When my Grandfather came to this country, he was so poor that he could not afford to rent a shop to do business. So he opened a delicatessen in his pants. Unfortunately one Saturday in late March of 1933 he was attacked by a pack of dogs and lost everything. Years later, after he had made a fortune in the inflatable hat business, he adopted a bull pup. I think in many ways this was a gesture of reconciliation. He named it Schnitzie, and trained it to bite my Grandmother. It is stories like this that illuminate what’s best about the American character: an unquenchable drive to win, coupled with a deep sense of obligation to get the loser back on his feet.
You see it in movies: the all-American hero pounds the chrysanthemums out of some vaguely foreign-sounding bad guy, rendering him helpless and on the verge of an interesting death. Unwilling to let anybody, even the author of a dastardly plot against all that’s right, go to an unnecessary doom, our hero proffers to the villain a helping mitt. Naturally the villain accepts the hand, then inveighs to hoist the hero petard-fashion over the nearest brink, only to hasten his own demise as he plummets with cowardly yodels off the cliff or into the sea of acid or whatever contrivance the production’s budget would allow. These heroes, from Buck Rodgers to Indiana Jones to all of Nick Cage’s more lucrative roles, are Democrats.
Antiheroes are Libertarians. The hero-as-Democrat is a guy that works for the government, or has some public-spirited job (scientist, athlete, or academic) with a ‘greater good’ component. Antiheroes do whatever is lucrative, looking only to their wallets. The Democratic hero might pretend to have only his personal interests at heart, but we see right away that he’s good with kids, tender with the ladies, and probably owns a bull pup. The antihero is ideally a criminal (Snake Plissken in Escape From New York, Yurt Hammerschlag in A Fistful of Dolores). But even the Libertarian hero is still a hero. Observe the imported but deeply American-Libertarian style Road Warrior, who appears out of the desert in search of a couple quarts of 10W-40, incidental to his mission sets right a world gone mad, and then disappears into the shifting sands, empty-handed, peg-legged, and half blind, but with a bunch of groupies outside Alice Springs, Australia, that will always remember him. The real question is, what happens now that Republicans have sealed off the capitol? Who will the heroes be?
My grandfather is dead, victim of a mishap involving an inflatable hat, a bull pup, and three pounds of liverwurst. Tom Mix and Babe Ruth long ago became daisy-pushers. If Indiana Jones really does make another picture, he’ll be an old guy. Who do we have left? The Jonah Salks of our time are inventing erection pills. What we’re going to see next is Republican heroes, and that won’t make for good cinema, or good grandfather stories, either. “I went from incalculable wealth to incalculable wealth in a tax haven” doesn’t quite have that rags-to-riches quality. What we’ve gained is an almost unbelievable drive to win, win, win that would make Flash Gordon, who saved the universe on numerous occasions, blush for the ambition of it all. What we’ve lost is the redeeming helping hand to the villain.
Nobody can imagine G.W. Bush bashing Saddam Hussein in the chops and then helping him up. He’d just have the old blaggard shot and stuffed by professionals. There’s nothing of that old spirit that dictates the winner should honor the loser, no matter how rotten the loser is (such as children in the public school system, retirees, or homosexuals). Consequently we never get that last nasty trick that reassures us the villain was irredeemable, therefore okay to kill. I’m worried we’ll be seeing this kind of heroism in movies, next. An oil baron with unlimited resources sends his trusty sidekick, Biff Sambo, to finish off the impoverished bad guy in his remote Iranian village. Sidewinder missiles, no helping hand about it. A great scientist develops a ray to destroy the alien menace hovering over Washington, DC, but the corporation he works for won’t allow the thing to be deployed until certain patent issues have been cleared up with the Japanese government. In defense of all that’s American, a bold government lawyer sees to it that the Constitution is immersed in boiling leopard fat, where it will be safe from prying trial lawyers secretly working for commies. Come to think of it, I think we have a blockbuster, here. Republican heroism, the new genre! Somebody get a producer on the phone!
BEN TRIPP can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His book, ‘Square In The Nuts’, has been held up at the printers by thugs but will be released as soon as hostage negotiations conclude.
See also www.cafeshops.com/tarantulabros.