How Perverted Have We Become?
by Butler Shaffer
Michael: My father is no different from any powerful man, any man with power, like a president or senator.
Kay Adams: Do you know how naïve you sound, Michael? Presidents and senators don’t have men killed.
Michael: Oh, who’s being naïve, Kay?
~ The Godfather (1972)
When I was in high school, one of my teachers showed the film The Ox-Bow Incident. For those unfamiliar with the movie, it is a western that takes place in 19th century Nevada. Three strangers are captured by townsfolk – who had formed a posse – and accused of having murdered a local cattleman and stolen his cattle. The three are in possession of the cattle, but claim they had bought them from the owner. As the sale took place out on the range, no bill of sale accompanied the transaction. In due course, most members of the posse conclude these men were guilty of the crime, and decide to hang them, which they summarily do. Shortly thereafter, the posse meets up with the sheriff who informs them that the cattleman had been wounded, but not murdered, and that the wrongdoers who had shot him had been caught.
I recall no lengthy discussion of this film once it ended. Its message was as evident to each of us as it was to theater audiences; its meaning stood on its own. Unlike so much of the public response to the killing of Osama bin Laden, there was no post-lynching praise of the posse for having performed a community service; no bestowal of “hero” status upon the perpetrators.
Like most Americans – and, perhaps, people in general – I have no defense to make of bin Laden. Outside of his own circle of operatives, the only person I can recall who had good words to say about this man was Ronald Reagan. It was during his presidency that the U.S. government helped to create and fund Al Qaeda – with bin Laden in a leadership role – to help drive the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan. For those of you who derive your sense of history from motion pictures, you might want to watch Charlie Wilson’s War. Having been established to serve American Cold War interests, when Al Qaeda’s success in evicting the Soviets was no longer useful to such purposes, it pursued other foreign invaders (i.e., its creators)! Once again Boobus Americanus is confronted with Newton’s “third law of motion” which, in matters political, is known to thoughtful minds as “blowback.”