I recently saw the movie “Olympus Has Fallen” and found it very scary. Not in the scary since of Halloween. But then I saw that there is another similar movie upcoming with Jamie Foxx called, “White House Down”. What I find most disturbing about both of these films that they both depict the symbol of our nation’s strength, identity, and greatness being infiltrated by foreign enemies and physically destroyed. I personally can not recall movies in the past so graphically showing the White House being destroyed. In the Bruce Willis movie, Live Free or Die Hard, showed the White House being destroyed, but it didn’t actually happen.
Hollywood very often presents things that either actually happened already, is happening, or will happen. Examples of its futuristic presentations maybe, The Minority Report, the 007 movies, and the Buck Rodgers movies. We now have “low impact weapons” being used by the military and law enforcement, such as teasers, we have personal GPS devices, and we can ever communicate virtually via computers. A lot of times Hollywood speaks to the public in metaphoric or non-literal terms, but there is a message that it is trying to communicate to us. Hollywood generally doesn’t roll out a wave of such provocative subject matter, unless it truly feels that we, the public, will be accepting of it. Remember it’s in the business of making money.
Even Time Magazine asked in an article in March of 2011, “Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?” The author makes a couple of interesting and pointed statements in first stating, “The decisions that created today’s growth — decisions about education, infrastructure and the like — were made decades ago. What we see today is an American economy that has boomed because of policies and developments of the 1950s and ’60s: the interstate-highway system, massive funding for science and technology, a public-education system that was the envy of the world and generous immigration policies. Look at some underlying measures today, and you will wonder about the future.” and, “Many of these changes have taken place not because of America’s missteps but because other countries are now playing the same game we are — and playing to win.” I dare say that such comments and thoughts would have been unthought of, least than spoken or displayed so front and center in the popular media some 20 or so years ago – or even 8 years. Not to say that America’s decline just started recently, but what is it that Hollywood sees and maybe is trying to alert us to – or condition us for?
I find it most interesting that these two movies have a couple of intriguing ingredients that are new. One being that the bad guys have intricate knowledge of the inter-workings of the U.S government and it’s people, even at the most protected building in our country, if not the world, the White House; there is a traitor portrayed who is in the inner circles of the government; and that the White House and the Capital Building are physically destroyed unable to be defended by some of the world most technological counter-measure systems. These all can be taken as metaphors of a nation that was once seen as undefeatable from external forces destroying itself from within by someone who’s disenchanted with our nation’s principles and ideals.
There are many of us who look to the man in the Office as the problem to the nations decline. But just as the Times article points out, “the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), our 15-year-olds rank 17th in the world in science and 25th in math. We rank 12th among developed countries in college graduation (down from No. 1 for decades). We come in 79th in elementary-school enrollment. Our infrastructure is ranked 23rd in the world, well behind that of every other major advanced economy. American health numbers are stunning for a rich country: based on studies by the OECD and the World Health Organization, we’re 27th in life expectancy, 18th in diabetes and first in obesity. Only a few decades ago, the U.S. stood tall in such rankings.” America has been on the slide for a long time. And being a representative republic-democracy, the government only reflects the people of the nation. Either by affirmative actions, i.e., voting, or silent acquiescence, blatant apathy and or political and civic disengagement, we have the government, which includes whosoever occupies the Office, we the people chose and deserve.
When the nation was centered around morality and character the nation’s leaders reflected that. Because we the people demanded it of ourselves. There used to be three loves of Americans – love of God, love of family, and love of country [America]. Not necessarily in the order. But today it is mostly love of me. To boldly proclaim or profess devotion to America and Americanism is to open one’s self to being called an extremist, anti-immigrant, or racist. Today to express our nation’s fundamental connections to Christendom and God today is most aggressively shunned and discouraged. This certainly isn’t our grandparent’s America. What is more alarming is that these characteristics and negative effects are most present in the nation’s next generation.
In a 2006 report by CIRCLE [the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement], stated as a consequence of American youths disengaging from politics, “in addition to civic disengagement, contemporary critics have also decried a closely related phenomenon—the excessive individualism of contemporary American culture that has created a society which is increasingly polarized and fragmented, with little sense of being united by shared values, or of participation for the commonwealth. Goals of personal advancement and gratification dominate the younger generations, frequently at the expense of broader social, moral, and spiritual meaning….Today’s young adults are less politically interested and informed than any cohort of young people on record.” And it said of our societal foundation, “During the past generation, our families have come under intense pressure, and many have crumbled. Neighborhood and community ties have frayed. Many of our streets and public spaces have become unsafe. Our public schools are mediocre for most students, and catastrophic failures for many. Our character-forming institutions are enfeebled. Much of our popular culture is vulgar, violent, and mindless. Much of our public square is coarse and uncivil. Political participation is at depressed levels last seen in the 1920s. Public trust in our leaders and institutions has plunged.” Though the report is more than 10 years old, can you honestly look around and dismiss its fundamental findings? And all of this came way before Mr. O proclaimed to “fundamentally transform this nation [America]”. We have been undergoing an incremental silent transformation for some time now.
If we as a nation no longer knows what there is to appreciate and give thanks to about our nation and that we should never settle for mediocrity or stop playing to win; we no longer know our nation’s history, our Constitution and other founding documents; we have no knowledge of the true relationship between the government and the people, have no knowledge or respect to the relevant place that Christian morality and principles has for our nation; nor knows what it is that makes America exceptional or that being an American with our uniquely cherished liberties and freedoms are fragile and delicate blessings, than if our nation is to fall, it will be only our fault. Just as Ezra Taft Benson stated, “If America is destroyed, it may be by Americans who salute the flag, sing the national anthem, march in patriotic parades, cheer Fourth of July speakers – normally good Americans, but Americans who fail to comprehend what is required to keep our country strong and free, Americans who have been lulled away into a false security.”
Just as the government may reflect the people who it serves, the Entertainment Industry reflects what we have been, where we are, and what we may become. Gone are the days when the U.S was always shown as the unquestionable good guy and indestructible. Gone are the days when young men and women said yes ma’am and no ma’am. And gone are the days when those in the highest offices of government are expected to be of high moral and ethical character. And if that is so, we have only to look in the mirror, own it, and make a change for a better future.