Cancel The Interview, The Flag’s a Rag


I don’t keep my eyes and ears focused on the news media any more. It took a while for me to learn that lesson after my return from Iraq. Some news, however, does seep in and I’ll admit my addiction to NPR while I’m driving is going strong. Therefore, I have heard a bit about the Sony Pictures’ decision to pull the December 25 release of The Interview.

As an artist, an American, and a veteran I am, to my core, opposed to censorship. On principle, as an individual I will never again cave to bullies and I don’t think we should do so as an industry or as a nation.  Also, if we allow this to be a precedent setting event and those who don’t like a particular piece of art or commentary are allowed to shut it down by threats of terrorism, then the flag is a rag and worthless. We are nothing without the principles on which we say we stand. But I’d like to talk about another component to the whole mess:

People are going to disagree about whether portrayal of the assassination of Kim Jung Un is in poor taste. I’m really surprised we haven’t heard more references to the 2006 film Death of a President which portrayed the assignation of George Bush. That one wasn’t a comedy but other than that what’s the major difference? Easy question— it was an American president. Everyone knows I’m no fan of W or his policies. (How’s that for understatement?) But it did occur to me during the much-lesser coverage of the debate about the “taste factor” in the 2006 film, how the family of George Bush must have felt about it. I’m sure his daughters were horrified that there was a movie that depicted the killing of their father. I mean, most of the rest of us may think he’s an asshole but I’m sure they love him. Does that mean I think that an artist shouldn’t be allowed to put such a product out if it is her or his desire to do so? Absolutely not! This is America and our freedom of expression is sacred. Right? No restrictions? Well, actually that’s not true either. Inciting people to violence is in fact against the law and so there are, technically, already restrictions on free speech. When hundreds of us veterans marched on the Democratic National Convention we were escorted to a “free speech area” (essentially a large cage). Don’t worry, we refused to go and chose to face the riot cops instead. This is America. The country is a free speech area.

I believe one of the most important things about being a patriot (and coincidentally one of the hardest) is to point out where we as a nation are culpable for wrongdoing. Especially here in the South it is exceptionally unpopular to do so and it takes little more than questioning an invasion before you’ll get the old (predictable) question, “You don’t love our country!?” I do. And that’s why I speak up when we’re in the wrong.

With regard to The Interview situation, I’ve noticed a very strange phenomenon. Some of the people who’ve given the ole thumbs-up to the portrayal of the assassination of Kim Jung Un have done so because he heads a military that has been used to do evil things and his country is guilty of human rights abuses. So is this the litmus? You’re telling me that there would be absolutely no problem with a comedy that portrayed the assassination of Barak Obama? Everybody okay with that? Because he heads a military that has been misused (by him and his predecessor) to do a lot of evil shit over the past decade and a half (I was an accomplice). America has killed a lot more innocent people in the past fifteen years than North Korea has. And if you want to know if this country is guilty of human rights abuses you need look no further than the evidence of the inequitable treatment of non-white people by law enforcement and the judicial system or the recently released report on the torture (I refuse to debate whether that is the appropriate term for what we did) we have used on our enemies and those we label as our enemies. If heading a military that’s used for evil purposes and human rights abuses are the reasons you would give for giving the moral go-ahead to portraying the assassination of a world leader, then you better not make a peep when someone doles out a similar cinematic sentence to our Commander and Chief.

Betty White once said that we should always “get the log out of our own eye before trying to get the splinter out of someone else’s.” (Or maybe that was Jesus.) But I’m pretty sure it was Betty who said, “Let ye who is without sin cast the first stone.” Americans have been casting a lot of stones lately.

Our flag is a rag unless we stand FIRM behind the principles “for which it stands.” And I, for one, want it to be more than that. The ice on which we are treading is thinner than we think. This next few steps are of critical importance and if we make the wrong choice, we may likely find ourselves in the dark, icy deep.

See y’all tomorrow. 

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