Celebrate the 4th with this Oliver Stone clasic
On Tuesday, July 04, 2017, citizens of America will celebrate Independence Day. The birthday of the United States brings lots of history to the table. Most of it is remarkable. Some of it is regrettable. This seemed like a good moment to reflect on a movie that came out back in 1989 that still holds resonance to this day. Directed by the man behind many a great movie, this one could be considered one of Oliver Stone’s finer pieces considering he won Best Director for this one. It also features ascending star, Tom Cruise as he garnered his first Oscar nomination for his performance in this role.
This is the story of a bright-eyed hyper patriotic American teen named Ron Kovic. Energized by the famous Kennedy speech, he feels it is his duty to join the Marines and go fight in the Vietnam War. This is a kid who’s got everything going on for him…athletic, handsome, he’s got the girl…you name it, but still feels a sense of purpose towards his country. While in Vietnam, he realizes the horrific, violent nature of war as he is forced to do questionable things before he finally gets maimed and paralyzed during battle. Upon his return to America, Kovic discovers an apathetic Veterans Administration and ordinary people who see him as part of an immoral war. Seeing firsthand what atrocities the war has brought to the forefront, Kovic becomes an advocate to stop the war.
Something that is very prominent in America these days and especially magnified under the Trump administration, is this notion that if you if you’re not with us, then you’re against us. This is a concept that at first Kovic falls preys to, but then finds himself facing off against once he becomes a critic of the war. People call him a traitor even though he has lost so much fighting for this country. This labeling of each other leads to a divisiveness that goes against the very fundamental building blocks of this country. Peaceful demonstrations of differing opinions should be encouraged, yet Kovic and the rest of the protestors are under constant threat of police brutality. This is not the America our fore fathers foresaw.
Is the us vs. them nature of blind patriotism healthy? Born on the Fourth of July brings attention to the idea of wanting to take out the other through war and violence. “They” must be stopped, whomever the “They” maybe. Be it, communists or whomever. Never mind that whatever propaganda was spewed out about the spread of communism was ultimately inconsequential to the daily lives of Americans.
The insight into the brutality of war and the treatment of veterans is also troubling. For anyone that advocates for war, they may not truly realize the intense macabre of it until they are on the front lines and it is too late. Soldiers are asked to do unspeakable things in the name of their country, all while facing the severe threat of life changing or ending injury. They are nothing but pawns for a government that doesn’t seemingly care about their wellbeing more than the agenda of the moment.
Current rhetoric that soldiers fighting in wars these days are defending our freedom is also questioned by Mr. Stone. Vietnam may have been the first unnecessary war. It was billed as the spread of “evil” communism when it basically was proud Vietnamese people wanting to reclaim their land. Since then, our government has dragged us into a few more questionable wars. All having conspiracional motives. Is it un- American to question the validity of going to war if the reasoning is murky?
As you can see, this is a movie that you can go on and on about. It really is a timeless gem crafted by Oliver Stone. Tom Cruise has never been better. The sociopolitical commentary is one that is relative. When we celebrate America’s Independence Day this year, let’s remember to come together as Americans despite our differing opinions. This is what makes our country great. Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have a movie like Born on the 4th of July shed some light on that. Happy 4th of July everyone!