Bernard Feng on how the Greatest Nation on Earth is fighting its greatest enemy: itself
While our German and Japanese friends shriek and cringe at mention of the War, the former through shame and the latter denial, we Americans and British enjoy basking in the outcome of the Second World War. Countless movies and games have retold the tale of how a group of heroes stormed the beaches of Normandy, carved their way through Western Eu
rope and ended Hitler’s reign of terror. The Soviets, who lost more men on the front than all of the powers combined, get a very slim mention in Western pop culture; even then, they are commonly depicted as savages raping and pillaging everything in their path, not the liberators and saviours that Americans and British tend to depict themselves as. Even there, Britain tends to be sidelined as America’s sidekick.
But the horse has been blasted to bits by a Panzerschrek and its remains perforated with an MG42. It was time to move on from the Nazis, their legacy fading into the nebulous distance of history. The Russians had their share of vilification. The film Red Dawn depicted a doomsday scenario where America was not only attacked, but occupied by its perennial, communist nemesis. Not only did our films depict soldiers and agents fighting off the plague of Communism, civilians got to jump in, such as Rocky Balboa avenging his rival’s death against the sinister Ivan Drago. His triumph over the villain takes place not only in Drago’s home turf, but also in front of the Soviet leadership, who come to applaud him after an impassioned speech.
But the Soviet Union is also gone. With not one, but two of America’s mightiest enemies defeated, who would be left to challenge the mighty United States? Politicians, still locked in a Cold War mentality, have conjured up interesting terms to lump our disparate enemies together. Bush referred to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, as the ‘Axis of Evil’, although Saddam, Ali Khamenei and Kim Jong-il were far too concerned with the affairs of their own countries to bother forging an alliance with each other. Mitt Romney, in his pitch for the presidency, mentioned all sorts of Islamic organisations, such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hamas, all in one sentence as if they were collectively conspiring against the United States. America is desperate for a new Enemy.
The post-communist Russian Federation sometimes gets recycled as America’s Big Bad. With recent games such as Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare and Battlefield: Bad Company 2, and movies such as Salt, one must wonder what the fuss was about Communism back then. It seems that Russia can be democratic and capitalist, yet still be seen as the angry bear that bullies its neighbours. Movie writers and game developers miss the Cold War so much they want it back.
While Russia sometimes acts against American interests, it is nonetheless still part of the G8 and relations have ameliorated since the end of the Cold War. The only nations whose governments openly oppose the United States are too small, weak and insignificant to make for the Big Bad that could galvanise America. In the 2000s, Islamic terror groups were mistakenly lumped together as a unified, anti-American force. Despite having a common goal, to take down the Great Satan, the groups are separate entities and are often in opposition to each other. The cohesion is just as weak as that in White Supremacist groups. They also fail to make suitable enemies in that they are unable to do the one thing capable of stirring Americans into a patriotic, jingoist fervour: invade America.
Homefront, a recently released game, depicts the invasion and occupation of the United States by North Korea. A similar situation will be shown in the upcoming remake of Red Dawn. Both products were initially going to depict an invasion by China, but this was shelved due to America’s ever-increasing dependence on China, and the consideration that the Chinese diaspora may take some offence (the North Korean diaspora won’t since it doesn’t exist). Yet the imagery of Homefront awakens the red-blooded, pro-life, anti-Healthcare, gun-bearing, Bible-thumping Republican in the player, urging him to take up his weapon and defend everything that he and his country stand for.
But Americans would be fooling nobody if they claimed that countries of the stature of North Korea or Iran could single-handedly invade the Land of the Free. The Great Male Survey for AskMen.com have 92% of American men saying that the greatest threat to the United States is the United States.
There are fear-mongers that try to convince Americans that they are under attack. Hermann Goering could not have put it better when he said that to have the people brought to the bidding of their leaders, ‘All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.’ The use of September 11th to rally public support for an invasion of a country that had nothing to do with the attacks, along with several right-wing politicians, including Sarah Palin, speaking of defending American interests abroad with long, broad strokes of jingoism, are good examples. Nevertheless, if America were to come physically under attack, with the White House burning down and our fast food joints up in flames, the most realistic scenario would be another civil war.