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Now there’s a movie, “Civil War,” that projects the trumpian breakdown of America, with breakaway regionsband malignant militias.

I didn’t go see “Civil War,” even though it’s an easy walk down to our charming old neighborhood theater, where they sell good beer that you can take to your seat along with a bag of decent popcorn. The $5 Tuesday tickets are a bargain, but I still didn’t go.

I’d been reading quite a bit about “Civil War,” but by the time I worked up the determination to walk down to the theater and at least take a picture of the marquee, the sign had been changed for the next feature movies. That was probably for the best.

Because the premise of “Civil War” presses on a painful, potentially fatal wound in America’s soul. The movie seems too real a possibility, too close to what could happen if the vile buffoon trump returns to power in the 2024 election or, maybe even more likely, if he loses again and tells his violent supporters that he didn’t. “Bring your guns, this time,” he’ll tell them. And all hell breaks loose.

Here’s the movie trailer:

Yes, it’s just a movie. But it’s a storyline that makes you grimace because it seems like a topic that shouldn’t be portrayed as hollow entertainment.

The movie, as best I can summarize from three reviews, presents an America at war with itself. A trump-like figure has appointed himself to a third term as president (you only get two, remember), states have seceded and whole regions have fallen into anarchy. The president orders the military to attack American citizens, and apparently, in some cases it does. It’s a mess, with all sorts of free-lancing militias causing trouble as well.

The main group fighting the president is an alliance called the Western Forces, led by California and Texas. I was disappointed to read the Pacific Northwest is controlled by a bunch of Maoist hippies, or Antifa types, or whatever, so we’re weird and irrelevant in addition to violent.

The main characters are journalists, led by a famous photographer, who are documenting the mayhem as the Western Forces close in on the tyrant in Washington, D.C,

As a reviewer in Politico put it, “The result is a take on wartime life that’s scarier than your standard Hollywood military flick — and especially resonant in these post-Jan. 6 times, when death threats come to federal judges overseeing Donald Trump’s trials, a lawmaker’s spouse is bludgeoned with a hammer and a gun-toting extremist shows up at the home of a Supreme Court justice.”

You think “Civil War” couldn’t happen? Why not?

The crucial, ugly elements appear to be in place, including, as a Seattle Times reviewer put it, “…committed factionalism based on demographic changes; fringe groups’ capacity to organize on social media; and, above all, an overabundance of powerful firearms and enough Americans willing to use them, a volatile mixture that doesn’t require much of a spark to explode.”

In “The New Yorker” magazine, movie critic Justin Chang called “Civil War” a “dystopian shocker” of “bombed out buildings, blood-soaked sidewalks” and highways strewn for miles with abandoned cars in “an America gone unsurprisingly mad.”

“But ‘Civil War’ has loftier ambitions,” Chang writes, “its parable of American infighting means to sound a note of queasy alarm as if we were just one secessionist screed or Presidential abuse of power away from tumbling into a comparable nightmare.”

Chang thinks the movie falls short because it doesn’t even get close to “advancing a remotely political point of view.” He said it “loses itself in a non-partisan fog.”

I don’t know. Like I said, I didn’t watch it. But I do hear that note of queasy alarm.

It seems possible to me. We could slide that way if the election this year goes wrong.

In the meantime, let’s slurp some beer, crunch some popcorn, and not think about it.

© 2024 Eric Mortenson


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