By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Defending those who risk everything defending us from the worlds evils
Placeholder Image
Five years ago today, a young marine ambushed two officers singlehandedly with a high-powered automatic rifle.  Within a few hours, he died on his feet.

 For some people, he stands forever as a beloved friend and even a hero.  For others, he represents the silent holocaust of psychological damage inflicted on soldiers by the Iraqi war.  For many, he was just a hardened criminal, a wanna-be gang-banger looking for quick fame, a betrayer of his own country.

 As a close friend of his family, I’m still trying to sort out the pieces of his life.    

 Yet I also maintain contact with a family member of the officer he murdered.

 In spite of what happened Jan. 9,, 2005, the Marines must continue to carry out their mission.  Whether loved, hated, feared or under attack, they have the same purpose: first in, last out, they fight for all that we hold dear.

 At least, that is what we all hope.  From time to time something shakes our confidence in the wars we’re still fighting (Afghanistan since October 7, 2001 and Iraq since March 19, 2003, to name the most costly) and in the military units which carry them out.  Each time, we have to re-evaluate our loyalties.

Hollywood normally tends to highlight the positive in our Marines, since the image of the heroic American out to save the world sits well with millions of us who feel powerless (and sometimes less-than-motivated) to risk everything to rid the universe of evil.  From time to time, though, Hollywood attacks.
Such a campaign has broken box-office records.  James Cameron’s Avatar has surpassed every movie in history except his own Titanic.  Overcoming Peter Jackson’s Return of the Rings last weekend, Avatar may well become, before long, the highest-grossing film of all time.   And maybe Cameron deserves it.

 I joined the untold millions of people who have shelled out extra bucks to put on those clumsy spectacles for the 3-D phenomenon.   In all my life of movie-watching, I have never seen anything like this film.  I kept saying, “I can’t believe it!”  How did Cameron make such an incredibly beautiful work of art?

 If you haven’t seen the computer-generated masterpiece, I suggest you do. And yes, pay for the glasses. Whether or not you like the plot’s philosophy, the film deserves to be seen, simply for its visual complexity. For this reason, even though I have problems with the religious point of view, I’ll go again.

 But here’s where the Marines come back in.  Along with Christianity, which only appears in the form of expletives and expressions of desperation, and along with corporate America, which fares even worse, the Marines take a heavy toll.  Cameron spares no expense in demonstrating how their stubborn defense of American interests and their blind obedience to those in command lead to disaster in a world where more humane principles ought to prevail.

 Christians, patriots, and more conscientious capitalists have all complained for legitimate reasons about the extremely green and blatantly paganistic tone of Avatar.   I share their concerns, but believe the movie is also prophetic.

 You find echoes and reflections of many cinema classics in Cameron’s film.

 Among them, the more prophetic ones I recall are “The Mission,” “Dances with Wolves”, “Section Nine”, and Duncan Jones’ recent release, “Moon.”

 These disturbing movies force us to confront the subjection of human beings and higher values to national and corporate interests, and to recognize that the military has at times served neither the nation, nor the common good.  In the first three movies, our hero comes from among the ranks of those who prove eventually to be the villains.  In “Moon”, a corporate clone escapes his bondage to return to earth a free man.  Tragically, he will die in the process.

 As prophecy, Avatar legitimately has tremendous appeal.  True, the religious world-view that prevails is animistic.  But looking at the treatment of native peoples by Christians throughout the colonial era, did the followers of Jesus offer a more attractive alternative?  Avatar is all about what happened to the native American over the past four centuries.  It is all about what has been done to indigenous people everywhere by those who considered themselves more civilized and whose zeal to spread Christianity and western culture led them not only to destroy native cultures but also, at times, to rape the earth.

 Authentic Christianity, of course, does no harm to the human person nor to the Creation, which despite the Fall we still consider our sacred inheritance.

 But Christianity, like all religions, can be co-opted and corrupted by cultures in which it has become absorbed and modified to serve un-Christian agendas.

 The Marines in Avatar, though portrayed individually as good and sincere soldiers, collectively look horrible.  As we struggle into yet another year in Afghanistan and Iraq, our soldiers need all the support we can muster.  I hope that Avatar does not diminish in the eyes of our youth the respect we all owe to those who sacrifice their lives and their livelihoods to fight the real enemy.

 I pray that the dismal absence of true Christianity in the movie will not lead kids to think that they have something greater to gain from the “New Age”.

 As for that Marine I mentioned in the beginning, I pray for his victims and their families.  They all live here in California.  The ambush took place in Ceres.  I buried him.  His grave and his victim’s are just a few meters apart.