I took my seven-year-old to see "The Good, The Bad and the Ugly" at Cinema 21 this afternoon, and besides being a brilliant Western that deconstructs the archetypal myths many of us grew up with, it stands as a powerful anti-war film. In fact, it prompted an interesting after-movie discussion about war between my son and me (who was seven in 1968: at Viet Nam's height of madness and only a couple of years after the film's release). Most telling are scenes where the "Good" bandit Blondie (Clint Eastwood) and the "Ugly" Tuco (the amazing Eli Wallach) wander through the boozy carnage of the Civil War being played out somewhere in the desert of New Mexico. At one point Blondie looks down at another in a series of hand-to-throat battles to take a bridge that the alcoholic Union captain dreams will be blown up, and remarks to Tuco "I've never seen so many men wasted so badly." Indeed.
We talked a bit more about Iraq and some of the other things going on in the U.S. and Portland. Both my kids have been at many anti-war protests, along with the pepper-spraying orgy at the Bush protest last summer, and I think the parents among us owe it to our kids to open their eyes in whatever different ways we can. The violence in Leone's masterpiece is not gratuitous, but horrifying. To me, the fantasyland many parents construct around their children is gratuitous, dangerous and ultimately a form of death worship. In this messy today, it's up to all of us to do affirmative acts to improve our situation. That especially goes for our kids who, let's face it, are inheriting an especially shitty world. They'll need to be incredibly brave, resourceful, independent and connected in order to save it.