The Oddly Subversive Nature of Red Dawn

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A Propaganda Poster from the Occupying Forces in ‘Red Dawn’

Finally got around to watching the remake of Red Dawn, the classic Cold War movie brought back to life as the story of an insurgency against China North Korea.  It was a bit surreal to realize I was watching a war movie and pulling for the insurgents.  For the uninitiated, Red Dawn is the story of a North Korean invasion (with help from other international belligerents) and the subsequent resistance by a group of young rebels in a small Pacific Northwest town. Not long into the movie, you realize that you are in the odd position, as an American, of finding it your patriotic duty to support the insurgency.  The movie is not heavy-handed about this – I don’t think it’s trying to make a ‘statement’ in the way that a film like In Time does – but still, it makes you think.

This gets us to the nebulous character of a war on “terrorism.”  Terrorism is, of course, a tactic.  Sometimes it is employed by insurgencies and sometimes not.  It is a tactic, not an enemy – a tactic of the weak,to be sure – but not the cowardly.  In the film, the rebel “Wolverines” are forced to fight with few weapons and resources, but, in the words of their leader Chris Hemsworth (aka Thor), even a small flea can annoy a big dog.  Hemsworth plays a former Marine who saw action in Iraq.  The only nod to the subversive nature of the film is by his character: in Iraq, he says, we were the good guys, and we were there to enforce order, but now we are “agents of chaos.”

That, of course, is precisely how asymmetrical warfare is fought.  Insurgencies go on based on the premise that they do not have to win, the just have to not give up.  The onus is always on the occupying force (that is more a geographical statement than a moral one) to maintain the will to fight, as they are usually far from home, fighting for land that isn’t theirs, often at the edges of supply lines.

Interestingly enough, Edwin Friedman applies a similar observation to leadership.  Leaders do not have to win every battle to be effective, they just have to not give up.

It seems that amazing thoughts can come from a simple popcorn flick.

Hope you had an excellent sabbath.  May you fight the battles in your own life that need fighting, and tenaciously stay in the fray until the enemy retreats.  Peace to you.

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