by Barry Rubin
When people get depressed about America’s future, they might listen to patriotic songs or watch a football game. I replay “Casablanca.” But don’t forget the 1943 film, “The Human Comedy” either.
If you’ve been raised on the indoctrination that America is an evil racist country and multiculturalism is some bold new invention indoctrination, “The Human Comedy” will shake you up. Nowadays such a film is dismissed as “sentimental” which means it has heroes, shows love of country and community, and has some real and non-cynical feeling for average people.
[Inevitable leftist response: Ha, and that’s when they were rounding up Japanese-Americans so that proves America is racist! I’ll deal with that distortion of history some other time.]
Watch the first scene (two minutes) in which Mickey Rooney as the Western Union messenger boy delivers a telegram that her son has been killed in battle to a Hispanic mother. Maybe that’s something that should be shown in Hispanic identity classes today.
But the really amazing scene is when Rooney’s boss takes his girlfriend on a ride. It’s July 4 and as they pass the town’s big park, he points out every celebrating the freedom and democracy of America using its own customs. Now that’s pluralism. (Unfortunately, I cannot find a clip on the Internet of this scene. Let me know if you can.)
PS: for those who think that diversity is everything, see if you can spot the two Asian-American soldiers (the film takes no note of this casting) in a troop train scene.
I want to focus, though, on “Casablanca.” To me, it is the ultimate American film. I hope you know the plot already and as much as it is a great love story, it’s also an intensely political one as well.
Briefly, Rick, the main character, represents America. He’s cynical (“I stick my neck out for no one.”), totally apolitical, and everyone thinks he’s only out to make money (“Your business is politics. Mine is running a saloon.”) But in fact he is an idealist and romantic in the best sense of those words. He wants to fight evil and has done so in the past. Rick is a very reluctant hero. No matter how much he tries to stand aside, his character impels him to do the right thing and battle for freedom, to meet the challenge thrust upon him, the responsibility to take leadership.
How can one avoid reflecting on these lines as a response to September 11:
When Major Strasser “of the Third Reich” asks him if he can imagine the German army in New York, Rick replies: “There are certain sections of New York, Major, that I wouldn’t advise you to try to invade.”
Or this one:
Rick: If it‘s December 1941 in Casablanca,what time is it in New York?….I bet they’re asleep in New York. I bet they’re asleep all over America.”
You know what? They woke up then; they’ll wake up now. Anyone else hear that alarm clock going off all over America, indeed, all over the world?
[Jeff’s Note: While I agree with what Barry said above, I would add one more video to his list (embedded below). This video below rouses me from any loss of hope and, in a way, explains why I write. It is the President’s speech from the movie Independence Day]
“We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish, without a fight!
We’re going to live on, we’re going to survive
Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!”
Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His book, Israel: An Introduction, will be published by Yale University Press in January. Latest books include The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). The website of the GLORIA Center is at http://www.gloria-center.org and of his blog, Rubin Reports, http://www.rubinreports.blogspot.com