Why Do We Fight?
In the early days of World War II, it wasn’t just Hollywood actors in their 20s and 30s who went to war. They were joined by directors in their 40s, men like John Ford, William Wyler and John Huston, who began turning out propaganda films for the government, generally documentaries immortalizing specific battles.
And while Hollywood kept rolling out morale-boosters starring the likes of John Wayne, Van Johnson, Gary Cooper, Robert Walker and their female counterparts, three-time Oscar-winning director Frank Capra was busy directing and editing a series of films under the banner of “Why We Fight,” which spelled out the reasons why it was imperative that we defeat the Axis powers.
Capra was a grateful immigrant who showed his appreciation for his adopted country in a great many movies during the 20s and 30s, but perhaps never expressed it quite as well as when he devoted four years to making movies in support of the war effort, not directing a single feature film between 1941 and 1945, until coming back like gangbusters in 1946 with the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
I’m wondering if there is anyone, even someone as adept at filmmaking as Capra, who could make a case for our having spent the past 70 years waging war in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria?
I’m not asking if we were on the right side or the wrong side, just questioning why we were on any side.
And let us not forget Bill Clinton’s ill-advised foray into Somalia or Reagan’s bombing mission in Libya. At least in Grenada, there were a handful of Americans who needed to be rescued.
Besides, if we were looking for bad guys to fight, why didn’t we engage them in Venezuela, which is 2,799 miles away; Cuba, which is 90 miles; or Mexico, a one inch line in the sand? They’re all a lot closer than Afghanistan, which is 7,410 miles and about a thousand years away from us.
The footage that Tucker Carlson keeps showing on his show, depicting the rabble who sleep on the sidewalks of L.A. and defecate on our streets, is near downtown, which is at least an industrial area. I live in the San Fernando Valley and here we see the drunks and the drug-addled zombies lying around in residential areas.
Something else we see are the results of California’s sanctuary status. If, like me, you are a part of something called the Neighborhood Network, you see posted notes and photos of things happening nearby.
When I see the notices regarding lost dogs, I begin to seethe, wondering how it is that so many people haven’t the slightest clue as to how to keep their animals safe. I always find myself expecting to see alerts for toddlers who have managed to waddle their way to freedom.
But the one thing that shows up even more often than canine masterminds who have gone missing are the reports of packages left by FedEx or Amazon on front porches being swiped by passersby. Often, because so many people have outdoor cameras, they even post photos of the thieves, and, inevitably, it’s a Latino.
But it’s not one of my middle-class Latino neighbors. They’re not home to receive the packages because they’re out working, whereas illegal aliens from Mexico and Central America have plenty of free time, not to mention cars and drivers licenses. So I suspect they merely follow the delivery trucks and swoop in and cart off the packages two minutes after they’ve been delivered.
I tend to judge my neighbors on their friendliness, how loudly their dogs bark when I walk past with Angel and the state of their lawns. But just now, while thinking of them, it occurred to me that my block is like one of those Army companies in the World War II movies that always seemed to contain a cross section of Americans named Mulligan, Chekhov, Jones, Marconi, Gomez, Klaus, Petrovski and, from Brooklyn, a wise guy named Goldberg, mainly for comic relief.
There are a dozen homes on my street. Directly across Dearborn is a Jewish conservative couple; next door to me is an elderly Armenian couple; next to them a family of Russian emigres. Among the others are an elderly black couple and the man’s widowed sister-in-law; a young Polish couple; two Mexican families; and a couple in their 60s from Bangladesh.
In spite of what the Democrats claim with their identity politics, we all get along. And we probably would continue to live and let live if a gay couple or even a transgender moved in, so long as he didn’t set off firecrackers on the 4th of July and cleaned up after his dog.
After I shared my memories of Orson Bean, I heard from Pat Sajak, who took time off from his duties at “Wheel of Fortune” to let me know that he, too, had had the good fortune to know the original Mr. Bean.
He wrote to say: “Though I only met him once (I saw his one-man autobiographical play a few years ago), I was a lifelong admirer of his. I loved his whimsical style, his way with words and his impeccable timing. You may remember that he always began his Johnny Carson appearances with a joke, and they were generally (and intentionally) on the silly side.
"On the night of the play, I knew we would meet afterwards, and I wanted to bring him a joke. But not just any joke. It had to fit his style and be new to him. The only way to insure the latter was to write a joke, and here is what I wrote for him and told him that night.
"A student of reptilian biology [at which point he interrupted to tell me he already loved it] was given an assignment to bring home an alligator for the weekend and study its habits and write a paper on what he observed. The following Monday he showed up at class rather distressed and with no finished paper. He explained to the professor, ‘The homework ate my dog.’
"My last memory of Orson Bean was his genuine laugh and his promise to incorporate it in his patter. RIP, Orson. Pat”
After sharing my favorite Yiddish curse (“You should die and be reincarnated as a chandelier, to hang by day and burn by night”) the other Patrick, Miano, reminded me of my second favorite: “You should live in a house with a thousand rooms and get heartburn in each of them.”