The Writer's Life: Film & Book Reviews, Observations, and Stories
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The Invasion of the Barbarians

Watching the film Der Baader-Meinhof Komplex last night, I was struck by the excessive violence of the RAF (unlike our own Weather Underground who made it a point never to harm anyone). It was a strong reminder of what that era had been like. I remembered the events that helped create the Baader-Meinhof gang—the killing of Benno Ohnesorg (I was in Germany at the time) and the attempted assassination of Rudi Dutschke—but had forgotten (or didn’t really know) how long the group continued its operations in Germany and other countries. It made me think of recent events in the United States and how different things are now.

The invasion of Iraq was in many ways similar to the war in Vietnam, but, unlike the earlier war, produced no armed protests in the west. The world is a vastly different place in 21st century than it was in the 60’s and 70’s. During the height of the Iraq war, I remember attending a rally in downtown Minneapolis. Fox News was there, a couple of policemen on horses, and scattered groups of protesters talking quietly among themselves. Since I had walked to the rally, I could see that most of the thousands of people who worked in the downtown area were strolling along the Mall, eating at their favorite cafes, or sitting in their offices drinking lattes.

In light of how passive everyone was, I am astounded at the measures the Bush administration enacted to spy on its citizens and, even, whisk them off the street (and perhaps even assassinate them) if the need arose. It seems crazy. Most of us couldn’t be bothered with anything our government did, no matter how heinous it was.

The French-Canadian filmmaker Denys Arcand in his film Les Invasions barbares forcefully makes the point that 9/11 changed public morality forever, resulting in what he calls the invasion of the barbarians. Policies that created a ground swell of outrage in earlier decades are now brushed aside as unimportant. The problem is that the draconian measures Cheney enacted to dispel dissent are still with us. The Obama administration has not repudiated any of them, except Cheney’s personal assassination squad. Don’t get me wrong. I firmly believe in nonviolence. But it’s a very bad sign that the Obama administration is loath to investigate these policies. It augurs worse to come.

August 7, 2009   Comments Off