Bright Lights Film Journal

Service Equals Citizenship!

Why should you sign up immediately with the National Guard (besides so you can sneak around the back door of the recruitment office and into Iraq?), cause you can drive NASCAR! In case you haven’t been to the multiplex in awhile, there’s this fairly long National Guard recruitment commercial-cum music video that’s been kicking off the previews (along with Sidney Poitier standing up for cancer) with Kid Rock singing “I am Warrior!” (where’s Laura Branigan when you need her?) as Nascar star Dale Earhart Jr. gets ready for his important day driving around in circles really fast, interspersed with emergency rescue teams braving floods and ordinary citizens saying goodbye to their wives and kids, all ready to “bleed red, white and blue.”

One of the moments in the video that always earns astonished chuckles from the blue staters is when a big US armored car is tooling down a narrow Arab nation street and breaks to a stop in front of a rolling soccer ball. The adorable little boys that were playing all freeze in dread, but then one of these American warriors–bedecked in high tech body armor–walks slowly over to the ball, smiles wistfully, and kicks it back to the grateful kids. We see a close up of one of the boys’ big, adorable smiles.

In reality of course, rolling soccer balls into the paths of enemy vehicles is the oldest ambush trick in the insurgent book. Hasn’t Kid Rock seen IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH? Another head scratcher is the Eisensteinianly montaged implication that service in the National Guard includes driving NASCARs and relaxing after a hard day with the Kid Rock! Is that really true? Or will you just get shot and/or clinically depressed as months drag into years in a repressed, hot and dusty land?

Anyway, besides being an amazing piece of red state propaganda, what’s so riveting about “Warrior” is the resemblance the film has to a) ye old Nazi recruitment films like TRIUMPH OF THE WILL and b) Paul Verhoeven’s STARSHIP TROOPERS. All it would need is a “Service Equals Citizenship – Would you Like to Know More?” tag on the end. (Note: Read an Mark Grimsley’s excellent, military-eye view of TROOPERS here). Insidious, devious, misleading and oh so very seductive, this Kid Rock fantasia is a direct reminder that we have become the same enemy we fought in World War Two. We’re lured into service by abstract words like “freedom” – a word that has nothing whatever to do with the situation (“democracy” also doesn’t “count” if the majority vote is fundamentalist militant and against U.S. policy. That’s a “do over”). We “bleed red, white and blue,” but the flag in this case stands for corporate oil interests and the war profiteering of Halliburton – not the interests of “the little guy.” We don’t face invasion from Iraq, Saddam had no WMDs or bin Laden ties, and actually did a much better job of crushing terrorism then we have, etc. etc. If we really want to fight for freedom, the enemy is right there on TV: the guy lying his head off, bankrupting the nation so he can redeem his dad in the eyes of his Saudi overlords.

Yes I am aware that freedom means I can write anti-war tracts like this without fear of incarceration… knock on wood, but what does freedom of speech really mean in this yammering virtual tower of babble called the internet age, when peace demonstrations are viewed as little more than a hassle as we try to drive to the mall for the latest first person shooter game and astronomical education costs help ensure an ever-more monosyllabic voting majority? Freedom of speech means the right to preach to the choir of your choice. After all, no one’s ever successfully reasoned with a zealot… or a faceless multi-national corporation.

This Kid Rock short film is a fascinating document I predict will be shown in college classrooms in the decades to come (assuming there are college classrooms and/or decades to come) as an example of a time when “nobody was listening”. It’s an “ignorance equals bliss” fist in the air, a reminder that driving cars around a track really fast in a time of oil shortages and dwindling ozone was once the ultimate definition of real American heroism. The crazy thing is, I know it’s evil, but a part of me still digs it. Deep down under my blue state candy shell, I feel the cold bubble gum lure of fascism, same as anyone. Go ‘head, Kid! Let’s drop a bomb on this ish!