Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"A need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood"

It's a staple of the Buffyverse, and so many other fantasy/horror/etc genre pieces: a villain needs to kill someone -- often an innocent -- to gain power, to complete some demonic ritual, or simply to get an "in" with the right group.* It's a staple, of course, for the reason that many genre tropes are: it works, and works well, reliably and simply. And it works, of course, because nothing is so powerfully, unmistakably evil as killing someone simply for power or access or ritual. Thus, in drama, it works as a universal code for "evil person".

Well, via Glenn Greenwald's post today, we have this from the New York Times (December 21, 1989):
For George Bush ['41], the United States invasion of Panama early this morning constituted a Presidential initiation rite as well as an attempt to achieve specific goals. For better or for worse, most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest... [List of leaders omitted.] All of them acted in the belief that the American political culture required them to show the world promptly that they carried big sticks.
Emphasis added.

There it is, folks, in the newspaper of record: it is a requirement -- or felt to be a requirement, which amounts to the same thing -- of "American political culture" that Presidents act like the cheapest of horror of villains.

This is not some wide-eyed leftie radical saying this; it's the New York fucking Times. The only difference is that a wide-eyed leftie radical would probably see this as immoral, rather than neutral or good, which is how American political culture -- or at least American political elites -- see it.

Something to remember next time you hear someone talk about America's goodness, how we run our foreign policy on moral grounds rather than self-interest (or even in addition to self interest), etc. Whereas in fact we require our leaders to be Buffy-style villains... and no one even thinks that it's wrong.

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* I was going to cite an example here, but they are endless, from the blood needed to power the ritual at the end of the opening two-parter of Buffy Season one through the initiation ritual of the powerful evil circle at the end of Angel's Season Five. It's simply ubiquitous.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really, Stephen, your America-hating is getting quite tedious.

Why don't you just pack up and move to some socialist paradise like Cuba?

You would be much happier I am sure.

Oh, but you couldn't blog...

Sorry.

Stephen said...

I hardly think that wanting our Presidents not to feel "a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood to protect or advance what they construe as the national interest" -- not, in other words, to behave like a TV-show villain -- counts as "America hating". I think holding a country to a minimal moral standard is a good thing.

And socialism? WTF? Not behaving like a TV villain is socialist?

SF

Anonymous said...

WTF? GTH.

Stephen said...

Lovely chatting with you, too.

k.benton said...

This is not some wide-eyed leftie radical saying this; it's the New York fucking Times.

Noting of course that a sizable percentage of Americans are now convinced that the NY times is precisely wide-eyed, leftie and radical...

Rasselas said...

I seem to remember William Sloane Coffin describing patriotism as a lifelong "lovers' quarrel."

I suppose the conservative mind takes umbrage at the suggestion that love need not be as solicitous as a valet, but I might recommend a rereading of Corinthians, or Nietzsche.

Also: Anonymous, you're supposed to suggest that your liberal correspondent move to a sharia state, like Iran or the Netherlands, and get his/her head severed by gibbering fanatics. Increase your wordpower; get that job!