Cornstarch: It may be that seeing THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS only a year or so after CITIZEN KANE was too much of a letdown. The first picture, which I saw at the age of ten, impressed me more than any other film I've seen. Cynicism creeps up fast, and after so looking forward to another picture by this marvelous Mr. Welles (known to me through Radio since I was seven), THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS was a disappointment. Naturally, at that age, I could not really understand the complexity of what Welles was about, as I had the brilliant montage of . . . KANE. I liked some scenes in . . .AMBERSONS, not others. Most of the scenes I liked turned out to be ones Welles had shot. The ones I didn't like tended to be done by the hacks. But my overall impression was of a talky picture, not terribly different than one I might see every Wednesday evening with my mother at Shea's Theater.
I've never been able to shake that impression, but today, I fully respect what Welles was attempting.
You may be happy to know that I can take Chomsky or leave him on a number of issues.
I know that many people, Cornstarch, perhaps almost all Americans, react with indignation when anyone hints that a comparison between Nazi Germany and Post-War America is possible. America trumpets its belief in freedom so loudly, used to condemn empire so soundly.
[Note: In my childhood, teen years, and most of my years into my prime, I was continually derided, even shouted down, if I observed the possibility that the United States might have an empire in Cuba, the Virgin Islands, American Samoa, the Philippines, the Canal Zone, etc. "No, No, NO!" people said. "You don't understand. We're different. We are just holding these lands in trust." I eventually took a degree in Political Science, in part to figure it out. Latterly, as we gradually released physical power over these places, I tried the tack of "Economic Imperialism," but that was as roundly condemned. Now . . . all of a sudden, in just five years actually . . . .]
Americans have a tremendous sense of pride, and though we may reluctantly admit to bad things, there is something infuriating about the suggestion that the United States could commit the kinds of acts that Nazi Germany did.
Yet, since World War II (since the Spanish American War, if you believe a book I cite above), we have overthrown duly elected governments, occupied foreign lands, abrogated treaties, set up concentration camps, opted out of the Geneva Conventions, threatened to dump the United Nations, held ourselves innocent of International War Crimes, denied that Global Warming exists in the face of decades of evidence to the contrary (eventually drowning out large populated areas of the World) and employed torture methods we had earlier attributed to the Nazis and Japanese -- and the Russians, later. Should we count the two atom bombs, we have been responsible for the deaths of six or seven million innocent civilians. Innocent, in the sense that the Dutch burgers were in the Nazi invasion of Holland, when Hitler bombed the Open City of Rotterdam in 1940, the first truly monstrous crime laid at Hitler's bunker door. "Collateral damage" (a rather lately coined term) in Vietnam, Central America, South America, Africa, and the Middle East, etc.
We now have declared that we shall preemptively attack and conquer up to sixty sovereign nations, using atomic weapons if convenient to us, should we be displeased with them. "All options are on the table," as the Administration likes to say. We are now moving to control Earth from Space, and to prevent others from using Space, if we don't want them to. Absurdly (and I do throw this in for ho-ho-ho's), in the early days of President Bush's First Term, NASA gave a contract to Halliburton to develop mining equipment for use on Mars!
[Who said we couldn't strike back at those little green men?]
If all that doesn't form a basis for comparison with Nazi Germany, Cornstarch, Ray Bradbury and I have some hot dog stand sites on Mars we want to sell you.
That was what Welles meant (as more fully amplified by Tony and mteal) when he said an American Century would make Germany look like amateur night. And the comparable retribution, he speaks of, will come because Russia and China will not patiently temporize forever. Our acts are covertly directed at them, and will eventually focus openly upon them, for they have the minerals we need, and we want to control the oil in the Middle East and Central Asia they will need. Meanwhile, "the war on terror" is largely a smokescreen, a very costly smokescreen because we didn't realize that it was going to be more than a convenient excuse.
That's the scenario, as I see it, and one way or another, we all go BOOM, if we continue on the present course. Welles will have his ending to THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WIND.
One does not have to be a Left-winger, Cornstarch. (I don't know what that means; there have been few who would admit to being of the Far Left in America since shortly after the War). One does not have to be a Right-winger. (Almost all of us are at least a little right of Center, whatever that means today, because the acts described above are done in our in our names, as citizens of a supposed democracy.) We should all deplore these acts as Welles did, or would if he were alive. We should express our shame, instead of pretending "only Nazis would do things like that."
That's how I see it, and believe me, I see it with the deepest sorrow. It weighs on me every day.
Perhaps, it began, as George and Eugene appeared to agree in . . . AMBERSONS, with the automobile and its oil hungry, polluting engine (which we learned could also be put in planes and tanks as part of "The Arsenal of Democracy," now "The Arsenal of the New American Empire.")
Sleepy. Good night, Cornstarch, Tony, mteal.