Can George Bush Be Americanized?

by Harry Browne

June 26, 2004          

A few weeks ago, America was absorbed with the death in Afghanistan of Pat Tillman, the athlete who gave up a lucrative career as an NFL football star in order to fight for his country.

Every night for almost a week, ESPN's Sports Center show had a segment on Tillman as did so many other news shows.

I found the celebration of death to be upsetting, but I couldn't find the right words to express my feelings.

But this past week I had the pleasure of watching as I do every few years the movie The Americanization of Emily.

In it, the hero articulates what I was unable to say:

"My brother died at Anzio . . . an everyday soldier's death, no special heroism involved. They buried what pieces they found of him. But my mother insists he died a brave death and pretends to be very proud. . . . 

"Now my other brother can't wait to reach enlistment age. . . . What has my mother got for pretending bravery was admirable? She's under constant sedation and terrified she may wake up one morning and find her last son has run off to be brave."

If we glorify death, we shouldn't be surprised when we get more of it just as by voting for big-government politicians we reward them and encourage them to give us bigger and bigger government.

Let's Go to the Movies

The Americanization of Emily is one of my favorite movies, and it's certainly one of the best anti-war movies ever made.

However, it has a strange origin. It's based on a novel by William Bradford Huie, a writer of many best-selling novels of a few decades ago.

The hero, Charlie Madison, is stationed in London during World War II, working as an admiral's "dog robber" a naval officer who makes sure the admiral and his guests have all the good food and entertainment they want, despite wartime shortages.

Emily is a British motor-pool driver whom Charlie meets and falls in love with. She doesn't like "Yanks" because they think they own the world, but Charlie eventually Americanizes her.

The admiral wants to make a movie showing that the first Americans to reach France on D-Day are naval demolition engineers, clearing the mines so the soldiers and marines can hit the beach. He commands Charlie to be there with a camera filming the operation.

But Charlie is a coward, and he thinks it's absurd to risk his life in order to help the Navy get bigger appropriations from Congress. However, as he grudgingly takes on the project, he becomes progressively more gung-ho and eventually he's a true believer. Sort of like Dick Cheney without the desk job.

Transformation

The novel was made into a movie in 1964, and the screenplay was written by Paddy Chayefsky (whose work includes Network and Marty).

In Chayefsky's version, however, Charlie Madison doesn't get religion and become gung-ho. But his best friend does, and the friend forces Charlie at gunpoint to charge onto Omaha Beach on D-Day.

I won't say any more about the plot, because I don't want to spoil it for you. It's too good a movie not to let the story unfold on its own.

The movie isn't preachy, although Charlie Madison (played by James Garner) has some sensational monologues. It is first and foremost entertaining. But it ends with the most fascinating moral dilemma you'll find in any movie. At least half the people I know who've seen the movie think it ended wrongly, while the other half think the ending is perfect.

Amazon has VHS copies for sale and, most likely, your local Blockbuster store has copies for rent. but There's no DVD version.

James Garner is a fine actor, and he has been fortunate in having three of the juiciest roles in movies and television Charlie Madison in The Americanization of Emily, Jim Rockford in the Rockford Files, and the title role in Cash McCall (another movie with libertarian undertones).

I don't think you'll regret seeing any of these.

Americanizing

What should be noticed in The Americanization of Emily is the fact that Charlie Madison is symbolic of what America was meant to be a nation in which each individual gets to live his own life without having to suppress his desires and go along with some group crusade. Although repelled at first, Emily comes to see the common sense in this approach to life.

Now, if we could just Americanize George Bush . . .