Hunter and Platoon, maybe Full Metal Jacket, were the three (or four) Vietnam war films that counted. Apocalypse Now is more a series of brilliant images than a coherent story - yes, I know, Heart of Darkness, up the river, the horror, the horror! - but perhaps that was exactly right for the time: a series of mad bad images that stitched together the late sixties and early seventies and forever changed my generation's perception of the world.
I left before the film finished - the boat captain had just taken the spear through his chest - and walked back to my car along Lake Merritt and shot some pictures of the reflected light and the city in the distance, thinking this needs to be done in color. After I move, day or night, I'll be able to walk out of my front door and shoot all the lake pictures I want.
Apocalypse brought back memories of how ugly things got during Vietnam, the demonstrations and protests, the killings of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, how high the emotions rose on both sides of the issue. Is that what we have to look forward to after September 11th? The issues in Vietnam had to do with the killing of Americans in a war many felt made no sense. This coming anti-terrorist business may or may not involve large numbers of Americans in peril, may or may not involve pictures on television every night of Americans dying. The one added element to September 11th may be we're playing for higher stakes. In Vietnam, there was the perception, whatever the outcome, we could always just pick up and go home, safe on the other side of an ocean.
With September 11th, there's no more ocean. How we wage this terrorist war will determine our future and some of the options we see are ugly. If we screw up and totally alienate the billion or so third world people who see us as an arrogant enemy, then they'll provide volunteers and protection for terrorists and twelve year old kids will dance in the streets every time a building comes down. More airplanes (and biological weapons and bombs and whatever else), no picking up our pieces and going home. Those are very high stakes and people here are going to come forward if they think our government is acting stupidly.
I'm not arguing against the use of force. We need to go after these people, but we need to go after these people with our brains intact on many fronts. During the cold war we made deals with every shit head regime that called itself anti-communist. Look what we did in Latin and South America. We did it because we could, because there wasn't any downside here at home. A couple of pinko malcontents protesting in front of an embassy building. It was unfortunate that thousands upon thousands of innocent people where tortured and slaughtered with our support, but it didn't have any meaning to the American people back home when they went to vote. The occasional story in a newspaper, turn the page. Something mentioned on television, change the channel.
That world is over. If we support a totalitarian regime, give them money and guns and train their police and their military in the art of subjugation and murder, there will be a cost. A building here, a city there. That's what I mean about the stakes being higher. Americans will understand, on one side of the issue or the other, that this is for keeps, that this guy Bush and his advisors are playing with lives that live right here on Main Street in America, and if it starts to look bad - and it will, whether he makes the right moves or not - we're going to tell him about it. Don't kill so many of the children, Bushy dear, it will upset their mothers. This twenty-first century may be a pisser. I wonder, when its own Apocalypse Now is released, if it's made, if it's able to be made, what it might look like? The horror, the horror! A series of images without a story, with a beginning, with an end? But what end?
Man, I've got to stop going to these movies. I promise, myself, at least, to get off the subject.