A Small and Regrettable Patriotic Act

Dear Mr. President,
When people are told that they cannot do something our response is often defiance and the urge to resist authority. That is why I gave a fist-pump and I loved it when you told Sony Pictures that they made a “mistake” by pulling Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s, The Interview from theaters in response to the Sony hack and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un’s subsequent threats against our freedoms.http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/12/19/remarks-president-year-end-press-conference. You also pointed to my city’s proud “Boston Strong” moment as an example of great community resistance against “being intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.”

So, this past weekend, when my son asked if I wanted to rent The Interview from on-demand and watch it with him, I wrapped myself in the American Flag and said, “Absolutely!” The truth is, that I had no previous interest in seeing this particular type of comedy and would not have rented it or gone to the theater to see it, threats or no threats. But, I patriotically and proudly put $5.99 in the U.S. Bank of Civil Liberties and defiantly, eagerly waited for it to begin.

As I watched, I sank deeper and deeper and still deeper into the cushions of the couch and wished with each passing minute, that this was not THE movie that so deeply and publicly offended supreme leader Kim Jung-un and is now destined to be seen throughout the world. This example of comedy from Hollywood is a typical American misogynistic, idiotic, vulgar, violent, bloody, male-adolescent humor movie. And, yes, there are funny moments, but it is mostly gross and cringe-worthy. To make matters worse, James Franco’s acting is disturbingly bad. Kudos goes to Eminem whose cameo appearance is the only part worth watching.

In spite of a few laughs, Mr. President, as the Leader of The Free World, when many were paying attention to your reaction to the Sony cyber attack, I wish you had acknowledged that it was in poor taste to make a movie about the murder of a sitting leader even if he is a reprehensible dictator. Kim Jung-un is bizarre and unsophisticated by our standards, but I felt diminished watching him being blown-up in a slow-mo conflagration while the CIA cheered on. You had an opportunity to elevate our cultural dignity a little bit by not ignoring a plot that did not play well to the global audience.

Leadership at its best is demonstrated in unanticipated moments, large and small, when people feel confused or threatened. We want to be able to turn to our leaders to offer us vision, understanding, and the inspiration needed us to move together toward a common, greater purpose. The magnitude of the cyber attack on Sony revealed our personal and national vulnerabilities and that is real. Still, I wish I wasn’t led to feel that watching The Interview was somehow a patriotic act. Certainly, bigger issues like Isis, Boko Haram, Immigration, the Economy, and Climate Change connect us to the people of other nations, but so does Hollywood. We love going to the movies and people all over the world love American movies as a way to escape, imagine, and feel better. In this time of true terror, does it really make sense for leaders of countries to support – or at least offer no comment on – pop-culture endorsements of assassinations? In my opinion, your silence was not helpful or leadership.

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