Oscar Wilde might have called 9/11 “the day we dare not speak its name.” He would have been correct, at least, that we dared not speak its name to make a buck — until now.
After a period of mourning, the critically acclaimed box office flop United 93 appeared, along with scores of knock-off docudramas. Our video stores and television screens overflow with twin tower tales, including Oliver Stone’s forthcoming World Trade Center. Flight 93 folk hero Todd Beamer’s immortal quote — “Let’s roll!”— has been replaced with Hollywood’s — “Roll ’em.” There may not be any blockbusters, but someone’s making some change.
This is business as usual. For as long as there have been movies, there have been movies about war, attacks, bloodshed and heroism. From The Red Badge of Courage to Band of Brothers, moviegoers and TV-watchers have flocked to see military horrors once the real smoke clears. Viewers generally want America to wear a white hat and filmmakers usually oblige. Rarely — as in Apocalypse Now and The Deer Hunter — a renegade director comes close to getting the story straight.
Nine/11 was used to spark the conflict in Iraq and in forgotten Afghanistan, where the number of dead soldiers and innocent civilians far surpasses the grisly count of those who perished in New York City.
Wikipedia estimates: “At least 2985 people [were] killed: 265 on the four planes, 2595 in New York City in the towers and on the ground,” including 343 New York firefighters, 23 New York police officers, 37 port authority police officers, and 125 civilian and military personnel at the Pentagon. By comparison, thousands of soldiers, and more than 38,000 civilians, have been killed in Iraq, according to such Web sites as www.icasualties.org and www.iraqbodycount.net.
The insanity of roughly estimating this wholesale waste of human life under a “pro-life” regime seems lost on Washington. As if to underline this callous hypocrisy, www.iraqbodycount.net tops its home page with General Tommy Franks’ quote, “We don’t do body counts.”
Maybe we should. Maybe we should sharpen our vision in self-examination, unwrap the flag from our eyes, and look at our nation’s pimples and wrinkles head-on.
Maybe we need a few movies about what is really going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. All those arms and legs being blown off, all those flag-draped caskets long-hidden in the real world of wartime censorship might wake up an intimidated nation afraid of being “unpatriotic.”
If TV and movies are America’s reality, let’s move beyond being entertained by 9/11 to having our consciousness raised by our actions in Iraq. Bring on the rapes and murders, Hollywood, and bring on the carbombings killing mothers and children. Show us our best and brightest now wheelchair-bound, blind, deaf, and comatose. Give us some reality TV and movies that will educate, illuminate, and expose.
Show us our dead sons and daughters and show it all against the backdrop of patronage projects, record-setting oil profits, a demoralized and too-thin military, and a national deficit that will leave our grandchildren paupers, assuming they survive.