Animal House DC

In November, when commenting on the results of the election, I borrowed a quote from the movie Animal House, saying, “It’s not over until we say it’s over.” If anyone read those words and thought that I was advocating violence, disorder, and disobedience, I sincerely apologize. I was calling for court filings, investigations of election fraud, and challenges to the election results in certain urban areas where suspicious results were announced. I in no way intended for anyone to respond to the words in the movie that closely follow my quote—namely, “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on someone’s part.” And the next line was, “We’re just the guys to do it!”

Last Wednesday a few dozen people made a really futile and stupid gesture. What they did was wrong, both legally and morally wrong. Hurting, endangering, and threatening people is wrong. Hurting, endangering, and threatening police officers and news reporters and members of Congress is wrong. Breaking windows in government buildings is wrong. Entering private offices is wrong. Scattering papers or removing them from those offices is wrong. I hope that the dozens of people who are guilty of these crimes are found, arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and punished under the laws of the United States. Anything less would be disappointing.

Beyond the criminal nature of these actions, they were also really futile and stupid because they tainted President Trump and all of his supporters. They gave ammunition to the mainstream media that has been telling people for more than four years what a bad man Donald Trump is and what bad people all his supporters are. Often the media has had to lie to pursue this theme; in this case, the media scarcely needs to exaggerate. The symbolic nature of this trespass into the United States Capitol clouds the reality that far more damage was done in numerous demonstrations across the United States in 2020, demonstrations that the same media carefully described as “mostly peaceful” and characterized as noble efforts to end the evil of racial prejudice and discrimination.

The gathering in Washington last Wednesday was mostly peaceful. Even many of the people who followed the wave of criminals into the Capitol largely walked through the halls in an orderly manner, carrying their flags and banners and taking their own pictures to prove they were there. They wanted to express their support of the President and their outrage that the election was stolen. They wanted to remind the Democratic party and the mainstream media that millions of American citizens still believe in the positions held by President Trump—not racist positions, not white supremacist positions, not anti-freedom positions, but genuine patriotism for the United States and a genuine desire to provide a better life for all its citizens.

The election results are certified; they cannot be changed. Investigations should continue. People who witnessed fraud must report what they saw. People who confessed to fraud must be interviewed to gain the whole story of what happened—whose orders were they following? Physical evidence of election results needs to be preserved and examined. For the good of the United States and all its citizens, we need to know what happened, who is at fault, and how repetition of this fraud can be prevented. That really futile and stupid gesture could result in reduction of our freedom as Americans. Members of the government might seek to establish limitations on the right of the people to assemble peacefully, to say and to write what they believe, and to address their concerns to the government. The chorus of voices insisting that November’s election was legal and fair—the least corrupt election in history—must not be allowed to drown out genuine dissent. Defending truth and freedom should not be equated with rioting, insurrection, violence, and other crimes. If that happens, the America we know and love might indeed be finished. J.

Five back-to-school movies

When I was a boy, school didn’t start until the middle of the last week of August. We had half a day, and then a full day or two, and then a weekend before the school year really got rolling. Of course these were the days when I walked to school, uphill, even in the snow, twice a day. Gasoline was forty cents a gallon, milk was $1.32 a gallon, you could buy a loaf of bread for twenty-four cents and mail a letter for six cents. No, I did not have a pet dinosaur!

Anyhow, certain movies from the late 1970s and from the 1980s remind me of going back to school. The movies on my list are based in high schools and colleges rather than elementary school, and some are more true-to-life than others. A lot of other movies are set in schools, but the following movies mean the most to me this month as children, teens, young adults, and teachers are on their way back to their respective classrooms.

Grease (1978): This movie is nothing like my high school memories. I did not attend school in the 1950s, none of my fellow students were in their twenties or thirties, and only a few of them regularly broke into song and dance. (Some of those who did, though, were pretty good.) The “Summer Loving” bit of the movie, though, perfectly captures the feelings of the end of summer vacation and the start of the school year. My favorite memory of Grease will not be shown on the screen—I remember a ten-year-old girl who had just seen the movie trying to explain its plot to me. Priceless!

Animal House (1978): My college was nothing like this movie, but some students there definitely tried to reproduce this movie on campus. We had fraternities and sororities, excessive drinking and partying, in the setting of stately buildings and droll professors like Donald Sutherland’s character. Many of the guys wished they were John Belushi. This movie is raunchy enough that I would be embarrassed to watch it with my parents or my children, but it has its moments. “Seven years of college—wasted!” “Did we give up when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!”

Fame (1980): Based on a real school in New York City, this movie shows scattered events from the lives of a few students and teachers at a high school dedicated to the fine arts (music, dance, and theater). Fame is more a collection of short stories than a movie with a single plot or theme, but the characters and their situations are entirely believable. Every song-and-dance number fits the movie. When I was in high school, I was involved in music and in theater, so some parts of this movie strike close to home.

Big Chill (1983): I saw this movie in a theater when it came out. All my friends saw this movie too. We were certain that we would keep in touch with each other, care about each other, and support each other. If it wasn’t for Facebook, most of us wouldn’t even know where the others are today. Not one scene in this movie takes place in a school, but this movie still reminds me of the intangible things that mattered most about college. It makes me think of the times we said to each other, “This is what college was meant to be.” Every fall I try to watch this movie the weekend of my alma mater’s homecoming celebration.

Footloose (1984): A young man from the big city must attend high school in a small town, a town where the council has banned dancing. Footloose is a typical coming-of-age, teen angst movie from the 1980s, but it is one of those movies that gets it right. Kevin Bacon shines as the central character, and John Lithgow is brilliant as the minister opposed to dancing, but the two of them are surrounded by smaller characters who are thoroughly convincing. Although the fist fight near the end of the movie seems contrived and unnecessary, every other scene builds the story, and the soundtrack is notable as well. I haven’t seen the recent remake, and I don’t want to see it. This movie is nearly perfect just the way it is.

Tomorrow: five more back-to-school movies from the 1980s. J.