Even though I am in Asia, I've been battling a short spat of Montezuma's revenge. It was difficult for me to sleep last night so I came into the living room and watched some TV.
I saw the tail end of a Shaw Brothers kung fu movie. Two guys in traditional Asian dress battled to the death over some gold. The climactic fight scene featured two guys doing high wire kung fu moves with explosions occurring all around. One was impaled on the horns of a dragon statue and the other was cursed by the gold and died foaming at the mouth. In the end, peace was restored to the kingdom and the cursed gold went back to the emperor.
The next channel I flipped to had a Korean horror movie. Even to an American who was once a high school horror movie aficionado, this movie was weird. A girl was accidentally killed by a group of three teenage guys, as a result the guys were cursed. In order to remove the curse they had an old lady counsel them in ways to conjure the dead. Each ghost they met gave the boys a different task- ranging from burning incense and candles to stealing money off of the corpse of a dead man to buying a gold ring. I didn't make it to the end of the film. I became too confused by the quagmire of a plot. Besides, when I flipped to channel five, the one that features mostly English content, something else caught my attention.
Usually channel five feature such asinine and inconsequential content as The Apprentice, America's Next Top Model, and the Robocop movies. However, last night they were showing American World Wrestling. Most Americans might think that pro wrestling fits perfectly with the caliber of entertainment programming that I listed above. Yet from the perspective of an American sitting on a couch in Asia, what I saw as embarrassing, jingoistic, and shameful. And I'm not even talking about the Crisco clad Speedo men grappling with each other in the ring.
Between each match the wrestlers would come out and perform skits where they taunt and cajole each other. In one of these skits a wrestler wearing an Uncle Sam hat and a red white and blue sequin vest showed up. While listening to his speech it became evident that at some point he was one of the few, the proud, the people that fought in the American Armed service. He was getting ready to fight some rival. I've already forgotten the names and quips of both wrestlers. However, I distinctly remember what the flamboyant Uncle Sam macho man told his audience.
He told the audience that most of them were cowards who let other people, like himself, fight their battles for them. He reminded the roaring crowd that America has terrorist enemies and that we need to rise to the challenge to defeat them. He told the crowd there were people in the world who hated us because we were rich and powerful and they weren't. While watching him I got the sense that he was the living embodiment of neoconservative foreign policy.
In the wrestling audience, some people booed and some cheered at his words. I'm sure this wrestling actor knew he was serving as a polarizing force. During my senior year of high school one of my classmates and I intentionally made it habit to watch the WCW, so we could live out the irony of discussing pro-wrestling while attending end of the year scholars' banquets. I remember wrestlers dividing into separate camps, usually between good and bad. One that sticks out most clearly in my mind is the New World Order (NWO), a group of evil wrestler bent on taking over the world. I don't think they succeeded.
I'm sure that some hard core wrestling fans would go as far as to justify the wrestler's words and actions by saying he was fulfilling a role, playing a particular part in a masculine soap opera. From my time in the rural Midwest I know that it would taking nothing but balls to call a group of drunk redneck wrestling fans cowardly. Shoot, if I had watched long enough I might have even seen a hippie style wrestler in sunglasses (they do exist) exhorting the crowd to peace.
Yet none of that matters. August ninth was the Singaporean Independence Day. There was a parade, a display of fighter jets, fireworks, and a lot of flag waving. I didn't notice a single American style brash display of country love. The fact that war mongering and ignorant patriotism exists in American discourse should be greatly disturbing. These exported images are how foreigners get their ideas about Americans. It is unlikely that someone on the other side of the world would recognize the subtle distinctions differentiating even radically contrasting American political philosophies. I'm a university educated person who lived in Missouri for most of my life and I can't even tell you who runs Canada, or even Iowa for that matter.
Before I went to bed I flipped over to Channel News Asia. They run a CNN style news scroll at the bottom of the screen. One line that flew by said, ÂGeorge W. Bush will not rule out the use of force against Iran.Â I can't imagine why they might be concerned.