This weekend was not a good weekend for reasons that included, but were not limited to, my initial take on Act of Valor. I was right about the problem, but intemperate in my accusations. I’m old enough to know better. As you can imagine, I got some pushback, some of which was very hurtful. I deserved some of the pushback but not all, and certainly not the more abusive ones. My last word on the subject is to link to Roger Simon, who was not only kind enough to link to me, but also made the right point about the movie’s importance, which overrides its amateur qualities:
I would be remiss in not noting that some estimable writers on the right have criticized the film for a seemingly gratuitous bit of anti-Semitism. One of the two main villains turns out, in a moment of dialogue, to be Jewish, although he is in cahoots with the jihadist. This revelation did make me sit up straight for a second, but that part of the movie was by far the most banal and confused, so I kind of shrugged it off, hoping the film would get back to the SEALs quickly. (It did.) Nevertheless, it’s not one of the movie’s high points and another indication the filmmakers could use a little script help.
Had that been the only negative experience I had this weekend, my wounds would have taken just a lick or two to repair but, as I said, it wasn’t a nice weekend and I’m just glad it’s over.
I did end the weekend thinking about the challenges of living in the 21st Century. I’ve never been entirely at ease in my own time. I certainly love the trappings of the modern era: the contact lenses, computers, washes, dryers, etc., and would be sad if they suddenly vanished from my life. Of course, you only miss what you know and, had I lived in an earlier time, I wouldn’t have missed what didn’t exist. I also benefit from many of our modern era’s attitudes towards women. I got to get a graduate degree and have a career. Although I’m pretty much over my career now, I have (sometimes) a good mind, and I’m lucky that I was able to exercise it.
But as I said, I’ve never really been comfortable in my own time. I like, and have always liked, the pop culture of the past. I prefer the movies, songs, clothes and, most importantly, the attitudes of the 1940s and 1950s.
Yes, I know that those were eras when blacks suffered serious discrimination, when women had limited options, and when gays were buried deep in closets. But without ignoring those problems, those decades also offered a lot of positive things, my favorite of which are an absence of moral relativism and, the flip side, a clarity about traditional patriotism and values.
Americans knew that America wasn’t perfect, but they loved her still, and they did so without embarrassment. Humans were humans and bad stuff happened, not at the macro level, as was the case during WWII, but at the micro, neighborhood level: people had having affairs, unwed women got pregnant, men beat their wives, etc. Nevertheless, people then had a moral clarity that helped them recognize that, while things happen, not all bad things should be excused away. In those days, I think, people more clearly understood that one can hate the sin, but love, or at least, have some compassion for, the sinner. Nowadays, nothing is sinful, anything goes, there are no boundaries, and too many people are hurt and adrift.
You’ll never believe what got me going on this nostalgia shtick. It was an article on Whitney Houston’s early modeling career, when she was an incredibly fresh-faced 18 year old. Not only was she pretty as a picture, but look at those swimsuits and outfits: they’re wholesome. She looks like a young girl, not a wannabe hooker. No heavy make-up, no hyper-revealed flesh. She’s not veiled and burqa-clad. She’s at that happy medium where a blooming young woman gets to show of her beauty without demeaning herself.
I had fun in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but I still prefer doowop and Dior to my time. Life was just easier when ones values choices were a little more limited. This is not to say that I want to limit choices in America today. The only way to do that is to have government censorship and control, and I deeply oppose that. Recognizing that I can’t go back, though, not only to my own youth, but to other people’s youth, doesn’t mean that I can’t dream.
UPDATE: Using much better writing and logic, in the first part of his post, James Taranto makes a point similar to mine.