'Avatar': a Metaphor for the 'Long War'
Editor’s Note: As the United States heads into what will become a second decade of the neoconservatives’ “Long War” against Islamic militants, Americans have to go to greater and greater lengths to continue envisioning themselves as the blameless victims while their government inflicts massive violence against “insurgent” targets.
Ironically, in popular culture, it is more common for Americans to root for the underdogs who resist the technological terrors of a modern military, as David Swanson notes in this guest essay:
Let's face it, if James Cameron had made a movie with the Iraqi resistance as the heroes and the U.S. military as the enemies, and had set it in Iraq or anywhere else on planet earth, the packed theaters viewing "Avatar" would have been replaced by a screening in a living room for eight people and a dog.
Nineteen years ago, Americans packed theaters for "Dances with Wolves" in which Native Americans became the heroes, but the story was set in a previous century and the message understated.
The Na'vi people of "Avatar" are very explicitly Iraqis facing "shock and awe," as well as Native Americans with bows and arrows on horseback. The "bad guys" in the battle scenes are U.S. mercenaries, essentially the U.S. military, and the movie allows us to see them, very much as they are right now in 177 real nations around the world, through the eyes of their victims.
People know this going into the movie, and do not care. For better, and certainly for worse, they do not care.
Millions of people stand in lines, shell out big bucks, wear stupid-looking 3-D glasses, sit in the dark for three hours, identify with twelve-foot-high pointy-eared blue people, cheer as the credits roll, and simply do not care that actual human beings suffer the same fate as the computer-generated creations, albeit without miraculous happy endings.
Imagine if a tenth of the people who now sympathize with these bony blue beings were to take three hours to read a book or watch a movie about the people of Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Yemen or Iran. Our real planet would then be a different world.
When I saw "Avatar" in a packed 3-D theater in Virginia, and the crowd cheered the closing shot, I shouted: "And get out of Iraq too!" No one cheered for that. But no one called me a traitor either.
But will anyone in that crowd lift a finger to pressure their representatives in Congress to stop funding the evil they'd just seen sanitized, animated, relocated, and ever so slightly disguised?
Rob Kall at OpEd News suggested that we make flyers to hand out at theaters following screenings of "Avatar." Having now seen the film, I think he's right. Here's a flyer (PDF). Here's the text:
Did you know that the Na'vi people are real, their troubles are real, and you can be a hero who saves them? It's true!
The story of "Avatar" is the story of Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries attacked and occupied by U.S. mercenaries and U.S. troops.
It's harder to think about that, than it is to sympathize with giant blue computer-animated creatures. But it's extremely important that you take the step to explicitly admit to yourself what you've just watched in this movie, and that you take the additional step of doing something about it.
You don't have to ride a dragon or shoot an arrow, but you do have to call this number 202-224-3121 and ask to speak with your representative in the U.S. House of Representatives and tell them that their career will be over if they vote another dime to pay for the evil depicted in "Avatar."
Tell them that investing your money in education, transportation, energy, or infrastructure produces many more jobs than investing it in killing. Tell them that diplomacy and aid work better than bombs, and that we do not need unobtainium, which is called that for a reason, although we know it as "oil".
Call every day until you get the right answer, and report your daily progress at http://defundwar.org
David Swanson is the author of the new book Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union by Seven Stories Press. You can order it and find out when tour will be in your town: http://davidswanson.org/book. [This article previously appeared at Afterdowningstreet.org.]
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