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« Maliki declares ‘victory’ over al-Qaida in Baghdad, thanks United States | Main | Kosovo declares independence »

February 18, 2008


jj mollo

My father's era. People didn't think so deeply. They had a way of life that they followed mostly by tradition, much as conservatives want to do today. They really didn't know much about the way of life in other countries and didn't care. They just knew that they were Americans and that the Japanese had attacked them first. It took a lot of persuasion over several years to get Americans used to the idea that there was going to be war. Only Roosevelt could have done it. The draft was only reinstated in October of 1940.

Mike Perry

I quote: "My father's era. People didn't think so deeply. They had a way of life that they followed mostly by tradition, much as conservatives want to do today."

If they were so "conservative," why did they elect FDR no less than four times? And did a vote for FDR only make sense if someone "didn't think so deeply?"

The reason most Americans, liberal and conservative, were isolationists in 1940 isn't that they were unthinking. It's that they had thought and at that time considered that the lives we'd lost in WWI had been wasted and that we should stay out of Europe's follies.

And alas, listen to any debate about abortion, such as the recent one between Obama and McCain, and you'll realize that it's the liberals who seem stuck in 1973 and unable to think. As Obama put it, thinking about when babies begin is "above my pay grade."

This debate is silly. We're fussing over what Hollywood scriptwriters wrote in the 1950s, not what American sailors believed during WWII. And besides, a stirring speech about freedom at that point in the movie would have sent the plot all askew.

--Michael W. Perry, Chesterton on War and Peace: Battling the Ideas and Movements that Led to Nazism and World War II

jj mollo

Roosevelt was elected because the economy collapsed. Was it Hoover's fault? Probably not. But Roosevelt was loved because he addressed the problems of the common people during a terrible depression. No one knew why economic disasters were visited on us, but FDR pretended that he did and he acted vigorously. According to my father, who was an officer in the war, the only unforgivable sin in a leader is to be indecisive. Roosevelt, right or wrong, knew what was needed.

You are right that the debate is somewhat contrived, but it is interesting. The movie does not play out quite the way you would expect it to from a modern perspective. Decisions were made to have a character act in a certain way and speak in a certain way. Why was that done? Why isn't the concept of freedom part of that?

My explanation was that people in those days didn't even think about it. You say they did, suggesting that WWI left them with a "Vietnam syndrome", perhaps. Those are interesting ideas to me.

I've revised my thinking a little. I think maybe it wasn't the idea of freedom that was relevant. I think maybe they had never considered the possibility that other countries could become free and democratic, and it wasn't their problem anyway.

Most Americans were truly astonished after the war when West Germany and Japan morphed into bastions of liberty. The idea that democracy could be contagious had died with the rise of Napoleon. I think Vlad the Invader has also done damage to the concept.

Frank Warner

Remembering that "South Pacific" is only a musical, and generally a very good one, let me just note that, as a drama, it is weakened by the fact that two naval officers and a Marine officer have no answer at all when asked what the Americans are for in World War II.

Even for Bali Hai, that's unbelievable. They'd have some answer. They wouldn't just sit there, especially considering they needed de Becque's help.

The same plot hole has been drilled into HBO's series "Generation Kill," in which Marines occasionally mention the imaginary greedy, racist conspiracies that sent them to Iraq, but not one of them ever says freeing Iraqis and overthrowing Saddam's fascist regime is a good thing.

Peter Dykema

I just finished a short run as Captain Brackett for a community theater in Arkansas. I agree that the scene in question is odd at the very least. I will add that in the original script, Brackett does not say "I don't know", he says "Of course," but then quickly leaves the scene. It seems as though the writers just wanted to quickly end the scene. In the end, de Becque doesn't like bullies yet won't go on the mission because he's in love. OK. And the U.S. officers have very little indeed to say in response. An awkward scene to act out, I assure you.

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